A few thoughts on the Patriots and NFL Draft, with the first round starting tonight (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET):
1. This draft appears to be different than 2012 when the Patriots coveted two players (Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower) and traded up for them in the first round. Because of that, as well as the club owning just five selections (1, 2, 3, 7a, 7b), this makes them a stronger candidate to trade down, if they deal at all.
2. The thinking with a trade down would be that the quality of player they could get at 29 is similar to 40, 50 and maybe even 60. The strength of this draft is viewed by many to be its depth into the second round (and to some, the third round). So if the Patriots could pick up an additional second- or third-round pick, that might be considered a success internally without a major sacrifice on the quality of player picked (if they make the right pick, of course).
3. Peter King of Sports Illustrated tweeted this morning that he believed some teams at the top of the second round are exploring the possibility of trading back into the 25-32 range for quarterbacks. This would be good news for the Patriots if they are looking to trade out, potentially creating some good value for their pick.
4. From an overall draft perspective, this is a year in which there aren't as many top-tier players in the first round, but that doesn't mean it's a bad draft. It's just the way the draft is structured. For example, I think Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder (No. 17 pick in 2011) could have been a top-5 pick this year, but a player like safety Tavon Wilson (No. 48 pick in 2012) might be pushed down the Patriots' board this year based on an overall stronger group of safeties. So a big part of this is navigating the sweet spots and trying to maximize opportunities that present themselves.
5. While I'm most fascinated by the Patriots potentially selecting a receiver, this shouldn't overlook defense. It's not black and white, and a draft is always about more than just one selection.
6. Much different feeling this year with the Patriots owning just five selections. It naturally limits their flexibility to move around the board.
7. Several coaches and personnel chiefs have said publicly that this could be the most unpredictable first round in recent memory.
8. I will be based out of Gillette Stadium tonight with Mike Rodak, as that's where Patriots headquarters is located for the draft. Meanwhile, Field Yates is chipping in on ESPN's television coverage at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Looking forward to how it all unfolds.