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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Pats' trade-down strategy in focus

By ESPNBoston.com

The Patriots' propensity to trade down in the draft is put under the microscope by ESPN Stats and Info's John Parolin in this Next Level piece published Tuesday. In it, he examines in depth whether this strategy has paid off. Here are five takeaways from his findings:

* Since Bill Belichick took over the team, the Patriots have made 110 picks overall, second-most in the NFL. Additionally, the team ranks third in total number of picks in the first two (28) and first three (41) rounds.

* Increasing a team's volume of picks puts them in a better position statistically to find talent. While that's little consolation to fans disappointed about a trade down instead of the next high-profile first-round selection, it's the way the Patriots have maximized the value of the draft.

Their ability to stockpile picks has increased the probability they can find the next Julian Edelman, Myron Pryor or Brandon Deaderick. Since 2000, only the 49ers have had more players taken in the sixth or seventh round appear in at least a full season's worth of games than the Patriots (22).

* Since 2000, the Patriots have traded away 10 first-round picks. In addition to Julian Peterson, the players taken with those picks were Patrick Ramsey, Michael Haynes, Kyle Boller, Joe Staley, Sedrick Ellis, Michael Oher, Matthews, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant. Only three of those 10 players made a Pro Bowl (Peterson, Staley and Matthews).

However, compare that list with the list of players New England has selected with first-round picks out of their natural position: Daniel Graham, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Brandon Meriweather, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty. Four of the six have been Pro Bowlers, and Warren was named to the 2007 All-NFL first team. All six were at least meaningful contributors in New England.

* New England may be more likely to use first-round draft picks with the new rookie wage scale, an area in which Belichick has had success when actually picking. Since 2000, Belichick has drafted six Pro Bowlers with his 11 first-round selections. Only the Panthers and Patriots have had over half their first-round picks selected to a Pro Bowl.

* The Patriots have made 30 selections since 2000 in Rounds 2-3, only 10 of whom have started 16 games in their career (10 of 26 discounting last season's rookies). The landscape is littered with names like Brandon Tate, Chad Jackson, Shawn Crable, Tyrone McKenzie, Taylor Price, Wheatley, etc. In fact, of the 21 selections since 2005, 11 are no longer with the team, while Jermaine Cunningham and Ron Brace haven't proven much yet.

Only two (Matt Light and Rob Gronkowski) of the 30 have made Pro Bowls, a 6.7 percentage that ranks 22nd in the NFL.