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Friday, April 29, 2011
Day 2 picks are key to Patriots' draft

By Mike Reiss
ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the third year in a row, the New England Patriots are set up to do their biggest damage in the NFL draft in the second round.

That makes Friday -- when Rounds 2 and 3 begin at 6 p.m. ET -- crucial for the team.

The Patriots enter the day with three second-rounders -- the first pick of the round (33), followed by the 56th overall pick and the 60th selection. They also have multiple third-round selections (74, 92).

"I think there are good players on the board, really, in a lot of positions," said coach Bill Belichick, who added that the team has already received trade inquiries for the 33rd pick. "There are players that are going to help teams in this league."

The currency sets up some intriguing possibilities for the Patriots, who still have questions to address at pass-rusher and in the defensive front seven, as well as at running back and interior offensive line. Say a team offers a 2012 first-round pick and a 2011 third-rounder for No. 33 -- do they take the deal?

Such a scenario would set the Patriots up nicely in 2012 with three first-round picks, but it could leave them more vulnerable than they desire in the short-term.

If they make the pick at 33 on Friday, there are some highly rated pass-rushers available, such as Pittsburgh's Jabaal Sheard, Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, UCLA's Akeem Ayers, Georgia's Justin Houston and Arizona's Brooks Reed.

Bowers, at one time considered a top-five pick, probably doesn't have three-down value in the Patriots' scheme, but when you get into the second round, maybe that standard isn't as important. He's an intriguing option to consider, while Sheard -- a player the Patriots did a lot of pre-draft research on, and he fits their profile -- has three-down potential at the hard-to-find 3-4 outside linebacker spot.

The Patriots planned to restack their draft board early Friday morning.

"Teams have selected, so they've added a player to their roster, and I think that affects a little bit of probably what will happen [Friday]," Belichick said. "So we'll take a look at the value of the board, what teams have done, and look where we're at."

As for trade interest in the No. 33 pick, Belichick compared it to what unfolded with the New Orleans Saints in the first round. The Saints felt strongly about running back Mark Ingram when the Patriots were on the clock at 28, and were willing to part with a 2011 second-round pick and a 2012 first-rounder.

Belichick liked the value of that deal and envisions a similar scenario possibly unfolding at the start of the second round.

I think there are good players on the board, really, in a lot of positions. There are players that are going to help teams in this league.

-- Patriots coach Bill Belichick

"A couple of teams have called that are kind of in the middle of the round, so I'm sure there is somebody that they like," Belichick said, pointing out that the Patriots are one of a small handful of teams (there are four others) with multiple picks in the second.

While addressing the pass rush and defensive front seven figures to be part of the team's plan in the next few rounds, the running back position also should be in the mix. Belichick likely wouldn't have passed on Ingram if he didn't feel like there was good depth in that area, so this will be a test of the team's running back evaluation and feel for the overall draft board.

Friday sets up as a deja vu of sorts for the Patriots.

In 2009, the Patriots drafted Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, Darius Butler and Sebastian Vollmer in the second round, followed by Brandon Tate and Tyrone McKenzie in the third.

In 2010, the team selected Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes in the second round, followed by Taylor Price in the third.

This year, they have five more picks to work with in these two rounds, making Friday the key day of their draft.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.