Checking out Patriots' early draft tendencies

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Checking out Patriots' early draft tendencies

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

Every draft season until 2008, I could say with great certainty that the Patriots don't draft linebackers early. They converted players to the position (Tedy Bruschi) or signed savvy, veteran (Rosevelt Colvin, Junior Seau, Monty Beisel - oop!) free agents. And the history bore that out. From 2000 when they took Casey Tisdale in the seventh round, the linebacker draftees went as follows: T.J. Turner (7th, 2001), Ryan Claridge (5th, 2005), Justin Rogers (6th, 2007), Oscar Lua (7th, 2007). But since then, they've gone on a linebacker jag.In 2008, they took Jerod Mayo with the 10th overall pick, added Tyrone McKenzie with a third-rounder in 2009 then took Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham in the second round last year.What to make of that development? How about this:As muchas the Patriots speak of taking the best available player at a spot, or tradingdown from that spot if the best player available isn't a fit, they very much do draft for need. The Patriots didn't take linebackers from 2001 through 2008 because they had a cadre of excellent ones - Ted Johnson, Bruschi, Roman Phifer, Vrabel, McGinest. When the cupboard went bare, they moved to fill it. So as we look at where the Patriots might go in 2010, we have to ask ourselves two things - where are they getting old andor thin? Where is this draft deeply stocked? They are oldthin on the offensive line. Getting there on the defensive line (Wilfork, Warren, Stroud). This draft is deep at DEOLB, fairly deep at both defensive and offensive line. So don't be surprised if this year, the Patriots buck a trend of not drafting offensive linemen very early (one first rounder, three second rounders since 2000) and try to collect a few. Here are the Patriots tendencies over the first three rounds since Bill Belichick has been head coach. FIRST ROUND
Defensive end: 2 (Richard Seymour, Ty Warren)Tight end: 2 (Daniel Graham, Ben Watson)Nose tackle: 1 (Vince Wilfork)Guard: 1 (Logan Mankins)Running back: 1 (Laurence Maroney)Linebacker: 1 (Jerod Mayo)Cornerback: 1 (Devin McCourty)Safety: 1 (Brandon Meriweather)SECOND ROUNDTackle:2 (Sebastian Vollmer, Matt Light)Wide Receiver: 2 (Deion Branch, Chad Jackson)Safety: 2(Eugene Wilson, Patrick Chung) Linebacker: 2 (Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes)Cornerback: 2 (Terrence Wheatley, Darius Butler)Defensive end: 1 (Marquise Hill)Tight end: 1 (Rob Gronkowski) Guard: 1 (Adrian Klemm)THIRD ROUNDCornerback:2 (Brock Williams, Ellis Hobbs)Linebacker: 2(Shawn Crable, Tyrone McKenzie)Wide receiver:2 (Brandon Tate, Taylor Price)Quarterback: 1(Kevin O'Connell)Tackle: 1 (Nick Kaczur)Safety: 1 (Guss Scott)Running Back: 1 (J.R. Redmond)Where the Patriots have drafted and the personnel already on the roster have no doubt impacted their selections greatly. Still, it's fascinating to me that the first corner they ever spent a first-round pick on was Devin McCourty. And that they've never spent a first-rounder on a wideout oran offensive tackle. Or a pick in the first two rounds on a quarterback (thanks, Tom Brady!). They've not taken a center in the first three rounds since Belichick's been here. And one lonely little guard all the way back in 2000 (Adrian Klemm). There are assumptions that can be made from these tendencies, certainly. The wide receiver trend seems an almost hard and fast rule. But - as with Mayo - once it seems you've got their thinking figured out, the Patriots change. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)