Patterns emerge in Pats' draft-day trade plans

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Patterns emerge in Pats' draft-day trade plans

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

Ty Warren. OK? I got Ty Warren right in 2003. And I also had a verr-rry strong hunch about Daniel Graham and I mentioned likely interest in Logan Mankins. So when people say, "Nobody knows what the Patriots are going to do on draft day," that's not exactly right. Because this guy (me), eight years ago? I knew. Enough of that, though. As much as I'm convinced Cam Jordan is a wonderful fit for the Patriots, I'd have to look at my track record and say I'm usually wrong. But what I do know is the Patriots will trade, trade, trade their fool faces off Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the NFL Draft. Look at last year's draft day summary. They took one player with an assigned pick (Jermaine Cunningham, 53rd overall). It's fascinating to look at the Patriots' history of draft trades and see the patterns that have developed. Let's stick with the first two rounds in this investigation. TRADING UPNew Englandhasn't traded up in the first round since 2003 when they moved from 14 to 13 in a deal with Chicago so they could take Warren. The Patriots also had to throw in a sixth-rounder to get that done. Why would they trade up one spot? Because other teams were trying to jump ahead of New England and the presumed target of those teams was Warren. They also traded up in 2002, going from 32 to 21 to get Graham. In that deal with Washington, they had to give up 32, a third-rounder and a sixth-rounder. The Patriots frequently trade up in the second round, though, when the pickings on the shelves are getting thinner. In 2010, they figured Rob Gronkowski had been on the board past his value even though he missed his final year at Arizona and moved up two spots to get him at 42. They sentOakland 44 and a sixth-rounder.In 2009, they really wanted Ron Brace. So they dealt with Oakland to get the 40th pick and sent the Raiders 47, a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder. In 2006, they moved up 16 spots to get Chad Jackson at 36. They sent Green Bay the 52nd pick and a third-rounder. And 52 became standout receiver Greg Jennings. In 2003, the Patriots made a nice move in the second, going from 41 to 36 to get Eugene Wilson. They swapped fourth-rounders with Houston to sweeten that deal. Also in 2003, they dealt with the Texans again, going from 50 to 45 to get Bethel Johnson and sending along a fourth-rounder for Houston's trouble. What's the pattern reveal? That when the Patriots covet a player, they will be aggressivein trying to move up. That they really seem to value the players in the top-40 or so. And that their second-round trade-ups have beenOK but not great(and Gronkowski helped move that grade higher). TRADE DOWNSThis, of course, is where the Patriots really play the league like a violin. They capitalize on the desperation of other clubs to stock up for future years and still get the players they love who are - quite often - not as high on anyone else's draft board. And 2010 may have been their best draft in this regard. They traded out from 22 with Denver and took the Broncos 24th and 113th picks (113 became Aaron Hernandez). Then they took 24 and traded it to Dallas for 27 overall (Devin McCourty) and also took a third-rounder from Dallas in exchange for 119 overall (119 was kind of obsolete after they got 113). And 119 became Taylor Price (the jury remains out). So they turned the 22nd pick into three different players (McCourty, Hernandez and Price) and only moved down five spots. That was cleaning up on Denver's desire for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and Dallas' desire for Dez Bryant. The second round was even more amazing. First, they took their 47th pick and sent it to Arizona for picks 58 and 89.They then traded out at 58 in exchange for 62 and 150. The Patriots then took Brandon Spikes at 62 and Zoltan Mesko at 150. And the 89th pick? They capitalized on Carolina's desire to get QBWR Armanti Edwards at that spot and exchanged 89 for a second-round pick in the 2011 draft which wound up being the 33rd overall. Good as last year was, 2009 seemed like the Patriotsspun their wheels with trades down. They went from 23 to 26 in a deal with the Ravens. The Pats also added 162. The Ravens took Michael Oher at 23The Pats then traded out of the first round with Green Bay, sending 26 and 162 to the Packers (Green Bay took Clay Matthews) and gaining a second-rounder and two third-rounders. They turned the second rounder into Darius Butler (41 overall) and used one of the thirds on Brandon Tate. In 2008, the Patriots made a nice move going from No. 7 overall (fleeced from the 49ers in 2007) to No. 10, taking Jerod Mayo at 10 and and also turning a fifth-rounder into a third-rounder (Shawn Crable) in the same deal as a pot-sweetener from New Orleans. From this we can gather two things. The Patriots can either feast on the anxiety of other teams or capitalize on their own disinterest in spending a pick at the spot they're in. TRADE OUTSThis is where the Patriots stock up for the future. We already mentioned the trade out in the third round last year that got them the 33rd pick this year. There were two third-round trade outs in 2009 that got them second-rounders in 2010 (which got flipped in amid other deals that are too hard to rehash). The best trade outs the Patriots executed in which they turned the exchanged pickdirectly into players and not bargaining chips were 2007 and 2003. In 2007, they sent their 28th pick (!) to the Niners in exchange for the Niners 2008 first-rounder ANDa 2007 fourth-rounder. The Niners pick turned into Mayo. In 2003, the Ravens wanted Kyle Boller. So they made a reasonable deal, handing the Pats No. 41 to take the Pats first-rounder at 19. Baltimore also threw in their 2004 first rounder and that turned out to be Vince Wilfork in 2004. When you think about it, trade outs can only by made by coaches and personnel people who are supremely confident and secure. What coach wants to stock a team with future picks if he's worried about job security? Bill Belichick hasn't had to worry about that for a while. And, as a result, he can deal with confidence not worrying about what the owner, the fans or the media have to say. Because in the end, Belichick and the Patriots win a lot more often than they lose at the end of April.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.