By: Bob George/BosSports.net
April 26, 2003

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FOXBOROUGH -- It'll either be the War Room or the Bore Room.

Put it this way: It's too bad we don't have Bill Belichick's cell phone number or his confidence. He could drop us a juicy tidbit and save us some thousand or so words on tonight's article.

Hello, Bob. How's the family? Sox winning tonight? Yeah, we traded up with Detroit. All our day one picks for the second selection. We're taking the big guy from Kentucky. Won't select again until Sunday. No plans to trade up into rounds two or three. Hate to cut you off, Bob, but I got a 1:00 AM meeting with Scott and Andy. Catch you later, Bob.

Just like that. One more paragraph oughtta do it.

Well. So much for brainstorming over who to take after they grab Richard Seymour's old chum from Gawgia. Never mind stressing out over who to choose between Kelley Washington and Marcus Trufant. Forget about wondering if Ty Warren is still on the board if some lowlife scumbag GM grabs Johnathan Sullivan earlier than they figured.

All this goes to show is how foolish and frivolous it is to try and guess the first round on Saturday. Everyone out there loves to show off their mock drafts. How many mock drafts had the Jets trading up to 4? Anyone out there think Bill Parcells tries to get out of the five spot? Or Houston wanting out of three?

Okay, I'll go out on a limb. I predict that Cincinnati selects Carson Palmer in the one slot. I'll sweat that one out for another 12 hours, gang.

After that, I'll just sit back and watch Mel Kiper make another attempt at sounding smart and making sense. And every time he makes this reach sound like a plum (and vice versa), I'll say a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys to the memory of the late Joel Buchsbaum (and I'm not even Catholic), the heralded draft guru who passed away earlier this year.

Truthfully, given what happened on Friday between the Jets and Chicago, and what is now being rumoured between the Patriots and Detroit, trying to guess what the Patriots will do on Saturday is better left to the psychics of the world. Go deal a few tarot cards, get out your Ouija boards, or go visit a séance and see what Billy Sullivan and Dick Steinberg think. You won't get anywhere trying to do something logical like, say, guessing.

One tangible caveat which does affect Saturday if the Patriots stay pat at 14 and 19 is that linebacker isn't really a flaming need in the first round. The Patriots took care of their pass rush needs by plucking Roosevelt Colvin from the free agent pool. Besides, if the Patriots go to a 3-4 base defense like it seems they want to, they may want to get help in the second round or thereafter.

Some draft boards have the Patriots taking Florida wide receiver Washington at 19. He'd become this year's Donald Hayes, except that he's stronger, not quite as tall, but more talented. He would be the latest attempt to find a tall compliment to Troy Brown.

Perhaps one reason Belichick seems so hell bent on trading up in the first round is that it is unlikely he will get whom he covets at 14. Dwayne Robertson is presumed to be gone before Dallas picks at five; Robertson is the prize nose guard of the draft and seemed to be the target of Belichick if he did manage to trade up to 4 with Chicago. But the Jets did just that today, sending picks 13 and 22 of the first round to the Windy City.

Belichick might want to entice Detroit, but the cost may be too steep. Reports say that New England has offered both firsts and the second for the two slot; Matt Millen is insisting that they also throw in the third round pick (the other R3 was dealt to Miami on Friday for a second next year). Sure, it would solve the salary cap problem with 12 picks being too hard to sign. But it gives the Patriots only one Day One pick, and places a tremendous burden on Robertson to produce, and Belichick to show that he did the right thing in pulling a near-Mike Ditka to get this guy.

Speaking of pressure, there is history in selecting a defensive lineman early in the draft, and most of it is not good. The last time the Patriots took a defensive lineman in the first round was in 1990; Ray Agnew has enjoyed a decent NFL career, but not with the Patriots. The Patriots had two first round picks in 1982, and both went to the defensive line. But Ken Sims, the top pick in the draft, turned into the biggest bust since Anna Nicole Smith, and Lester Williams had only the Super Bowl XX year to even somewhat brag about. The only other time the Patriots took a defensive lineman in round one since the merger was in 1970, drafting Merlin Olsen's brother, Phil, who was to Merlin what Tommie Aaron was to Hank.

Draft boards are split on whether or not Sullivan will be there at 14, if Belichick stays pat and gambles on the former linemate of Seymour to be available at that time. If not, some experts think that Texas A&M's Warren will be the fancy of Belichick. The trouble with this is that after Robertson and Sullivan, there is a dropoff whereby the Patriots may not be necessarily getting an "impact player who can make a difference right now", but rather "someone who might be an All-Pro in two or three years".

One other position the Patriots might want to upgrade early on is cornerback. Some draft boards have the Patriots going for the former Washington State cornerback Trufant at 19. Oklahoma's Andre Woolfolk is another option if Trufant and Kansas State's Terence Newman are gone (Newman is projected being taken at four by the Jets according to PatsFans.com's Ray Faustina).

After the first round, the Patriots will perhaps look for a running back and more linebacker depth if they have more Day One picks left. Despite Belichick's stated interest in Miami's Willis McGahee, it seems unlikely that he will wind up a Patriot unless he is still there as low as the third round. The only other position that would be of interest to the Patriots on Day One would be the tackle position; some draft boards have the Patriots taking Stanford's Kwame Harris as high as the 19th pick.

Sigh. All this finger energy at the typewriter might be for nothing if Millen and Belichick agree on what would be the most momentous draft trade in Patriot history, or at least the biggest since Jim Plunkett. The Patriots jump up to the two slot, grab Robertson, and everyone turns their attention to that putrid Red Sox bullpen or that thug named Ron Artest.

All that can be said is that this corner of the Nation has given up guessing.


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