.... and for the better. I think this entire AThomas signing (your lips to god's ear, if its true) is just one thing that could change the entire focus of what we are looking for in the draft. The other things that seem to be happening are the many cuts and tenders that have occurred in the last few days. LB- If we do sign Thomas that will upgrade the LB corps immensely. It will immediately become deeper and more talented. It will allow scheming flexibility that we haven't been able to accomplish since Willie left. It will ALSO negate the need to draft a LB/Tweener in the first round. We also will still have enough money to sign a Seau or Edwards for depth an situational packages Remember, unless you are a Lawrence Taylor type freak athlete, it takes 2-4 years for a LB to be ready play a significant role in our defense. To be more than a situational pass rusher, for example. According to most analysts, there is going to be little difference athletically between the players you are going to draft at the end of the first round and those in the 3rd and 4th rounds, especially of the LB/tweener & WR type. Don't forget, we are getting gitty about a guy who didn't do much his first 2-3 years, while he was learning. Even the AThomas' of the world take time to develop. I would propose that the Pats will take one of these 2 strategies. Disclaimer: This assumes we sign Thomas and some vet WR like a Joe Horn who can take some immediate pressure off our WRs. 1. You want your first round pick to make an immediate impact. I don't think anyone the Pats draft at 24 & 28 WILL make an immediate impact. So in lieu of that the Pats package those 2 picks and get to the 8th pick (which I am told is what those 2 picks will get you) and draft one of the few guys who is concidered an IMMEDIATE IMPACT PLAYER - Leron Landry. This makes a lot of sense in a couple of ways. First, there was a time where the Safety position was a poor relation to the CBs as far as worth goes. However with more and more teams (including the Pats) playing complex zones, and less true man to man, the safety position is becoming more and more important to the success of your overall defense. Just look at the impact that Sanders and Troy P, have had on the Colts and Steeler D's. It also gets us an impact safety who will be there when Rodney hangs them up (which will be VERY soon). Here is the trade off. By moving up the Pats loose the opportunity to draft 2 good players who, in all llikelihood will EVENTUALLY become productive starters, in order to get a single player who will become an immediate starter at a key position. (BTW- a positon MUCH more important that WR to the ultimate success of the team - Thank you Deon ) This strategy will STILL leave the Pats with two picks on the first day to get a developmental LB, CB or WR, filling those other needs & depth. Yes the Pats can stand pat and probably pick up either Merriweather or Griffin late in that round, but while good, they aren't the player the Landry is, and I'll bet in 3 years there will be a couple of safeties playing in the league that are just as good if not better than those 2, who were gotten by some team in the 3 round or lower. Didn't Rodney go in the 4th round? So sure we MIGHT be able to fill that Safety need later in the draft, but clearly from past experience of drafting several safeties that DIDN'T help us, it would be more a matter of luck than design. By following THIS strategy we eliminate the risk. 2. The other Strategy is do just the opposite and move down in the draft. With immediate needs at WR and LB taken care of, we drop down in the draft and wind up with 5 first day picks and a 2 4th rounders and stock up on good young talent, hoping that at least 4, and more llikely 5 of those first 7 picks eventually wind up being productive starters on your team. Supposedly, this is a draft that is thin at the top, but very deep beyond the elite players. This strategy not only answers the need to develop a deep reserve of quality players, it makes sense economically. Those 7 picks would cost together SIGNIFICANTLY less that a single contract at the 8th pick. When I was starting my first year as a HS HC, an old vet coach pulled me aside and told me a bit of advice that was true then as it is now; that football is numbers game. You need depth, not just high end talent to win consistantly. The Pats have proven for 6 year how important that adage is even in the pro game. A career can be over in a single play, so teams CANNOT tie up TOO much money on individual great talents. So while putting many fans to sleep with a slew of "no name" draft picks the Pats just keep on, keepin' on, building the roster from the middle out, just like they built their teams, from the OL/DL out. I think both strategies are viable, but they are mutually exclusive. As a fan, I'd love the first one, because we'd get very excited having a talent like Landry on the team, hopefully healthy and long term. On the other hand, if we went the second way, there would be a lot less to talk about, BUT in the long term, the team will still prosper. Remember we were 66 seconds away from another superbowl with a team that was battered almost beyond recognition, and a WR corps universally dismissed. Think about a season where we upgraded our frontline talent and added significantly to our depth. Kind of makes you wish it was September already....doesn't it.