The Patriots can do whatever they want in the upcoming NFL draft because of their collection of picks, so let's start out this week's Two-Minute Drill by highlighting the logic behind maneuvering around the first and second rounds.
1. I started a daily series last Friday of potential targets on the Patriots' draft board, and three of the first six — North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn, Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones and Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara — would essentially require the Pats to trade up. As the series progresses, though, almost every player will certainly be there when the Patriots are first on the clock at No. 17.
2. The reason I've included those players is a simple one. The Patriots have the assets to trade into the top five.
3. Obviously, such a trade would go against everything Bill Belichick has ever done in the draft, but there's a logic behind trading up.
4. The Patriots are in a good spot to get a quality player with the 17th pick, but the quality is debatable at Nos. 28 and 33. Sure, they could some useful players with those picks, but Belichick might not see comparable value.
5. If Belichick traded down, the quality would diminish even more, but he would likely do so with the intention of turning those picks into assets in the 2012 draft. But with that, it's also way too early to tell how good that draft class will be.
6. Therefore, Belichick could identify a handful of players as can't-miss prospects in the top half of the first round, whether they're projected to go fourth, ninth or 12th. If he believes those players are a sure thing who could help the team in 2011 and beyond, it would make plenty of sense to trade up and take them.
7. Belichick has done a brilliant job of hitting on his mid-round picks in the last two drafts, but if the talented is diluted in this class, the percentages will drop that he can hit on those players this year.
8. Plus, the Patriots have an extremely young team, and they've got some quality depth — most of which is returning in 2011. With that, there won't be as many open roster spots in training camp.
9. Eight draft picks made the team last year, plus three undrafted free agents. Unless there's a wild rash of injuries, there's no chance that many rookies make the Patriots' 53-man roster in 2011.
10. Let's set an early line at six, which is the amount of picks the Patriots have in the first three rounds, and that might even turn out to be high.
11. There is also a lot of speculation that quarterback-needy teams will try to trade into the bottom portion of the first round, which makes a lot of sense. Since there is such a big risk involved in taking Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert in the top 10, teams with high picks might prefer to wait until the top portion of the second round, where it's easier to take a flier on a quarterback.
12. Jake Locker might go in the top 20, but if not, he'll be in that second tier of quarterbacks that includes Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallett, Andy Dalton, Ricky Stanzi and Colin Kaepernick.
13. When looking at the top of the second round, the Bills (No. 34), Bengals (35), Cardinals (38), Titans (39), Redskins (41), Vikings (43) and 49ers (45) will all be tempted to take a quarterback if they don't get one in the first round.
14. Therefore, the competition to get one of those second-tier quarterbacks will be stiff. And teams realize the Patriots sit at the top of the second round. Since Belichick has orchestrated so many favorable trades in the last decade, teams will assume that 33rd pick will cost more than something in the bottom of the first round, especially if Belichick has about 18 hours to weigh trade proposals.
15. The Patriots also have the 28th pick, which will be targeted for the aforementioned reasons. But the Ravens (No. 26), Falcons (27), Bears (29), Jets (30), Steelers (31) and Packers (32) could all trade down, too. With that many teams that are likely willing to trade down, it probably won't cost as much for QB-hungry teams to get into the first round as it would to snag the 33rd pick from Belichick.
16. A few years ago, I would have included the Broncos' navy blue jerseys and the Buccaneers' red-and-pewter combination into my list of the NFL's top-10 uniforms, but they've lost some of their luster. As the years went by, the classic jerseys won out over those newer, flashier ones.
17. Danny Woodhead's march through the Madden cover bracket has been such an interesting story, but in reality, he hasn't exactly beaten anyone all that marketable. Wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Hakeem Nicks are good players, no doubt, but it's not surprising Woodhead won out with the New England fan base at his back.
18. With that said, I'd be stunned if Woodhead beat Aaron Rodgers in this round. Rodgers has way too much national appeal, and he is on his way to becoming one of the NFL's most prominent faces.
19. If I filled out a Madden cover bracket — the question really is, how did I not fill one out? — I would have predicted Rodgers to earn the crown. So there's that.
20. Wednesday will be an historical day for the NFL. You can read this to learn more about the three possible scenarios from the outcome of the court hearing.
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