1:25 a.m.: The Patriots didn’t go with the popular pick of adding one of the draft’s premier defensive linemen, but they really did get a quality tackle in Nate Solder, who I thought was actually the best fit for them because of his potential. And because he’s still got room to grow, it doesn’t take Matt Light out of the picture.
Bill Belichick sounded like a man who knew it wouldn’t be the most popular pick, and he really defended his draft strategy Thursday night. His candid comments were very interesting.
I’d be stunned if Belichick didn’t turn the 33rd pick into a 2012 first-rounder, especially with three quarterbacks still on the board. Since he’s got 18 hours to auction that pick, you know it’s turning into something big next year.
12:26 a.m.: Bill Belichick said he has already gotten a couple calls from teams in the middle of the second round that are interested in acquiring the 33rd pick. Really, there’s just no way they don’t turn that into a 2012 first-rounder.
12:21 a.m.: Former Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo just told me he “can’t wait” to line up with Peyton Manning and the Colts.
11:37 p.m.: The Super Bowl champion Packers closed out the first round by taking Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod with the 32nd pick. The Patriots will have plenty of players to choose from to start the second round, including Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. However, the Pats have passed twice on Bowers, so it’s a very bad sign for his medical examinations. Bill Belichick is about to hit the podium, so I’ll check back after that.
11:27 p.m.: The Steelers just made a heck of a pick, too, getting Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward. The Ravens, Jets and Steelers have all done a very good job adding quality talent in the last few minutes, and that’s a frightening proposition for the Patriots.
11:26 p.m.: Something to keep in mind going forward: It’s possible — maybe not likely, but definitely possible — the NFL will permit players to be traded Friday. Since the Patriots have three second-rounders Friday night, they could make a huge jump on the competition in that scenario. Just a thought.
11:24 p.m.: The Jets took defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson with the 30th pick and set themselves up with a really solid prospect who should help out that front seven. That’s a really good pick for that team.
11:20 p.m.: The Bears addressed their big need on the offensive line by taking Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, who slid a little further than many expected. But then again, with the early run on quarterbacks, a lot of guys slid further than many expected.
11:12 p.m.: The Patriots are now armed with five picks Friday — Nos. 33, 56, 60, 74 and 92.
11:11 p.m.: The Saints and Patriots basically just traded draft boards, too. After New Orleans took Cameron Jordan at No. 24, they added Alabama running back Mark Ingram with the 28th pick. Two guys many believed could wind up in New England will take up residence in the Big Easy.
11:09 p.m.: The Patriots traded their 28th pick to the Saints for New Orleans’ second-round pick (No. 56) and their first-rounder in 2012. And Bill Belichick steals another one.
11:02 p.m.: Well, this is interesting. The Ravens, one of the most well-run franchises in the league, did not make their pick in time, and it looks like the Chiefs jumped up ahead of them to make a pick, taking Pittsburgh wide receiver Jon Baldwin. The Patriots are now technically on the clock, but the Ravens can make a pick whenever they want. It’s the wild west out there.
10:50 p.m.: The Seahawks stayed away from a quarterback at No. 25, and they also passed over a couple of tackles who were widely rated higher than Alabama’s James Carpenter. Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod are still on the board. Interesting.
10:38 p.m.: Cameron Jordan just went to the Saints at No. 24, meaning the two guys I thought were best suited for the Patriots are wiped off the board. I think they’ve got to hope to get Cameron Heyward with the 28th pick. He’d still be a heck of a get.
10:34 p.m.: The Eagles did a great job to take Danny Watkins and address a need position. Forget the fact that he’ll turn 27 as a rookie, he’s my top-rated guard in the draft.
10:30 p.m.: Nate Solder just finished up his conference call, and I took one big thing away from it. He has never played right tackle — no experience at all — so I wonder if he’ll be the Patriots’ left tackle of the future with Sebastian Vollmer staying on the right side. Solder is also a hunter who has shot an elk, so there’s that, too.
10:11 p.m.: The Bucs took Adrian Clayborn with the 20th pick, and they’ve done a good job of adding a defensive end to that line, which needed help on the outside. I’m about to jump on Nate Solder’s conference call, so I’ll be back after that.
10:03 p.m.: The Giants have officially stolen Prince Amukamara with the 19th pick of the first round. It is absolutely shocking that Amukamara fell this far, and the Giants have added a legit cornerback to a pretty good front seven. “Ideal” wouldn’t even be justice for the Giants’ dream scenario here.
9:58 p.m.: Good pick for the Chargers, who nabbed Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget, who can play across the line but will probably be San Diego’s answer inside.
9:48 p.m.: And the surprises continue, both with the Patriots and this current draft. The Pats selected Colorado tackle Nate Solder, a developmental project who might benefit from a year behind Matt Light. Solder is 6-foot-8 and 319 pounds. The big thing here is they took Solder over Anthony Castonzo, who was widely considered the most NFL-ready tackle in the draft. Does that mean the Patriots know Light will be back?
9:40 p.m.: The Redskins took Ryan Kerrigan, who has mixed reviews on his game. Either way, it’s another player out of the way for the Patriots, who can take Cam Jordan, Prince Amukamara, Da’Quan Bowers, Anthony Castonzo or Corey Liuget. That’s an embarrassment of riches.
9:34 p.m.: I was told in February the Dolphins would go with an offensive lineman in the first round, and they’ve added Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey with the 15th pick. It might be a little high for Pouncey, but the Dolphins addressed that need. And with that, there are still a ton of defensive players still there for the Patriots.
9:27 p.m.: Robert Quinn is going to be a star for Steve Spagnuolo, who loves springing his defensive linemen. Quinn is a natural pass rusher who will open it up for Chris Long on the other side. That’s a big steal for the Rams. I thought Quinn could have gone as high as No. 4.
9:21 p.m.: The Lions now have the nastiest pair of defensive tackles in the business. They took Nick Fairley with the 13th pick, and he’ll pair up with Ndamukong Suh on the inside of that line. Suh will probably play over the center because Fairley would be a better 3-technique player. But either way, good luck to the interior offensive linemen in the NFC West.
9:17 p.m.: Another big surprise, the Vikings took Christian Ponder with the 12th pick. Wow, that’s wild with all of the premier defensive talent on the board. I actually mocked Ponder to the Vikings a few weeks back but didn’t have the guts to stick with it. The Patriots are going to have a slue of really solid players to choose from at No. 17.
9:10 p.m.: Yup, J.J. Watt to Houston. That’s a surprise, for sure. Robert Quinn, Cam Jordan and Anthony Castonzo are all still on the board for the Patriots.
9:07 p.m.: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt is on the phone, so it looks like he’s going to Houston at No. 11. Watt’s going to be a good player, but I’m shocked the Texans didn’t add cornerback Prince Amukamara to held their weak secondary. But then again, when you’re going to a 3-4, you need that personnel in the front seven. And then again one more time, I’m surprised they didn’t steal Robert Quinn after Wade Phillips saw what DeMarcus Ware could do for a defense.
9:03 p.m.: The Jaguars took Blaine Gabbert with the 10th pick, and David Garrard is now on the clock. It looks like the Jags traded the 16th pick and their second-rounder to Washington, which needed to acquire picks in this draft. Good trade for each side, I’d say.
9:00 p.m.: So much for the Redskins wanting the second pick to take Blaine Gabbert. They’ve traded the 10th pick to the Jaguars, who will probably take Gabbert here. This could also set up a dream scenario for the Texans, who could take Prince Amukamara at No. 11.
8:57 p.m.: Blaine Gabbert is on the board for the Redskins, who were reportedly interested in trading up to No. 2 to take him. Lying season, or the truth? We’ll find out in a few minutes.
8:54 p.m.: The Cowboys got their tackle of the future, taking USC’s Tyron Smith, who should be an excellent player once he develops. He might need a year on the bench.
8:52 p.m.: Why Twitter is awesome: Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley just tweeted a message to Jake Locker that he, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu will see him at Heinz Field in October. No big deal. Welcome to the NFL, kid.
8:45 p.m.: And this is why we love the draft. Another surprise in the top 10, and three in a row now. The Titans took Washington quarterback Jake Locker with the eighth pick, dashing the hopes of fans in Minnesota who thought they’d get the guy who has been so often compared to Brett Favre. Maybe the most surprising part is that Blaine Gabbert is still on the board. His Missouri teammate, Aldon Smith, was taken before him.
8:42 p.m.: The 49ers made a surprising pick by taking Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith, who will likely have to convert to outside linebacker in San Francisco’s 3-4 system. I really like Smith, but only as a defensive end. I’m extremely skeptical that he can succeed as an outside linebacker. That’s an interesting move on San Francisco’s part.
8:41 p.m.: The Bengals reportedly turned down a trade offer from the Falcons, which makes me hate Cincy’s pick even more now. That’s exactly why I mocked A.J. Green to the Bengals. I knew they’d bungle it all up.
8:35 p.m.: Big move here for the Falcons, who traded way up the board from No. 27 to No. 6 to take Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons gave up way, way, way, wayyyyy too much there — the 27th, 59th, 124th (fourth round) and a first- and fourth-rounder in 2012 — to take Jones. I mean, I love Jones as a player, and he makes the Falcons’ offense extremely exciting. But wow, that’s way too much for a wide receiver. Cleveland instantly becomes a big winner in this draft.
8:29 p.m.: The Cardinals have taken LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is an athletic freak. He’s a blast to watch, and I’d love to see Peterson line up against Larry Fitzgerald in practice. By the way, remember all of that talk about how there was no chance the Cardinals would pass over Blaine Gabbert? Oh, Lying Season, you’ve struck again.
8:23 p.m.: The Bengals have announced they’re drafting wide receiver A.J. Green. I love the player, but I hate the pick. Cincinnati should have gone defense, preferably with Robert Quinn.
8:20 p.m.: The Bills took Marcell Dareus with the third pick, and the middle of that defensive line is going to be downright nasty with Dareus and Kyle Williams. The Patriots aren’t going to enjoy seeing that twice a year, that’s for sure. Also, good job by the Bills to take the right guy, especially after they loaded up on running backs last year and ignored their other needs.
8:19 p.m.: The Falcons are talking to the Browns about trading up to the sixth spot, according to ESPN. This is a strong indication the Falcons want someone like Julio Jones to line up alongside Roddy White. So the Falcons are going to score 50 a game next season.
8:16 p.m.: Interesting to watch Von Miller and Roger Goodell share a big embrace on stage because, well you know, Miller is technically trying to sue the pants off Goodell.
8:13 p.m.: A slight surprise, the Broncos took Von Miller with the second pick. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Miller, who is apparently a great person off the field. Many believe Miller is better as a 3-4 outside linebacker, so the pick is curious from the sense that the Broncos are switching to the 4-3. They also don’t have a good defensive tackle, which made Marcell Dareus the pick in my mock drafts.
8:09 p.m.: Here are some more details on my previous post. The Patriots have not yet heard when to report to Gillette for offseason workouts.
8:06 p.m.: There it is. The Panthers took Cam Newton about a minute after the clock started. They’ve turned over every stone over the last few months, so they had no reason to waste any more time Thursday night.
8:05 p.m.: The Panthers are officially on the clock, and Cam Newton was just seen celebrating with his family. My deductive reasoning skills tell me the Panthers are about to take him.
8:02 p.m.: Multiple sources have just told me the Patriots have not yet contacted players about when to report to Gillette Stadium for offseason workouts. I’ll have more on NESN.com shortly.
8:01 p.m.: It’s that time. The clock is moments away from starting for the Panthers, who are expected to take Cam Newton with the first pick in the draft.
7:38 p.m.: Cam Newton and Roger Goodell were booed during the introductions in New York City, and the Radio City crowd then erupted in a “We want football!” chant as Goodell stepped to the podium.
7:08 p.m.: Bill Belichick just stopped by NFL Network for a few questions. He predictably didn’t tip his hand, but he said, “If we pick, we pick. If we trade, we trade.” And, of course, he wants to do what’s best for the football team.
6:50 p.m.: Hello from Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots’ draft headquarters. The media is set up in the game-day press box, and we’re overlooking a soccer field. Draft coverage is airing on the in-stadium video boards, and there are clouds hanging over Gillette.
4:05 p.m.: The draft is still four hours away, but the Patriots have already been linked to a pair of trade rumors that would vault them into the top 10 of the first round. First, they were reportedly talking to the Browns for the sixth pick, possibly with North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn, Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones or LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson in mind.
The Patriots have also apparently been talking to the Cowboys about acquiring the ninth pick to ensure they land Cal defensive end Cam Jordan, who I believe would be a tremendous fit in New England.
The crazy — however unlikely — thing is, the Patriots have a large enough haul of picks to pull off both trades.
8 a.m.: For a couple of months, the NFL draft was the league’s only show in town. Because of the lockout, this year’s draft has been one of the most overanalyzed in history, but the hype machine ends now.
The Panthers have the unenviable position of picking first overall when there isn’t a single player who has emerged as a no-doubt option for that top pick. Will they go with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton like everyone predicts, or will they go the safe route with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, outside linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Patrick Peterson or wide receiver A.J. Green?
The Patriots are well-armed with three of the draft’s first 33 selections, and they’re scheduled to make two picks (Nos. 17 and 28) during Thursday’s first round. Of course, the greatest question is: How many trades will Bill Belichick make before taking a player?
NESN.com will be on site at Gillette Stadium throughout the next three days to have you covered from every angle.
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