Patriots Draft: Two Players To Watch

<P>Are we seeing the end of an era or the beginning of a new one? Two current New England Patriots players are suiting up, literally, to join the ESPN bradcasting team covering the NFL Draft from New York City this weekend.</P>

Patriots Draft: Harrison and Vrabel on ESPN
By Patriots Insider Staff

Draft Coverage will be taking on a decidedly Patriots flavor this year. The network coverage by ESPN will include current Patriots players, LB, Mike Vrabel and S, Rodney Harrison.

ESPN will be covering the draft with their entire network, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News and ESPN Radio for both Saturday and Sunday. Harrison and Vrabel will be part of the team that works with the ESPN staff to cover the picks and gauge reaction to the various picks.

For Harrison, this is just another career opportunity he's exploring as his retirement from the NFL draws closer with each passing season. Earlier, Harrison had spent time learning the nuances of how Referees work as part of the NFL's development program. Harrison along with a number of current and former NFL players joined in the off-season program to learn how to officiate.

If officiating is not to be for Harrison, maybe broadcasting is. He's involvement with Patriots Radio during the season has brought him closer to the fans of New England. Harrison is both personable and engaging. Much of his recent interview material consisted of responded to comments made by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell prior to Super Bowl XXXIX

Mitchell's comments became bulletin board material when he said he just knew the numbers and didn't know the names of the New England's cornerbacks. He then made the mistake of saying he "has something" for the veteran strong safety.

The Eagles are expected to draft another receiver to replace the outspoken Mitchell who is currently not expected to return to the team next year and may be a June 1st cut.

Mitchell has not been as productive on the field as he has been off of it, and with TO on the roster, expect Freddy to continue his career elsewhere.

"A lot of people would say trading me or getting released would be the best thing for me," he said of his chances to remain with the team.

As for Vrabel, a former backup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he has seen his stock rise since coming to New England in 2001. Setting new career best stats for sacks, tackles and interceptions, Vrabel may best be known for his offensive contributions. Vrabel holds the distinction of the only LB to catch a touchdown pass from a quarterback in a Super Bowl, not once, but twice.

Vrabel is a personable player who would be well suited to a spot in the broadcasting booth as an analyst. It's certain that ESPN would be better off with the Patriots pair over such strong personalities like Michael Irvin, Shannon Sharpe or his brother Sterling.

While it's not known how long Vrabel and Harrison will be with the Patriots, both are expected to play for a few more years with the Super Bowl champions. The scouting staff is looking for help at linebacker and safety in this draft which can only mean one thing; it's just a matter of time before they let the younger guys step in to prove themselves.

Harrison has said before he'd like to finish his career as a Patriot. Should he choose to do so, Patriots fans may be getting a look at not only his eventual replacement on the field in this year's draft class, but a new career for Harrison off it.

Harrison and Vrabel will be on set in New York City at ESPN2's studio with host Andrea Kremer. ESPN coverage will include multiple sets in multiple locations including team cams at each NFL Draft headquarters so that they can bring viewers immediate comments from the teams after the selection. With a viewership increase of close to 10 percent over 2003 at an estimated 31 million viewers, ESPN proves that the NFL is a year round business, and the Draft is another "must see" event.

ESPN coverage of the Draft Begins at 12:00 pm on Saturday and continues through the conclusion on Sunday. Check your local listings for more.

Be sure to check the Patriots Insider front page regularly throughout the 2005 NFL Draft as PI staff and will be rolling out continuous updates on the players selected, including bios, interviews, and the impact those players are expected to have with their new teams.

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