Patriots Draft: The Path Less Traveled

When the New England Patriots selected Brandon Meriweather, some eyebrows were raised over character issues. When they traded for Randy Moss the next day, they blew the lid off the uber-conservative box everyone thought they belonged in. John Ingoldsby looks at the moves and sees promise in the signings.

Moss and Meriweather choices nothing new for Pats
By John Ingoldsby

Maybe the Patriots should have held their Draft Day Party on Sunday instead of Saturday.

Not only was Sunday an exceedingly exciting day to be a member of Patriots Nation, the day began with a bang on the neutron-bomb-level news of Randy Moss, and grew from there. In contrast, Saturday entailed a long wait for the selection of Brandon Meriweather and ended abruptly with the trade of the number 28 pick to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Patriots getting Randy Moss in a trade from the Oakland Raiders (or in the words of NFL executive Gene Washington opening up Draft Day Sunday, the Los Angeles Raiders) is the talk of the entire sports world.

It is remarkable to have one transaction utterly dominate the NFL draft news, and it is an even more spectacular feat to take over the thoughts and minds of the general sporting public, and even crossing over to lead the news side in New England.

Speaking of local coverage, it is a rare day when the Patriots upstage a Red Sox-Yankees series that ends with the Fenway nine recording their fifth victory in six games during a nine-day span. Rest assured that Robert and Jonathan Kraft live for days like this.

It was not just complete news cycle domination on Sunday, but has carried over into Monday. From ESPN and NFL Network to the Boston broadcast and print outlets, the media just cannot get enough of this story.

And quite a story it is. Tom Brady throwing to Randy Moss could lead to Hall-of-Fame speeches being written. Randy-present-and-future acting like Randy-past could lead to rap sheets being written.

So what's it gonna be? My money says all will be well in Patriots Nation, and Moss will fit like an NFL-issue receivers glove.

To immediately correct the misrepresentation that is running rampant, this is not the first time the Patriots have done this and does not represent a departure from past franchise practice.

The trade for Corey Dillon is the original Patriots move of this ilk. That transaction a few years ago marked the team's willingness to take on a great athlete with a troubled past, and set the stage for this move.

All is all, the Dillon move turned out pretty well. In his first year, he was the difference-maker in leading the team to their third Super Bowl victory in four years. The Pats simply were not going to win another championship with Antoine Smith as their lead back, and Dillon showed up and was an absolute horse.

He carried for over 1,500 yards, was a lock to score close to the goal line, and was an absolutely intimidating force in the postseason victories over the Colts, Steelers and Eagles. The next two years were not as impressive, and his relationship with the media steadily declined, but both sides walked away a few months ago with Dillon and the team each getting what they were originally after - another Super Bowl ring.

Look for Moss to tread a similar path. He will be a good citizen and a great receiver during his first year, and there will be no character issues. At this moment, they are clear favorites to win the Super Bowl.

If the Patriots win it all, as they did in Dillon's first year, the good feelings that a championship engenders will bode well for the subsequent year or two. If they do not win it all next year, Randy might start to display some of his past problematic traits. Only time will tell.

Regarding the other half of the Bad-Boy Draft, Meriweather will also be a model citizen. The safety's brawl and gun issues will certainly not occur again in Foxborough, which is most certainly not the city Miami and the "U."

He already has a mentor in fellow Hurricane Vince Wilfork, who is the model of maturity both on and off the field. Wilfork's personality is as large as his physique, and he will loom large over making sure Meriweather makes it big here.

Patriots' fans can rest easy that the organization has not suddenly fallen back into the NFL pack of disregarding character issues, especially now when it is THE hot-button issue in the NFL.

No, the Patriots delved into those waters for the first time a few years ago with Dillon, not this past weekend. Clearly, the front office is satisfied that the Dillon experiment worked out well enough. Fast forward to today, and the renowned self-policing locker room with Coach Bill Belichick looking down from above has even more cachet.

And if the Dillon-Moss comparison does not quell queasy Pats' fans stomachs, they can take comfort in this comparison: the last receiver the Pats brought in from Marshall is one Troy Brown!

l trust their instincts by bringing him in to be the next Bruschi.

John Ingoldsby is a free-lance sports writer based in Medfield, Massachusetts, who has written articles about the Patriots for various publications during the past five years. You can find John on the Patriots Insider boards under the handle Rudiee.

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