Patriots Fully Armed To Re-Tool Roster

The New England Patriots have plenty of picks to use this week on players available in the NFL Draft. The team laded three significant contributing rookies last year in the second round. With three more picks there this year, will the be lucky enough to land another, say, Darius Butler?

After spending the bulk of the free-agent season re-signing its own players rather than charging into the open waters, Bill Belichick and the Patriots head into the 2010 NFL Draft with a lot of work left to do. Fortunately for New England, the team has the draft ammunition to do pretty much anything it wants over the course of the now three-day selection process.

The Patriots enter the draft with a dozen overall picks, including a trio of second-round selections (44, 47, 53) that give the team the flexibility and options of four picks in the top 53.

A year after adding four players in the second round of the 2009 draft -- S, Patrick Chung, DL Ron Brace, DB Darius Butler, OL Sebastian Vollmer -- New England is ready to take another swing at rejuvenating its roster with top-end youthful talent.

But that doesn't mean the Patriots are necessarily intent at sitting back and simply selecting the players that fall in their lap at their early picks, which begin at No. 22 overall.

"Having four picks in the first two rounds certainly gives us the ability to move from where we're at if we feel that's the right thing to do," Belichick said at his annual pre-draft press conference. "Or I'm sure if we pick four players at those positions we should get four good quality guys. We'll see how all that turns out. In the end, we'll just try to do our homework and be prepared for whatever the opportunities are and hopefully make the best of them."

Though New England has 12 picks, nearly half come with five in the seventh round. The team actually has a couple large gaps in the seven-round affair due to the fact that it doesn't have a pick in either the third or fifth rounds. Belichick has said in the past that he doesn't like having such extended openings between picks (going empty handed from 53-119 and again from 119-190) and he certainly could use his bounty of other selections to fill in those other holes.

"I think whatever the best thing for our team is, that's what we'll do," Belichick said. "When we see the names come off the board and see how the draft is stacked at those particular times. Would it be nice to have a third round pick? It would. Could we get one if we wanted one? I'm sure we could. I'm sure we could be at almost any part of the draft that we wanted to be at based on where we are. A team that has the number of picks that we have in the first two rounds there, so I think our flexibility to move up in the first round or to be at any other point in the draft that we feel is a good place to be I think we'll be able to get there."

Belichick and football research director Ernie Adams have always been active traders on draft weekend and 2010 could follow that same pattern. One thing is for sure; with three picks in the second round of a draft that's considered quite deep, a round that opens the second day of the new three-day draft format, the Patriots have plenty of options. And calls from other teams regarding those second-round picks starting coming into Gillette Stadium more than a week before the draft was to get underway.

"Historically, there was more trade/movement in a restart round," Belichick said of teams now resetting their draft boards after Thursday night's primetime first round. "We've already received calls relative to our second round picks, so teams are interested in those for one reason or another, and that isn't surprising to me. I'm not saying anything will or won't happen. I think that's pretty common at this point. It's about a week or so before the draft where you start to talk to teams and try to get a feel of whether they would or wouldn't be interested in moving a particular pick just so that expedites the process a little bit when you get to draft day and you only have 15 minutes in the first round, 10 in the second, 5 in the third or whatever round you're talking about, so you get some of that preliminary work out of the way -- this team is pretty interested in moving, this team isn't interested in moving for whatever their reasons are, so it just expedites the process. We have, like I said, a pretty decent number inquiries in picks that we have in the second round and that doesn't surprise me. There're teams that don't have them, and they're other teams that are looking at the potential quality of players there."

So after a relatively quiet free agency period, look for the Patriots to be one of the most active team's during the three-day 2010 NFL Draft. Whether that's drafting as many as a dozen new, young players or wheeling and dealing his way toward snaring a select few prospects with the potential to make an instant impact Belichick has the tools to do just about anything he wants.

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