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2010 NFL Draft: New England Patriots Put Onus of Offseason on Draft

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 1: Defensive lineman Brandon Graham of Michigan runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 1, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Mike GleasonCorrespondent IApril 19, 2010

The New England Patriots have been remarkably quiet in an offseason that has featured numerous blockbuster trades and free agent signings.

It has been somewhat maddening, as a Patriots fan, hearing about the latest personnel moves throughout the NFL, and especially in the AFC East.

Take receiver, a position the Pats currently have a need in, for example.

The Jets have picked up former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes for (virtually) nothing in a fire sale spurred by the Steelers' character jitters. They now have a weapon opposite Braylon Edwards, and have substantially improved their passing game.

The Dolphins traded two second-round picks for troubled receiver Brandon Marshall, which also looks like a bargain. The draft is inherently uncertain, and two second-rounders is a small price to pay for young, proven talent.

The Ravens, earlier this offseason, acquired Anquan Boldin for third- and fourth-round draft picks. Once again, character issues seem to have played a part.

See a pattern? Several of the league's top receivers have gone for less than market price because of character concerns. Given that New England seems to have the magic touch when it comes to former bad boys (Randy Moss, Corey Dillon), shouldn't they, at the very least, have been in the discussions for these players?

What have the Patriots done? They've re-signed cornerback Leigh Bodden, tackle Vince Wilfork, guard Stephen Neal, and running back Kevin Faulk. All are crucial players, but the moves, at best, return the team to status quo.

Status quo, you may remember, involved getting steamrolled by the Saints, collapsing against the Colts, and being humiliated by the Ravens at home in the playoffs.

(In fact, status quo might be optimistic. Remember that Wes Welker, the most reliable player on the offense last year, is recovering from a serious injury.)

Since the Patriots have as many needs as they do, this inaction means the brain trust is banking on one thing: a highly successful draft day on Thursday.

This would be more heartening if the team's recent draft-day track record wasn't so spotty. Certainly it looks like the team picked up some talent last year (Julian Edelman and Sebastian Vollmer were the standouts), but before that there have been some problems (especially with the '07 draft).

So the Patriots must pick (or make late draft-day trades for) players to fit their needs. It is fortunate that this is generally regarded as a deep draft, but their margin for error is slim.

If a few picks don't pan out immediately, this team could face a replay of last year, in which they listlessly played to a 10-6 record and a quick exit from the playoffs.

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