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New England Patriots 2003 Draft Preview

By Bryan McGovern, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Bill Belichickís Patriots will be one of the most interesting teams to watch on draft weekend. New England owns five selections in the top 78, including a pair of first-round picks. Armed with trading power, Belichick could revert to his old ways and wreck mock drafts across the NFL world by wheeling and dealing.

New England is to go with a 3-4 defense for the upcoming season. The move would slide Richard Seymour from tackle to end and leave a big hole to fill at nose tackle. Belichick might try to trade up into the top 10 to get his hands on one of the elite defensive tackles in this draft -- Jimmy Kennedy (Penn State) or Dewayne Robertson. Both players are projected to go in the first seven or eight picks.

If the price to trade up is too high, the Pats will look to select the best- available DT at 14. The teamís options could include Kevin Williams (Oklahoma State), Johnathan Sullivan (Georgia) and William Joseph (Miami).

Barring a trade, the Patriots could fill another pressing need with the 19th pick in round one. This yearís draft is one of the weakest in years at the linebacker position. There are two top prospects (OLB Boss Bailey and ILB E.J. Henderson) and then the group drops off dramatically. Henderson, who is a good run stopper, is the top-rated inside linebacker and would be a perfect fit for Belichickís defense. The Maryland product is an excellent prospect with the potential to make a big impact as a rookie. Henderson would be a solid choice at 19.

The Patriots have plenty of options with their other three first-day picks (one in the second round and two in round three). The club needs a running back, cornerback and wide receiver, but it could snatch up a pass-rushing defensive end or guard prospect if it sees fit.

Last year, Antowain Smith showed up at training camp out of shape. The Pats donít want their ground game resting in the hands of Smith anymore, and Kevin Faulk is little more than a third-down back. There will be some good quality RBs to choose from at 50, 75 and 78. Potential targets include Lee Suggs (Virginia Tech), Chris Brown (Colorado), Onterrio Smith (Oregon), Musa Smith (Georgia) and Justin Fargas (USC). Donít be surprised to see the Pats take another running back during day two such as Avon Cobourne (West Virginia), Quentin Griffin (Oklahoma), Earnest Graham (Florida) or Sultan McCullough (USC). New England worked out Miamiís Willis McGahee but it doesnít appear willing to wait the year itís going to take him to get back to full speed.

Belichickís defense needs some new blood at cornerback. Ty Law is still one of the best cover corners in the game, but the team needs to add a complementary player to take some pressure off him. The Patriots will take a look at Rashean Mathis (Bethune-Cookman), Sammy Davis (Texas A&M;) and Drayton Florence (Tuskegee) in the second and third rounds. Much like the RB position, New England likely will use a second-day selection on another CB.

The club will look for a new weapon for Tom Brady in the middle rounds. Nate Burleson (Nevada-Reno), Shaun McDonald (Arizona State), Justin Gage (Missouri), Walter Young (Illinois), Kassim Osgood (San Diego State) and Billy McMullen (Virginia) are mid-round WR possibilities.

In addition to taking the "best-available" approach on day two, the Patriots will look to add a pass-rushing defensive end and an offensive guard or two. The signing of big-ticket free agent OLB Rosevelt Colvin (Chicago) was one of the best of the early offseason.

DRAFT NEEDS: Defensive tackle, inside linebacker, running back, cornerback, wide receiver, pass-rushing defensive end, offensive guard.

DRAFT PICKS: 1st round (#14 overall from Buffalo); 1st round (#19); 2nd round (#50); 3rd round (#75 from Washington); 3rd round (#78 from New Orleans); 4th round (#120); 4th round (#128 from Green Bay); 5th round (#154 from Houston); 5th round (#157); 6th round (#193); 7th round (#225 from St. Louis); 7th round (#234); 7th round (#239 from New Orleans).

RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2002 - none; 2001 - Richard Seymour (DT, Georgia); 2000 - none; 1999 - Damien Woody (C, Boston College), Andy Katzenmoyer (LB, Ohio State); 1998 - Robert Edwards (RB, Georgia), Tebucky Jones (S, Syracuse); 1997 - Chris Canty (CB, Kansas State); 1996 - Terry Glenn (WR, Ohio State); 1995 - Ty Law (CB, Michigan); 1994 - Willie McGinest (LB, USC); 1993 - Drew Bledsoe (QB, Washington State); 1992 - Eugene Chung (OL, Virginia Tech); 1991 - Pat Harlow (OL, USC), Leonard Russell (RB, Arizona State); 1990 - Chris Singleton (LB, Arizona), Ray Agnew (DE, North Carolina State).

04/22 14:42:21 ET

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