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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Draft’s on Tap

It’s here once again, folks. A little late April event in the world of sports that captivates the region (and no it’s not the Boston Marathon). It’s the National Football League Draft.

The New England Patriots are coming off a rather disappointing 9-7 campaign in which they didn’t make the playoffs, one season removed from their epic Super Bowl championship run. Most barroom general managers would have you believe that the Pats are only a player or two away from making it back to the Big Game.

And here’s why the locals have worked themselves up into a minor frenzy. Barring any last minute trades, the Patriots are in the position to draft five players within the first 78 selections, including two picks in the first round. Although the team did well for itself in free agency, many view this draft as crucial if the Vince Lombardi trophy is to make another trip to New England any time soon.

The most pressing need for the team is defensive line. The team did not excel against the run or the pass last season and its core players are not getting any younger. With this in mind, the Patriots went out and spent money on the likes of Roosevelt Potts, Rodney Harrison, and Tyrone Poole. Coach Bill Belichick, however, is well aware that the construction of a great defense is far from done and he hopes that the draft will help bring that goal to fruition. Look for the team to land Georgia’s Jonathan Sullivan with the 14th pick and be very happy with him at that spot.

The 19th pick, which belongs to the Pats, is where the hot debate is at the moment. Some Pats fans are clamoring for the team to select Willis McGahee, the University of Miami running back who was on his way to being a top-five pick and stardom until he suffered a devastating knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl nearly four months ago. McGahee claims to be well on his way to a full recovery and he prophesies that he will be ready to take the field next fall.

Most NFL followers are convinced that Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders will select McGahee with one of the two picks late in the first round. The thinking behind the guess is Oakland came off a Super Bowl run and has one of the most productive offenses in the NFL. At the moment, it doesn’t need to fill many holes on the roster; therefore Davis will take a flyer on the injured running back who, if he makes a full recovery, could be the next star in the NFL.

No one knows exactly where McGahee will land, but this is almost a certainty: it won’t be New England. Belichick is not going to waste a high round pick on a injured running back, albeit a talented one, when the team has other pressing needs. Everyone knows that football is the ultimate team sport (see New England Patriots 2001-02) and there is no reason to take a chance on a high-risk player with a high pick. If McGahee is there in the third round, then the Patriots should consider taking him with one of the two picks that they have. Look for Belichick to take an offensive lineman with the 19th pick.

This draft is a golden opportunity for Belichick to prove his naysayers wrong. His track record in previous drafts does not place him in a good light (remember Touchdown Tommy Vardell when Belichick was in Cleveland?), so his critics have valid points. If the team managed to draft four players that eventually started down the line, and have other selections prove to be solid backups or special teamers, then the team will be in good shape for the next couple of years and perhaps be headed back to the Big Game.