Pick of the Picks Who scored and who didn't in PRO FOOTBALL'S two-day marathon

May 04, 2003

A month ago, in the midst of preparing for the draft, Patriots
coach Bill Belichick flew to the Florida Keys to visit with
former Cowboys and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson, who never met a
draft-related trade he didn't like. The two went out on
Johnson's boat, and for five hours the retired coach spun tales
about how he squeezed out defensive end Jason Taylor in the
third round, linebacker Zach Thomas in the fifth, defensive
tackle Leon Lett in the seventh, cornerback and Super Bowl MVP
Larry Brown in the 12th. "Bill had concerns about having too
many picks who might or might not make your team," Johnson told
SI last week. "I told him, 'Hey, never worry about that. Picks
are currency. Multiple picks give you a comfort zone, and
you're never afraid to make a mistake.'"

During last weekend's NFL draft, Belichick turned Johnson's
advice into reality TV. Beginning a two-year plan to make the
plodding Patriots younger and faster up and down the depth chart,
Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli made
five trades, picked three players they think will help the team
right away and began to lay the foundation for a golden draft in
2004, when the talent pool is expected to be significantly better
than this year's.

The Patriots now have a league-high eight selections in the first
four rounds of 2004. (No other team has more than five.) Last
Friday, New England traded a third-round pick this year for
Miami's second-rounder next year. And on Saturday, New England
wheeled and dealed with its league-high 12 selections, making
four trades. One of those deals involved moving up one spot in
the first round, changing positions with the Bears and sending
them a sixth-round pick to choose Texas A&M defensive tackle Ty
Warren with the 13th pick. Later in the first round, Belichick
and Pioli turned down an offer to get Miami's first-round choice
next year and swung a better deal from Baltimore: The Patriots
moved down 22 slots--from the 19th pick to a spot early in the
second (No. 41 overall)--in order to get the Ravens' first-round
pick in 2004. Trading back up five spots to No. 36, New England
selected a player, Illinois cornerback Eugene Wilson, whom it had
in a group of six players graded at No. 19. The Saturday haul:
Warren, who's expected to be a long-term starter at left end, and
second-rounders Wilson and Bethel Johnson, a wideout from Texas
A&M who, after top three selections Charles Rogers and Andre
Johnson, might be the receiver in the draft with the best
combination of size and speed (201 pounds, 4.37 in the 40). On
Sunday, New England used a fourth-round choice on Temple
defensive tackle Dan Klecko, whose father, Joe, starred on the
defensive line for the Jets in the 1980s.

"One of the things I learned from Jimmy," Belichick said in his
Gillette Stadium office late on Saturday, "is to go into a draft
with a list of 20, 25 players you really want, from the start of
the draft to the end. Forget the ratings, forget what the experts
say. We drafted three of those guys. We could have had two more,
but if you can secure an extra first and second next year, that's
just good long-term football business."

COLOR PHOTO: KATHY WILLENS/AP (BELICHICK) PICK-ME-UPS Belichick (top left) gets a breakaway threat in Johnson (9) and hopes Wilson (28), Klecko (73) and Warren will bolster his defense. COLOR PHOTO: RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES (JOHNSON) [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIELS/GETTY IMAGES (WILSON) [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS (KLECKO) [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: BUTCH IRELAND/AP (WARREN) [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: J. PAT CARTER/AP (MCGAHEE) McGahee

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