Patriots fill needs at center, LB, QB
Posted: Sunday April 18, 1999 09:08 PM
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots' draft strategy was formed on a beach in Honolulu and took further shape on Valentine's Day. The team carried out that strategy during the two-day NFL draft that ended Sunday.
Running back Robert Edwards suffered a career-threatening knee injury during a beach football game Feb. 9. On the holiday five days later, center Dave Wohlabaugh departed for Cleveland as a free agent.
So the Patriots focused on filling those two vacancies -- and several others -- and chose center Damien Woody from Boston College in the first round and running back Kevin Faulk from Louisiana State in the second.
"We are really drafting for spots more so than that old term, 'the best athlete available,'" Patriots coach Pete Carroll said. "I think you see that across the board. Most people are drafting for needs and that's a big change."
That's one reason the Patriots chose linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer with their second pick of the first round, the 28th overall. They needed to fill an opening left by the departure of free agent Todd Collins to St. Louis on March 11.
"The personnel people followed through with the plan," Carroll said. "We had some holes we had to fill and I think we were able to position players to do that."
The Patriots even tried to fill a hole that may open up in the future.
With free safety Willie Clay eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, the Patriots drafted two players who play that position -- Tony George of Florida in the third round and Marcus Washington of Colorado in the sixth.
Washington expected to be drafted earlier and said, "that's just more fuel to the fire for me to get in and prove myself and to show I'm better than the rest of the guys out there."
On Sunday, the Patriots added more bulk to a front line that already had added the 319-pound Woody.
They took 374-pound offensive guard Derrick Fletcher of Baylor in the fifth round. Sunday's other picks were in the seventh round -- Heisman Trophy runnerup Michael Bishop, the quarterback from Kansas State, and wide receiver Sean Morey from Brown.
Bishop would back up Drew Bledsoe but, if he does play, "he can give us a change of pace [from the stationary Bledsoe]. We would like to put Michael Bishop in a position where he can run," Carroll said.
Bishop said he had "no idea" why he wasn't drafted until the seventh round.
"I know what I can do. I know what I can bring to the Patriots," he said.
The Patriots also expect to sign a veteran backup quarterback in the next few days, perhaps John Friesz, who played for Seattle last year.
The Patriots opened last season with a 4-1 record but finished at 9-7 as Bledsoe missed the last two games with a broken finger and sat out the first-round playoff loss in Jacksonville.
But he should be fine when training camp opens. Now the team's biggest need is at running back, a spot it thought it had filled in last year's draft when it took Edwards in the first round. Then he suffered ligament and nerve damage in the beach game held in conjunction with the Pro Bowl.
By drafting the 5-foot-8 Faulk, who may be too small to play every down, and signing free agent Lamont Warren, a backup at Indianapolis in all five of his pro seasons, Carroll left that position without a clear-cut starter. He also has holdovers Derrick Cullors, Sedrick Shaw and Harold Shaw.
Asked if he would add others, Carroll said, "we're going to go with the guys we have. ... It's going to take us a while to sort it out."
The Patriots also needed a defensive lineman who could rush the passer, but they were unable to fill all their needs with eight picks.
"We have created some more competitive situations," Carroll said. "We have positioned ourselves to be better."
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