Work in Sports
Not the coach, but ...
With no first rounder due to Belichick hire, Pats land OL
Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 02:37 PM
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- Patience may be Bill Belichick's biggest asset in the NFL draft. The Patriots coach waited seven hours for his first pick in Saturday's draft, and was rewarded when he took offensive lineman Adrian Klemm of Hawaii.
For the third straight season -- the last two as the New York Jets' defensive coordinator -- he didn't have a first-round choice.
"The parade goes by, we just wave," Belichick said. "I don't know what to do in the first round."
The Patriots didn't have a first round pick Saturday because they gave it to the Jets as compensation for signing Belichick last January. But they ended up with a player projected by some to go in the first round even though he lasted until the 15th pick of the second.
"There were a lot of good players on the [draft] board" when the Patriots chose, Belichick said, "but Adrian was clearly the best."
The Patriots also had a third-round pick, the 76th overall, in the draft that began at noon. The remaining four rounds were scheduled for Sunday.
New England needed a running back, and J.R. Redmond of Arizona State and Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) were still available when the Patriots' pick -- the 46th of the two-day draft -- finally came around.
But for the second straight year the Patriots used their top choice on a player who can open holes rather than run through them.
Last season, they chose center Damien Woody of Boston College with the 17th pick and he started every game. But the Patriots had only the 23rd best running game in the 31-team league. Terry Allen, their primary runner, was released after the season.
So was Pete Carroll, who was fired as coach after the Patriots lost six of their last eight games to finish at 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
The Patriots also cut two veteran tackles -- 34-year-old Bruce Armstrong and 33-year-old Zefross Moss -- so there was a clear need for a young player like the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Klemm, a native of Santa Monica, Calif., who can play several line positions.
"Maybe about two picks before, one of the [Patriots] coaches informed me that they were thinking of selecting me," said Klemm, who blocks better for the pass than the run. "I was just overwhelmed."
Belichick didn't rule out re-signing Armstrong and said he would wait until after the draft to evaluate the team's needs.
He's not sure Klemm can start next season, but he played several positions in a variety of offenses at Hawaii. The Rainbows had a run-and-shoot attack under coach June Jones last season that honed Klemm's skills as a pass blocker. But before that they had a more traditional offense in which Klemm played several positions.
"He has some positional flexibility," Belichick said. "Whenever he's ready [to play in the NFL], he's ready. I don't know when that will be or if that will be."
After last season, the Patriots signed 25-year-old Grant Williams, a starting right tackle with Seattle. Derrick Fletcher, a 24-year-old lineman drafted last year, is also in the mix.
"I'm confident I can play at the professional level," Klemm said. "I don't know how long it will take me before I fit into a role."
He played several roles at Hawaii - right tackle in 1996, left tackle in 1997, tight end and right tackle in 1998 and left tackle in 1999.
After spring practice in 1998, he was switched from tackle to tight end and lost 40 pounds. But he had to put weight back on when he was returned to tackle midway through the season.
"He's a very athletic player," Belichick said. The only other years in which the Patriots didn't have a first-round pick were 1972 and 1974. The 46th pick last season, running back Kevin Faulk, was the third player they chose. He was inconsistent and missed five games with injuries.
Can Klemm do better?
"The pros are a lot different than college, even though he's been in a passing offense," Belichick said. But Klemm was so obviously Belichick's choice that he didn't give much thought to trading the pick.
"We got a few calls, but the value of the player was so high, we didn't entertain them seriously," he said.