RYAN MALLETT MAKES SENSE ...
Sometimes it looks as if Bill Belichick enjoys the game of collecting draft choices more than actually using them on good players. But with Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett dropping so far because of a few off-field issues, the Patriots selected him 74th.
Tom Brady was the seventh quarterback taken in the 2000 draft; Mallett was the seventh QB picked this year. That is likely to be where the similarities end. If Brady, who turns 34 in August, stays healthy, the only playing time Mallett will see is mop-up duty. But that's O.K. Mallett, who had a slew of red flags flying around him (reported marijuana use in college, an alcohol-related arrest, missing a day of predraft meetings with the Panthers under disputed circumstances), can use his time with the tightly disciplined Pats to rehab his image. Say he stays out of trouble over the next three years, and Belichick and Brady talk about what a great guy and teammate he is. Or say Brady gets hurt sometime in 2012 or '13, and Mallett rides in to save the day the way Matt Cassel did in '08. New England might be able to get a first-round choice in '14 for Mallet. The only way Belichick doesn't get at least 74th-pick value, either on the field or in a future draft, is if Mallett messes up in the wee hours. But I like the gamble.
... BUT THE PATS ALSO HAD FUN
Belichick traded the 193rd pick in the draft to the Eagles for the 194th. That's it. Straight up.
"A salary-cap move!" Philly coach Andy Reid joked on Saturday night. The truth is, Reid and Belichick had made a deal with each other for 10 straight years, and here it was, the sixth round, and they hadn't made one yet. So they got on the phone and Reid said, "Listen, our streak is in trouble." Here came the no-harm, no-foul deal. Both took linebackers whom the other team wouldn't have picked—Philly drafted Ohio State's Brian Rolle, and New England picked Markell Carter from Central Arkansas. Who said Reid and Belichick are always serious?
DA'QUAN BOWERS FALLS FREE
One of the biggest issues surrounding the draft concerns players who flunk team physicals. Some clubs push the player way down their draft boards; others remove him entirely. Take Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, a possible No. 1 pick when he decided to leave school a year early last winter. He had minor meniscus surgery in January, but teams feared there was more damage in his right knee. Entering the draft, at least one team believed career-threatening microfracture surgery was next for Bowers.
The Buccaneers, who would have graded Bowers the best player if he had no knee trouble, didn't flunk him but took him out of the first round. And after round 1 ended, Tampa Bay G.M. Mark Dominik told his staff that if Bowers was there at 51, they'd grab him.
"You do your medical research," Dominik said, "and you try to figure out when it makes sense to take a player. I don't know if he's going to play one play or 10 years, but we don't think the knee needs surgery now, and we're going to give him whatever time he needs to rehab. His knee will have to be monitored closely his whole career."