by Scott Benson

I hope you all had a nice Christmas yesterday. But there’s still one present under the tree for draft watching Pats fans, to be opened next Sunday night. Let’s pick up the package and give it a good shake. What do we know? 

One thing we know: the Patriots will have a pick in the top ten of the 2008 NFL Draft next April.

Another thing we know: thanks to the Niners’ Shaun Hill, it won’t be picks two, three or four.

Another thing: no way the Pats pick ahead of the Jets, sadly.

Another thing: the Pats could pick as high as fifth, but they’ll need wins in the final week by the Chiefs, Raiders and Ravens, combined with a San Francisco loss, in order to do so.

Another thing: The Pats will not pick any later than number 9. The Niners are the only five-win team, and among the four six-win teams that immediately trail them in the Race to the Bottom, only Cincinnati has a weaker schedule (after sixteen weeks) than the Niners. In order for the Pats to slip to ninth, San Francisco must beat Cleveland while the Bengals lose to Miami.

Here’s the chart for week seventeen:

So there we are. For awhile, it looked like the Pats would turn the #28 pick in the 07 Draft into Randy Moss and the #2 pick in 08 (which would have had to have been the greatest draft trade ever), but then Hill came along and brought New England down to earth while lifting the Niners off the deck for the first time in their lost 2007 campaign.

Of course, there’s the school of thought that says the Pats are better off this way – the bonus money paid to top five picks can be onerous, and a team ends up paying front-line guaranteed Nate Clements-cash to a player that hasn’t proven anything. To this end, the recent upswing by the Niners may have actually helped the Pats to avoid just such a conundrum.

I suppose. Yet I can’t help but be disappointed that it won’t be the Pats on the clock immediately following the Dolphins when the draft begins next April. The booing by the Jets fans in attendance may have alone been worth the price.

Whatever happens this Sunday, the Pats will have their highest draft pick since they took Richard Seymour with the sixth selection in 2001. There’s still a chance for an upgrade, too – let’s look ahead to this weekend’s pivotal games.


San Francisco at Cleveland – You made your point, Shaun. Throw us a bone here, will ya? In an oddity, the Browns can still get in the playoffs even with a loss, as long as the Colts beat the Titans in Indy. So I don’t know what the Browns are playing for here – other than staying sharp in case they get the chance to extend their season into next week.

Kansas City at New York Jets – The Jets presently hold the third pick, so you have to wonder what the approach will be here. A win over the Chiefs could drop New York as low as the eighth pick, the way I figure it. The Chiefs are one of the three teams that need to win in order for the Pats to grab the fifth pick. At the least, a Kansas City win will be sure to move the Pats ahead of the Chiefs.

San Diego at Oakland – The Raiders are another team that, with a win, could allow the Pats to move up. But the Chargers are still playing for the third seed in the AFC, which would allow them to avoid a wild card round matchup with the Jaguars. I’m not holding my breath here. 

Pittsburgh at Baltimore – Same deal here. The Steelers still have an outside shot at the third seed if they beat the Ravens and San Diego loses. Both have 4:15 starts on Sunday, so there will be something to play for through 7:00 p.m. Working in our favor: this is the Pittsburgh Steelers, so maybe they’ll stumble and the Pats will sneak ahead of the Ravens.

Cincinnati at Miami – The Bengals contributed mightily to the plummeting stock of the Pats pick by losing in San Francisco a couple of weeks back. The Bengals stink on the road, and a loss to the 1-14 Dolphins to close yet another underachieving season wouldn’t exactly be a shocker. If Cincinnati wins, though, the Pats will pick no later than eighth.

Let’s see what happens this weekend. We’ll be back with the final edition of Niner Watch next week.