by Scott Benson

picLong-time fans of the annual NFL Draft know that Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News traditionally leads the media pack when it comes to accurate top prospect lists and mock drafts.

So it’s always noteworthy when he turns his attention to the last weekend in April, even when it’s only February 15th.

This morning in the DMN, Gosselin looks at what the Cowboys passed up when they traded the 20th pick of the 09 Draft to Detroit in the Roy Williams deal. Gosselin says they would have had plenty to choose from:

One NFL talent evaluator put his calculator to the combine list last week and provided a guess on the potential numbers at each position in the first round. He said there could be three quarterbacks, four running backs, five wide receivers, one tight end, seven offensive linemen, seven defensive ends, two defensive tackles, five linebackers and three cornerbacks.

Add it up and it comes to 37 players. There are only 32 picks in the first round. So at the top of this draft, the talent runs deep.

This is of interest to you and I, of course, because the Patriots currently hold the 23rd pick of the first round, and could have another if they’re able to trade Matt Cassel before the league starts the draft clock on April 26th.

Most of us think secondary tops the list of team needs in New England, and that is unquestionably so, but Gosselin says the most desirable first round prospects may play closer to the ball:

The strength of this draft will be the offensive and defensive lines. If seven offensive linemen, seven defensive ends and two defensive tackles do go in the first round, that’s half of the 32 selections.

Don’t be surprised if another lineman or two on each side of the ball squeeze into the first round. Players at those positions are too few and too expensive in free agency.

Some early food for thought from the guy who might be the preeminent football writer in the country. Naturally, the Patriots march to the beat of their own drummer with these things (thank God), but with only three cornerbacks in Gosselin’s top thirty-seven, we may end up waiting a little bit for those secondary reinforcements.