by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff

First things first – on behalf of Chris, myself and the whole PD team, thanks for your interest this weekend, and throughout the last month. We’ve had a really encouraging uptick in traffic and we hope it’s because you’ve found something to your liking here at the revamped PD.

I sum up the Pats draft this way; they started on Saturday afternoon with six picks in the top 100, and within twenty-four hours and three rounds they turned that into six players and two second round choices next year.

I think those two second-round choices, acquired by flipping two thirds in this draft, will be a big story at this time next year. For now though, I’m encouraged that the Pats used several of the picks they kept to work on the continued rebuilding of their defense.

I mentioned it this weekend – I felt like Patrick Chung was a solid fit for the defense from the first time I read about him. I’m sure not kicking on that one, nor Darius Butler, the zone corner who many Pats fans wanted and ultimately got. Nor can I find any particular quarrel with the choice of Ron Brace, the stout run-plugger who makes all kinds of sense as a Wilfork rotational fill-in, if not his successor if the worst was to happen.

I know the Pats draft the best player available but it didn’t hurt that those picks were two defensive backs and a defensive lineman. This was something about this draft: I didn’t have any problem following the Patriots logic as they made their picks.

I liked that the Pats spent three picks in rounds two, four and five on offensive linemen, even if the players they chose weren’t ones we were anticipating. The focus on the position was needed, given the contracts of the picks’ new teammates. The biggest German export since the Shamwow interests me, because he’s enormous, he’s solid between the ears by all reports, and if he can move his friggin’ feet at all, he can play right tackle for this team. I hope to learn his name soon and we can talk more about him then.

I also understood the Brandon Tate gamble in the third round, despite the knee and his Combine piss test transgression. Mike Mayock described an explosive kick returner who was just coming into his own as a receiver before he was hurt. If he is a virtual red-shirt this season, he’ll have to emerge (in 2010) just as the Pats will be confronting a number of receiver contracts (Galloway and Aiken after 09, Moss in 2010).

I’m not sure whether Tyrone McKenzie is an outside or an inside linebacker, but he’s played a few different spots and been productive and durable. He seems to have some range, which should work in his favor.

But I know that they could all fail, miserably, while players like Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga shine like diamonds. Chung could be a step too slow and Brace could get fat and Butler could be a brittle, inconsistent corner. Tate could rehab yet never be the threat he once was. The rest could simply be trains that passed in the night. We’ve all seen enough to know that.

But as noted, I did see a certain logic to what they were doing; their first two picks were in the middle of the defense, followed by another young corner for the rebuilding secondary. I don’t know what else we would have asked them to do there.

Oh, yeah….I remember. The pass rushing (but capable of dropping into coverage) outside linebacker…the “new Vrabel”, if you will. I guess in some places (ahem) it was considered one of the team’s biggest needs going into the draft. What did the Patriots end up doing about that?

Nothing. Which in some ways is the biggest story of the draft. The Patriots think they are going to get the production they need to compete for a world title this fall from Pierre Woods, Tully Banta Cain, Shawn Crable and Vince Redd. Maybe even Tyrone McKenzie too.

The door is still open for more Jason Taylor talk, even Julius Peppers talk, but I think its as big a waste of time as its ever been, as I’m pretty much convinced that once again the Pats re doing the thing we least suspect – they’re going to play with what they have.

That says to me they’re expecting somebody – or somebodies – to take a big step forward this year, even if we don’t. And this is the crux of it: they didn’t fall for the draft magazine cover boys like we did. They didn’t think any of those guys were going to be any more productive in their defense than the guys they already have. That is the decision, or it seems to be. You can kill them for it now, but it will be draft hype-driven hot air until they get on the field. There will be plenty to judge then.

These past few months have been fun. Even though we ended up doing fairly well this year (five of the first six picks were on our draft boards) it’s a futile gesture usually. We could never presume to know their picks head of time – it’s really the game of guessing that makes it fun, plus we feel like we’re learning something in the process.  

I’ve said it before – mostly, it’s a way to extend the football season by three months. And you know that can’t be bad.

The rookie camps will soon be here, followed by the vet stuff later on, and we’ll be watching all that, but this is the time of the year when we typically dial it down and try to enjoy the summer. We’ve got a lot to work on with the site over the next few months, so we’ll be around and posting new stuff, but for the most part we’re going under the caution flag while we get ready for another season. We, like Bill Parcells, reserve the right to change our minds, however.

Seriously, as I mentioned before, we really appreciate your visits, and we’re hoping we’re picking up some new friends with all the new traffic. In any event, friend new or old, thanks for your support of Patriots Daily.

Scott Benson can be reached at scott@patriotsdaily.com