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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

At times, it was a swap meet

After using their fourth-round pick to take James Sanders of Fresno State, the Patriots traded a fifth-round pick (145th overall) and a sixth-round pick (206th) to Detroit for a fourth-round choice in 2006. (The Lions used the first pick to take UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky.)

The Patriots then took a sixth-round pick (195th overall) and a seventh-round pick (246th) and swapped them with Green Bay for a sixth-round selection (175th).

They took that pick and shipped it to Oakland for a seventh-round pick (quarterback Matt Cassel of Southern California) and a fifth-round selection in 2006.

He's the man
Once again, Irrelevant Week originator Paul Salata announced the final pick of the draft: Andrew Stokes of William Penn.

Stokes, whom the Patriots picked at No. 255, will be feted in a weeklong celebration of the underdog in Newport Beach, Calif., June 20-25. He is the 30th "Mr. Irrelevant," following a tradition that began with Pittsburgh's selection of Kelvin Kirk in 1976.

The Patriots had another Mr. Irrelevant, who had a nice professional career. New England drafted linebacker Marty Moore with the 222d pick in 1994 out of Kentucky. Moore lasted almost a decade, playing seven seasons with the Patriots.

"I'm excited about that, but I'm more excited to play some more football," said Stokes, who will be treated to a host of activities on the West Coast, including a parade in his honor and a VIP day at Disneyland. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was indifferent about the Mr. Irrelevant hoopla.

"It's a lot of hype," Belichick said with a smile. "There's not much difference between being the 255th player than being the 254th, other than the trip to Wally World or wherever."

A bit behind
Cassel had the unfortunate timing of playing quarterback at USC behind 2003 No. 1 overall pick and 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, and 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart.

He says the battle with Leinart for the starting position in 2003 was "neck-and-neck." Leinart earned the starting nod and led the Trojans to consecutive national championships. Cassel threw only 33 passes in his career.

Cassel, whose brothers are righthanded pitchers -- one in the Padres' minor league system and another in college -- was a middle reliever for the Trojans in 2004, but he prefers the gridiron to the diamond.

"I'm working outside the box here," Cassel said. "I've been kind of blackballed within the whole family."

Cassel earned more acclaim as a 12-year-old than as a college quarterback. He was a first baseman on the Northridge, Calif., squad that lost to Venezuela in the Little League World Series final in 1994.

He recalled hitting a three-run homer to lead the "Earthquake Kids" to a victory, resulting in a Los Angeles Times front-page photo.

Master stroke?
Fifth-round pick Ryan Claridge, a linebacker from UNLV, is the younger brother of former Atlanta Falcons guard Travis Claridge (a second-round pick in 2000). Claridge played tennis for two seasons at UNLV, despite being 6 feet 2 inches, 254 pounds. "I was playing against guys that were 140 pounds," Claridge said. "If one of those guys told me the shot that I hit was out, and I thought it was in, I would come over to the net and tell him that I needed to talk to him. He would say the shot was in. I got all the calls." . . . With his picks of Fresno State's Logan Mankins (first round) and Sanders, Belichick has drafted two players from the same team four times in his six drafts with the Patriots. In five drafts as the coach at Cleveland (1991-95) not once did Belichick take two players from the same school. With New England, Belichick took Ty Warren and Bethel Johnson of Texas A&M (2003), Rohan Davey and Jarvis Green of LSU (2002), and Brock Williams and Jabari Holloway of Notre Dame (2001) . . . Offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, New England's third-round choice, may not be welcomed to town by everyone. Kaczur was involved in one of the incidents in the 2002 Boston College-Toledo Motor City Bowl matchup. Kaczur was ejected from the game after he punched BC defensive end Phil Mettling in the stomach and ripped off his helmet in BC's 51-25 victory. Some newspaper accounts of the incident claim Kaczur landed several blows in the fracas . . . After drafting mostly players from major conferences in the past, Belichick selected only two players from BCS schools. "That certainly wasn't planned," he said. "There's no set formula of where players come from."

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