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Patriots trade down, select Chung

Physical safety added, as well as Brace, Butler

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By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / April 26, 2009
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FOXBOROUGH - Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided the first round of the NFL draft was overrated and that the best way to tweak his roster was to play trading spaces yesterday.

The Patriots made three trades on the draft's first day and ended up with a quartet of second-round picks: safety Patrick Chung of Oregon, nose tackle Ron Brace of Boston College, cornerback Darius Butler of Connecticut, and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer of Houston.

"In our overall evaluation of the entire draft you just try to know what the values are and get a sense as much as possible where people are being looked at and where they're going to go and where you think the value of the draft is," said Belichick. "I think there was good depth in this draft, and I think there still is heading into [today], for a while. It's not going to last for seven rounds, but hopefully we continue to add players.

The Patriots began the day with the No. 23 overall pick and ended up without a first-round selec tion for the first time since 2000, when they sent their first-round pick to the Jets as compensation for Belichick, who hastily decided he didn't want to be Bill Parcells's successor for the J-E-T-S.

New England traded down twice and parachuted out of the first round, not exercising its first pick until No. 34, drafting Chung with the selection obtained from the Chiefs for quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel.

New England was on the clock at No. 23 and traded the pick to Baltimore, moving down three spots while picking up the Ravens' fifth-round pick (162). The Patriots then bowed out of the first-round altogether, shipping the No. 26 pick and the fifth-round pick from the Ravens to the Packers for a second-round pick (No. 41) and a pair of third-rounders (No. 73 and No. 83, which originally belonged to the Jets).

Green Bay used the pick to select Southern Cal linebacker Clay Matthews.

The 5-foot-11-inch, 212-pound Chung tied teammate Max Unger with an Oregon school-record 51 straight starts. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection as a rover and finished his career with 384 tackles, 4 sacks, and 9 interceptions.

Last season, he had 92 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 passes defended, and 1 interception, which he returned 31 yards for his only career touchdown. He also had experience at Oregon returning kickoffs and punts and had two career blocked punts.

A native of Kingston, Jamaica, who moved to California as a child, Chung profiles as a physical safety who can play in the box and cover tight ends. He could help fill the void left by the departure of Rodney Harrison, who is not expected to return to the Patriots.

Chung said the Patriots showed a lot of interest in him during the draft process, but he was still shocked to get the call.

"I loved the facilities when I was out there. I love the coaches. I like the mood," said Chung. "It's about work, and it's about business and getting down to business. They make sure everything is right. That's who I am. I'm just happy to be here."

The Pro Football Weekly draft guide said Chung can match up with tight ends, read quarterbacks' eyes, and jump routes, but said he lacks the speed and ball skills to play deep safety.

However, Belichick valued Chung for his versatility, as he was asked to do a number of things at Oregon from the rover position.

"I think you could really see him do a lot on college tape, probably more so than most players we evaluate at that position," said Belichick.

"You do everything," said Chung of playing rover. "You're like a strong safety, free safety, corner, linebacker. You blitz, cover the slot, cover tight ends, cover the deep half, deep middle, curl, flat. Rover is just pretty much everything. You have to be able to do everything. It's the most versatile position."

Belichick continued wheeling and dealing in the second round, moving up to No. 40 by sending No. 47, a fourth-rounder (No. 124), and a sixth-rounder (No. 199) to the Raiders to end up with consecutive picks in the second round (Nos. 40 and 41).

The Patriots selected Brace and Butler with the back-to-back picks.

The 6-3, 330-pound Brace provides the Patriots with insurance should they not be able to work out a contract extension with nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who will be a free agent after this season. The 5-10, 183-pound Butler adds to the cadre of cornerbacks the Patriots have acquired after allowing the second-most touchdown passes in the NFL in 2008.

With their fourth second-round pick (No. 58 overall), the Patriots selected Vollmer.

New England started the day with 11 picks and six selections (No. 23, No. 34, No. 47, No. 58, No. 89, and No. 97) in the top 100. After all the trading, the Patriots had eight picks in the top 100 - the four second-rounders and the four third-rounders (No. 73, No. 83, No. 89, and No. 97) with which it will begin Day Two.

Prior to the draft, the Patriots were actually trying to move up in the first round. According to a report by Peter King of SI.com and confirmed by league sources, the Patriots offered their first-round pick and a second-rounder (No. 47) to the Jaguars for the No. 8 pick.

Belichick said the team didn't try to move into the top 10. "We didn't [pursue it]," he said. "There was no chance."

But he wouldn't rule out further trades today, when the draft continues with rounds 3-7.

"There was a lot of activity [yesterday], and it wouldn't surprise me if that's the situation [today]," said Belichick, "Maybe not to the same degree, but there will be some."

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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