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NFL Draft

There’s time to wheel, deal

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / April 15, 2010

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When the first day of the 2007 NFL draft concluded — back when the whole process spanned just two days — the Patriots had chosen just one player, first-rounder Brandon Meriweather.

But that night, as the team assessed their moves and looked ahead to Day 2, they began reaching out to other teams.

And those calls resulted in the Raiders sending receiver Randy Moss to New England for a fourth-round pick.

Those sort of overnight deals could be in abundance this year, as commissioner Roger Goodell, in his quest to get the NFL even more exposure and advertising dollars, moved the first round to prime time a week from tonight. The second and third rounds will take place the following night and rounds four through seven will be held Saturday.

With an abundance of players available — there are believed to be more players with first-round talent than there are first-round slots — wheeling and dealing into the wee hours of Friday may be par for the course.

“I think it’ll make the second day a lot more interesting,’’ Denver coach Josh McDaniels said recently. “My guess is that it wouldn’t change the amount of activity, but it could make a difference for the teams at the top of the round, with other teams trying to move up.

“From the first day to the second, ultimately, you’re going to have a lot of time and there are going to be better players sitting there.’’

For a team like the Patriots, who are unafraid of bouncing around the draft board and acquiring more picks, the new format may yield a smorgasbord of options.

“It’ll be interesting to see the way that all works,’’ said Bill Belichick, who has final say on New England’s personnel decisions. “It was different [last year] when the second day went to the third and fourth round. Now, to do it over three days and break up the process, it will be interesting to see what happens in the second round. I kind of think the second round will now be like the first round.

“Now you’re starting all over again for that second round, and I can see it being approached more as that first round. In the past you kind of rolled into that round; now, to actually stop and have the whole night to sit there and think about it and talk to other teams and develop a new strategy y. . . it’s a different dynamic.’’

From that perspective, the Patriots are in prime position. They hold three second-round picks — Nos. 44, 47, and 53 — and it is easy to imagine Belichick, in the role of draft auctioneer, holding phones to each ear as he offers one or more of those picks to the highest bidder.

Or he could be the one doing the bidding, packaging a second-rounder and one of several late-round picks for the chance to move up and nab a player he covets.

Since arriving in 2000, Belichick has done both. In 2002, he moved higher into the first round to get tight end Daniel Graham, and a year later he jumped up a couple of places for defensive end Ty Warren.

Last year, the New England traded first-round spots with Baltimore, sliding from 23d to 26th. The Patriots then traded out of the first round altogether, flipping the 26th pick to Green Bay for a package of picks.

With time those may prove to be sage moves, but the players the Ravens and Packers selected in those first-round spots — offensive tackle Michael Oher and linebacker Clay Matthews, respectively, — enjoyed tremendous rookie seasons in positions where New England could have used some help.

The Patriots did take Darius Butler, Brandon Tate, and Julian Edelman with the picks they received in return, as well as one of the three second-rounders this year.

One thing there may not be much of is trading high into the first round. It is widely believed that if there is football in 2011, there will be a rookie salary cap, putting an end to the astronomical contracts top picks have signed in recent years.

That’s why the first-round pick New England received from Oakland last year for Richard Seymour is attractive. If the Raiders are once again a mediocre team, the potential for that pick seems high.

But instead of paying upwards of $20 million in guaranteed money to an untested player, the Patriots could be paying a fraction of that for a player who potentially is just as skilled as one chosen in the same slot this year.

While McDaniels doesn’t see many teams dealing to get to the top of the fourth round Saturday, Belichick feels differently. There will be another large time gap between the end of the third round and start of the fourth, giving clubs time to once again look at options.

If there’s a player they had rated as a third-round talent still on the board, why not try to move up and take him early in the fourth?

The Jets did something similar last year, when rounds 1-2 were held on Day 1 and rounds 3-7 were held on Day 2: Iowa running back Shonn Greene, whom New York had graded quite highly, was still available, so the Jets traded with Detroit to take Greene at the top of the third round.

So in essence, time to sleep on things will really become time to negotiate things. And negotiate draft picks is one of the things Belichick does best.

Albert R. Breer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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