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Patriots' second-round picks

Dowling joins corner market

Vereen seen in mold of Faulk

Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling was limited to five games as a senior because of leg and ankle injuries. Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling was limited to five games as a senior because of leg and ankle injuries. (University of Virginia Photo)
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / April 30, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH — When it comes to the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s draft philosophy, it seems there is only one truism:

Expect the unexpected.

At the close of the first round of the 2011 NFL draft Thursday night, it was widely believed that Belichick would trade the first pick of the second round (33d overall), a belief fueled in large part by Belichick saying that he had received interest in the pick.

But as time ticked away, it was announced via the team’s Twitter account that it would keep the pick.

New England selected Virginia defensive back Ras-I Dowling, a 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pounder who played just five games last season because of hamstring, knee, and ankle injuries.

With the 56th pick, obtained from New Orleans during a Thursday night trade, the Patriots drafted Cal running back Shane Vereen. The 60th spot, which was their natural second-round spot, was traded to Houston in exchange for third- and fifth-round picks this year.

While Dowling was a good player for the Cavaliers when he was healthy — he played in 40 games (with 25 starts), with 160 tackles, 29 pass breakups and eight interceptions — his ability to stay healthy became a question his senior season.

In high school, he missed games because of a broken hand as a junior and knee injury in his senior season but was durable his first three seasons at Virginia.

A team captain, the scouting report on Dowling reads as athletic and able to run effortlessly. But he can be inconsistent, needs work in run support, and is an average tackler.

Dowling said he did not have a predraft visit or workout with the Patriots, and declared himself “100 percent healthy. If we had camp tomorrow, I’d be ready to go.’’

“I’m just ready to get up there tomorrow, or next week, or whenever they’re ready to bring me in,’’ Dowling said. “I’m just waiting for that call, whenever they call me.’’

Dowling’s unique first name comes courtesy of his father, Larry, who was a fan of boxer Livingstone Bramble. Bramble changed his name to Ras-I during his career, Larry Dowling liked the moniker, and gave it to his son.

Vereen has a famous surname, and said famed dancer and actor Ben Vereen is a cousin of his father. The California native was at home in Valencia with his family and two friends when he got the call from Belichick.

The Pro Football Weekly scouting report on Vereen suggests Kevin Faulk. Though he’s taller than Faulk at 5-10, Vereen has good quickness, balance, and body control, with good lateral agility. He also is an effective receiver, and has special teams experience.

Vereen is also strong: He did a position-best 31 reps in the bench press (225 pounds) at the combine; in comparison, first-round pick Nate Solder, an offensive lineman, did 21 reps.

“I always take pride in myself being able to do all things that are called on for a running back: catching the ball, pass protection, running the ball,’’ he said. “Anything that is called on me to do, I always take pride in doing that to the best of my ability.’’

That said, Vereen said he feels pass protection is the area of his game that needs the most work.

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