Deflategate? Patriots not dwelling on lost pick

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BOSTON >> The effects of the "Deflategate" will again be in the spotlight for the New England Patriots when the clock starts on their 2016 NFL draft.

The Patriots forfeited their first-round pick for 2016 as part of their punishment stemming from the league's investigation of deflated footballs used in the 2014 AFC championship game.

That spot, which wound up being No. 29 overall, will be left vacant when the draft begins April 28.

But New England has made an art of prospecting later rounds for players that wound up becoming assets — and even franchise staples — of its roster.

It will again rely on that keen eye.

"Our philosophy is we control the things that we can control," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said. "Our job is to prepare for the draft and whatever our picks are, then be prepared to pick. A lot of that is out of our hands. There's nothing we can do about that, so there's no sense in spending extra time on it ...

"We're just going to try and prepare for the draft and take advantage of our opportunities when we pick."

Here are some things to note for the Patriots entering the draft:

PICKS APLENTY: The good news for New England is that beyond the first round, it has a lot work with. It holds 11 total picks in 2016, including four in the first three rounds. That is the most selections ever in one round for the team and the most in a single round since Dallas had five picks in Round 7 of the 2014 draft.

The Patriots took starting safety Patrick Chung with their first pick of the second round in 2009, selected starting cornerback Logan Ryan in the third round in 2013, and got star tight end Rob Gronkowski in the second round in 2010.

And, of course, quarterback Tom Brady turned out to be the ultimate diamond in the rough when he was taken in the sixth round in 2000.

FAMILIAR SITUATION: This is the fourth time in the Bill Belichick era the Patriots have been without a first-round pick. They also were without one in 2013, 2009 and in Belichick's first season in 2000.

GOODELL SAYS NO: While the Patriots haven't publicly lamented losing their first-round pick, it didn't prevent them from asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell nicely to get it back.

Goodell said last month at the owners' meetings that he would not be returning either of the two draft picks New England was stripped of in the deflated footballs saga. The commissioner said he responded to a letter written by Patriots owner Robert Kraft in which he asked for both their first-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick in 2017 to be reinstated. Goodell declined.

New England also was fined $1 million and Brady was suspended for four games for his role in what has been dubbed "Deflategate." That suspension was overturned in court and Brady was allowed to play last season. The NFL has appealed.

IMPROBABLE, NOT IMPOSSIBLE: Even with the sanctions, the Patriots could theoretically trade for the 30th, 31st or 32nd pick of the first round. If they moved into any spot higher than their vacated 29th pick, it would be subject to forfeit.

That would make either move highly unlikely, though, with the Patriots' 11 picks including the most compensatory selections this year (four), along with the Cowboys and 49ers.

LONG WAIT: Most likely scenario has the Patriots trying to do something to lessen their wait times between picks.

As of now New England will make two picks apiece in the second (60th, 61st overall) and third (91st and 96st overall) rounds. But then it would have to wait until the Round 6 — 100 spots later — when it is scheduled to make the 196th overall selection.

That's a long time to be dormant. Caserio acknowledged moving up was a possibility.

"However it works itself out," Caserio said. "We're prepared to pick either way, whether it's from 96 to 196, whether we move, we're prepared, we're flexible. I think you have to keep an open mind with a lot of this. Nothing's really set in stone ... You have to be flexible, it's pretty fluid and you just have to be prepared for when every opportunity comes."


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