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Patriots, Bills impressive through draft's first three rounds

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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From the outside looking in, the selections of two teams stand out in my mind after the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft.

The New England Patriots' five picks through the first three rounds has produced a starting left tackle (Nate Solder), two running backs who will compete for playing time and a role in the offense (Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley), a potential starting cornerback (Ras-I Dowling) and the quarterback with the best arm in the draft (Ryan Mallett). Consider the fact that Bill Belichick has stockpiled two first-round and two second-round picks next year, and the Patriots lead the way.

Beyond the solid draft of the Patriots, the Buffalo Bills really impressed me with the selections of Marcell Darius, Aaron Williams and inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. All three players should earn starting roles in 2011. Using all three of their picks on defensive players also tells me just how much faith the Bills have in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

As for the team that left me scratching my head, it would have to be the Carolina Panthers, who had to take the chance on quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick. But the two defensive tackles they also selected -- Terrell McClain (No. 65) and Sione Fua (97) -- are a good example of just deep the early run on tackles was, because neither players appears to be more than a situational, backup type. It was tough for the Panthers to have no second-round pick.

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