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Early draft picks, QB demand give Belichick free reign

Every NFL draft has a personality all its own. This year is no exception.

Somehow, some way Bill Belichick seems to find himself controlling one of the major intersections of the draft.

Team Needs: AFC East

The Patriots have so many picks in the first three rounds of the draft, their options to fill needs are endless. Pat Kirwan examines them and every team in the division. **More...**

With the Patriots owning six picks in the top 92, Belichick has the ability once again to draft whoever he wants, while also deciding when to sell picks for future considerations. With first-round picks No. 17 and 28 to his credit, things couldn't be shaping up any better for Belichick and his ability to control the wishes of a number of teams.

There are so many teams at the top of the first round looking at the quarterback class, there's just no way they will all be satisfied. After Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are selected somewhere in the top 10, that will still leave at least five teams hoping to find a worthy QB in this draft to solve a big need.

Without free agency and trades, the lockout is really starting to drill down into the rest of the 2011 quarterback class. Guys like Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton are getting lots of interest because teams really have no place else to turn right now. All it will take to break the dam, so to speak, is for a team in the second half of the first round to select a quarterback like Jake Locker.

Say a team like the Seahawks decide to draft Locker -- or Mallett, for that matter - making him the third QB off the board, teams are going to look at the Patriots' No. 28 spot as the right place to get the QB they want before the draft's first night adjourns. Teams will get nervous about waiting overnight, knowing that teams will work the phones trying to move up. Take a look at the teams near the top of round two that need a quarterback, and it's easy to see the Patriots getting flooded with calls.

Between Buffalo (No. 34), Cincinnati (35), Arizona (38), Tennessee (39), Washington (41), and Minnesota (43), they won't all be out of the QB sweepstakes by the time the first round winds down. To move up from a high second-round pick to the Patriots' 28th spot won't be that expensive if a team really wants a certain guy. Here's what to go by:

Buffalo at 34 = 560 points
Cincinnati at 35 = 550 points
Arizona at 38 = 520 points
Tennessee at 39 = 510 points
Washington at 41 = 490 points
Minnesota at 43 = 470 points

New England's 28th pick is worth 660 points, and any draft pick with a value comparable to the difference could do the trick. A move down to the trading team's spot and a third-round pick this year or a second-round pick next year should get it done.

What makes the Patriots unique in a team's pursuit of a quarterback is that they also have the first pick (33 overall) of the second round and could easily take on another trade situation for a second team looking for a quarterback.

Let's say a team like Buffalo jumps up to No. 28 and also gives the Patriots a third-round pick and takes Christian Ponder. Then the Patriots trade No. 33 to the Titans for their pick and a third-round selection with Tennessee grabbing Ryan Mallett. That would give New England picks 34, 43, 68 and 77 to go along with 17, 60, 74, and 92.

The demand for quarterbacks in this draft could wind up putting the Patriots in a position to have eight picks in the top 92 if they want that many. It's becoming clear that the Patriots could end up steering teams toward the quarterbacks they want.

Again, Bill Belichick is in the driver's seat.

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