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Patriots' perfect record is anything but a mistake

Hard hats were not required to build these New England Patriots so much as fine scouting and shrewd thinking.

Take a look at one move, that led to another move, that led to New England's assault on history.

Last season, New England traded disgruntled wide receiver Deion Branch to the Seattle Seahawks for a first-round pick that produced the difference between a great team and a potential all-time team.

With their extra first-round pick, the Patriots were freed to trade the other one to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2008 first-round pick and a 2007 fourth-round pick. The Patriots then dealt that fourth-round pick to Oakland for wide receiver Randy Moss, the equivalent of a first-round pick –- still leaving them with an extra potential top 10 pick in 2008.

That is not the pursuit of perfection. That is the achievement of it. But then, some of the moves the Patriots already had made proved perfect.

Their building blueprints uncovered bluechips every way possible. They chose quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, left tackle Matt Light in the second round of the 2001 draft, cornerback Asante Samuel in the fourth round and center Dan Koppen in the fifth round of the 2003 draft.

Free agency provided other buried treasures. New England signed former Pittsburgh linebacker Mike Vrabel in 2001 when no one wanted him, safety Rodney Harrison after San Diego gave up on him in 2003, and linebacker Junior Seau after he retired in 2006.

Of these perfect Patriots, 25 were drafted, 15 were unrestricted free agents, 10 were first-year or rookie free agents, and three arrived via trades, including Wes Welker, who could catch more passes this season than any receiver in the league.

Of course the Patriots have enjoyed their share of luck –- and not just in Baltimore two Monday nights ago.

Back in 2000, the Patriots drafted six players before using their sixth-round pick and 199th selection on Brady. They were so underwhelmed about Brady that New England had an earlier sixth-round pick, the 187th overall selection, that it used on Virginia cornerback Antwan Harris.

So New England's decisions, though better than most, have not not always been perfect.

But its record is.

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