Pats get offensive with back, receiver

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Defensive wizard Bill Belichick spent draft day building his offense at positions where the Patriots have too many old players or too few good players of any age.

New England chose running back Laurence Maroney of Minnesota in the first round Saturday then traded to move up 16 spots in the second round to make sure they got wide receiver Chad Jackson of Florida.

Maroney, who had a 93-yard run last season and described himself as an Edgerrin James-type back, will compete for playing time with three players who all are 28 or older and missed games because of injuries last season.

Jackson tied his school’s single season record last season with 88 catches and, at 6-feet-1 and 213 pounds, gives the Patriots a big wide receiver to complement 5-foot-9 Deion Branch, the MVP in the Patriots Super Bowl win in the 2004 season.

After the trade, the Patriots were left with one other pick Saturday, the 22nd in the third round. The draft winds up Sunday with rounds four through seven in which New England has seven picks.

Before choosing Jackson, Belichick indicated the Patriots weren’t interested in Green Bay wide receiver Javon Walker, who ended up getting traded to Denver.

“I’ve not talked to or seen Javon Walker,” Belichick said.

When asked if he had trade discussions with other teams, he said, “there’s always options on that.”

One of those options became reality when he ended up trading with the Packers – not for Walker, but to have an opportunity to get Jackson. Belichick gave up the 20th pick of the second round and the 11th of the third round to get the fourth pick of the second, the 36th overall in the draft.

Belichick, a brilliant defensive coordinator before becoming Patriots coach in 2000, kept the 21st pick in the first round and took a player who he said was the best value remaining. He also fits a longer-term need than Jackson does at wide receiver, a position that lost starter David Givens as a free agent to Tennessee.

Corey Dillon, who turns 32 in October, missed four games with calf and ankle injuries and rushed for 733 yards one season after gaining a career-high 1,635 on the ground and helping the Patriots win their third Super Bowl in four years.

Running back Kevin Faulk was sidelined for eight games and Patrick Pass missed four because of injuries, although Faulk had 29 receptions and Pass rushed for a career-high 245 yards.

“They’ve got a nice little dynasty there that they started,” Maroney said. “I’m fortunate to come into a great situation.”

Dillon figures to remain the starter if he can regain most of his old form and remains healthy. Maroney had plenty of experience sharing the running back’s job. In his first two seasons at Minnesota, he split time with Marion Barber, who did well last year as a rookie with Dallas.

“We never once complained about who was getting the ball more because I always felt like it was what you do with the carries you do get,” said Maroney, considered a more explosive runner than Barber. “I feel like if I’m being productive with the carries I do get and I help the team win, I’m happy.”

Last season, he and Gary Russell split the job and both gained more than 1,000 yards rushing.

The 5-foot-11, 211-pound Maroney rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his three college seasons, including a career-high 1,464 last season when he averaged 133.1 yards per game, fifth best in the nation. He scored 10 touchdowns rushing to finish his career with 32. He fumbled only twice last year and lost just one of them.

Maroney carried the ball 46 times against Purdue, a Big 10 high last season, and rushed for 258 yards against Wisconsin, tying Brian Calhoun of the Badgers for the top single-game performance.

“He brings an element of speed and, certainly, youth to the position,” Belichick said. “He has ability to make long runs. He plays with good strength for his size.”

The only running back taken before Maroney was Reggie Bush of Southern California, who went to New Orleans with the second selection.

Jackson said he visited with Patriots personnel four or five times and they quizzed him on some of the team’s plays.

“I came back and broke down for them what they gave me,” he said. “They were the only team that did that for me. I thought they were pretty interested.”

The Patriots went into the draft needing help at linebacker, wide receiver and defensive back. They lost three important players to free agency at those positions, linebackers Willie McGinest to Cleveland and Matt Chatham to the New York Jets and Givens.

They also want to add a placekicker after Adam Vinatieri left as a free agent for Indianapolis but aren’t likely to take one until late in the draft or as a a free agent. The only kicker on the roster is Martin Gramatica, who played for Tampa Bay before sitting out last season.

AP-ES-04-29-06 2022EDT

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