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Around The AFC East: New England Patriots

It's now time to wrap up this first week of "Around The AFC East" by turning our attention to the Patriots.  To help us, let's welcome in MaPatsFan from Pats Pulpit - SBN's Patriots blog.

Matty I: As much as I hate to say it, I continue to be impressed with how the Patriots go about their draft day business. Aside from picking up more future draft picks, the Pats added some players I liked a lot heading into the draft. Which draft pick are you most excited about?

MaPatsFan: If you asked me the same question before rookie mini-camp, it would've been a no-brainer: Tyrone McKenzie.  He may not have been as high on the boards or mocks as other inside linebackers, but he is a phenomenal human interest story.  After his mother was in a severe car accident and unable to support the family, Tyrone quit college for a while to support his family.  He played on three different college teams just so he could be closer to his mother during her recovery at various hospitals.  And, aside from the human interest part of it, he was adding youth to the Patriots' inside linebackers, something we desparately needed.  I felt like he'd be a great sidekick to DROY Jerod Mayo.  I was HUGE on this kid and then it all ended in the first mini-camp practice.  During a drill, he got tangled up with a tryout running back and tore his ACL - out for the season.

The next obvious answer would be Safety Patrick Chung; I'm high on this kid, too but I'm going to go with CB Darius Butler, final answer.  While not as highly rated as Vontae Davis, for example, Darius fits the Patriots system quite well.  Typical Belichick, he loaded up with vets Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden who will be good mentors for Darius.  There will also be some competition with second year guys Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley.  Darius plays with a big chip on his shoulder due to his 5-10 frame, but watch out - he can jump!  He's been known to give too much separation, but I hope he sheds that and is allowed to take risks as a ball hawk; we lost that with Asante Samuel and I miss it.
As important as Darius' CB abilities are, his kick return skills have turned out to be equally, if not more, important.  When CB Ellis Hobbs was traded to the Eagles during the draft, we lost a starter and serviceable corner, but we also lost one of the best return men in the NFL.  Butler has been a very productive returner in college and we really needed that skill after Hobbs' departure.
My Take: As you all know, I really liked Darius Butler prior to the draft.  I also was a big fan of Ron Brace.  I think the Pats did really well landing those two - plus Chung and McKenzie - while picking up 2010 draft picks.  And that makes me sick.  One thing is for sure - both the Dolphins and Patriots are built for long-term success, which will make the AFC East a very competitive division for many years.

Don't forget to head over to PP to see what MaPatsFan asked me about the Dolphins.

And thanks to all three of the AFC East bloggers for coming together and kicking off the 2009 version of "Around The AFC East."