EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 30, 2012

Hector Longo: Draft unmasks Belichick's tell

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

FOXBORO - Bill Belichick gave it away this weekend. The Pats' boss told us all, through this weekend's NFL Draft, that he is here for the short term, most likely three to four seasons, and he — and most likely Tom Brady, too — is out.

How else do you explain the desperation in the Patriots draft this weekend?

For the first time, basically in his Pats tenure, Belichick went aggressively into the first round and culled a pair of potential impact defenders — not for five years down the road but for the here and now.

In Syracuse product Chandler "The Manhandler" Jones, Belichick gambled on a game-changing Willie McGinest-type edge guy.

Scouts talked about Jones being young and able to grow into his 6-foot-5 frame.

"He's a pretty well put together kid. I don't think he's going to be 295 if that's what you're asking," said Belichick on Friday night of Jones, who weighed in at 266 at the NFL Combine. "I wouldn't say that, but could he gain five or 10 pounds? I don't know. We'll see. Put him in the program and work with him. He trains pretty well. He's a pretty well-conditioned athlete."

Forget the 22-year-old being described as a project. He has 12 games to acclimate himself to the NFL game. When this December rolls around the Pats do not consider him a rookie. They consider him a havoc-wreaker.

Speaking of havoc, isn't that the top expectation from Dont'a Hightower, whom the Pats nabbed at the No. 25?

Hightower's top trait at Alabama, where he played every down basically in any spot in the front seven, was that he played the game downhill.

Forget any back-pedal drills with this guy.

"I'm going to get to the ball and I'm going to make plays on the ball, regardless of whether it's a 4-3 or a 3-4," said Hightower.

Love it. Maybe some of the aggressiveness will rub off on the old man of the linebacking bunch, Jerod Mayo.

I think we know as long as Brandon Spikes is healthy, aggression is his lot.

Belichick in a matter of three days has changed his defense's attitude and style. Maybe he realizes the end is closer than he thought.

This 2012 season has just taken on a whole new face, one of youth, excitement and anticipation.

Rounding out the picks

Typically, the Pats returned to form quickly and sprayed for picks in the defensive secondary with Illinois DB Tavon Wilson in Round 2, Ohio State special-teams specialist Nate Ebner in Round 6 and Nebraska corner Alfonzo Dennard, fresh off his assault arrest in Lincoln a week ago.

Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette, in round 3, and receiver Jeremy Ebert, in the seventh, round out the Pats selections.

Clearly, the injection of secondary athletes should sound a warning shot to the Moores, Arringtons and Ihedigbo types that Belichick and Co. relied on in 2011.

That's a good thing.

For what it's worth

Took a peek over the weekend at the proposition wagers list at bovada.lv to see how things panned out.

Brandon Weedon backers had to make a killing. The over-under total for QBs in round 1 was 3.5. Weedon was the fourth picked, at No. 22 overall by Cleveland, making the over at winner at +150.

Under bettors in the running back prop (1.5, -250 under) were absolutely tortured. Trent Richardson went at No. 3 and no others went, until Nos. 31 and 32, making over (+150) another winner.

Wow, if you thought the Vikings would trade out of the No. 3 as they did, you collected $200 for every $100 you wagered.

Same thing with the Browns at No. 4 and No. 5 Tampa, each of whom moved.

Underdog winners in the head-to-head, who gets drafted first races were Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon (+225) over LSU DB Morris Claiborne; Memphis DL Dontari Poe (+150) over Iowa OL Riley Reiff; and USC DE Nick Perry (+225) over Alabama's Courtney Upshaw.