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April 29, 2011

Buffalo Solder

FOXBORO — Tom Brady's backside was priority number one for Bill Belichick last night.

And at this stage of the game, with unrestricted free agent Matt Light seeking upwards of $21 million over the next three years to protect Brady at left tackle, leaping at Colorado's Nate Solder at pick No. 17 of the NFL Draft seemed like a sound strategy.

The coach left no doubt about his plans.

"No projecting, he's played left tackle (three straight years for the Buffaloes)," said Belichick. "That will be his position here."

About an hour after selecting Solder, the Pats — with sexy names like Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers still on the board — dealt pick No. 28 to New Orleans for a first-round pick next year and No. 56 overall this year.

Tonight at 6 p.m. when the draft resumes with Rounds 2-3, New England now owns selections 33, 56, 60, 74 and 92 overall.

At 6-foot-8, 319 pounds, Solder is long, possibly even a little lean but fits the Pats' tackle mold.

A three-sport athlete who was recruited by small Division 1 schools as a basketball player at Buena Vista High School in Colorado, Solder began his Buffaloes career at tight end.

He actually caught three passes as a redshirt-freshman, before adding over 30 pounds of muscle in the offseason.

By the time Colorado broke camp in 2009, he was the incumbent starter at left tackle, seeing all but two of the club's offensive snaps over the next three seasons.

"I think it was an end-of-game situation," said the consensus first-team All-America choice. "I think one of the backups was in there just to kneel the ball. It's funny, when they told me I missed two snaps, I had to think about what the heck happened, because I couldn't remember."

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