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Patriots say, 'Oh, now you change the draft order rules ...'

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Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:26 p.m.
By Eric Edholm

The NFL's owners have voted in a change to the draft-order rules that states that the first-round picks awarded to playoff teams will be Nos. 21-32 and non-playoff teams will choose from 1-20.

That's not the way it is now. The Patriots, for instance, are picking 23rd this year because they owned an 11-5 record -- better than the records of three playoff teams -- even though they didn't make the postseason. Under the new rules, if this same scenario happened again next season, in 2010 they would own the 20th pick and the teams that made the playoffs would pick after them, no matter their record.

Think it's not a big deal? Well, moving up three spots this year -- don't worry, the league did not retroactively change the draft order -- would move them even further ahead of the Dolphins, a division rival at 25, and move them closer to the Jets, who pick at 17. Let's face it: The Jets, and their fans, are constantly watching the Patriots, usually from behind. Ever since Bill Belichick spurned them and went to New England, the Jets have had to look on at what is happening in Foxboro. And had the Patriots been three picks closer to where they selected, the Jets might have gotten even more antsy when it was their time to pick.

Think I am kidding about this obsession? Different regime, but in 2003 when the Patriots made all kinds of noise leading up to the draft about selecting Kentucky NT Dewayne Robertson, the Jets suddenly swooped in to make a big trade. It appeared to trump the Patriots, but the fact is that New England never had designs on Robertson at all and even gave their front office the night off before the draft, knowing no deal would be made. Instead, the Patriots stayed relatively put and took (ironically, with the pick originally owned by the Jets before they traded it to Chicago, who dealt it to New England) Ty Warren, now a fixture at left end, and traded down in Round One to land Eugene Wilson. 

Back to the rule change, though ... basically the nuts and bolts of it is that the order of the playoff teams and where they pick will depend on how the teams finish in the postseason. So for instance, the Chargers finished 8-8 but beat the Colts, who were 12-4. And again using this year's draft order as an example going forward, the Chargers not only would pick after the Patriots (they will select 16th in April), but they also would pick after the Colts (who pick 27th because of their stronger record).

It's a good rule. After all, making the postseason is the first goal, the penultimate achievement if you will. That gives you a chance to win it all, and we know that adage holds true based on the lower-ranked postseason teams getting as far as they have the past few seasons. Thus, it makes sense to have a non-playoff team -- better record or not -- drafting before one who got into the postseason.

And yes, the Super Bowl teams will continue to pick 31st and 32nd. 

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