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Patriots, the draft & competition

How do the Patriots stack up to their competition when it comes to the NFL Draft?

It's a question to ponder as teams travel to the annual combine this week to evaluate prospects. With this in mind, here is a breakdown of the Patriots' draft choices in the first three rounds of their last five drafts (2006-2010), coupled with the same breakdown for three teams that are highly regarded for strong drafting:

PATRIOTS

1st: Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Meriweather, Laurence Maroney

2nd: Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes, Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, Darius Butler, Sebastian Vollmer, Terrence Wheatley, Chad Jackson, Wes Welker*

3rd: Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Tyrone McKenzie, Shawn Crable, Kevin O'Connell, David Thomas

COLTS

1st: Jerry Hughes, Donald Brown, Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Addai

2nd: Pat Angerer, Fili Moala, Mike Pollak, Tony Ugoh, Tim Jennings

3rd: Kevin Thomas, Jerraud Powers, Philip Wheeler, Fred Keiaho, Daymeion Hughes, Quinn Pitcock

STEELERS

1st: Maurkice Pouncey, Ziggy Hood, Rashard Mendenhall, Lawrence Timmons, Santonio Holmes

2nd: Jason Worilds, Limas Sweed, LaMarr Woodley, Anthony Smith

3rd: Emmanuel Sanders, Kraig Urbik, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Bruce Davis, Matt Spaeth, Willie Reid

CHARGERS

1st: Ryan Matthews, Larry English, Antoine Cason, Craig Davis, Antonio Cromartie

2nd: Eric Weddle, Marcus McNeill

3rd: Donald Butler, Louis Vasquez, Jacob Hester, Anthony Waters, Charlie Whitehurst

* Patriots traded their 2007 second-round draft choice for Welker

ANALYSIS: There are different ways to evaluate teams' drafts, and looking solely at the first three rounds leaves plenty of holes in the process. One reason I like to look at the first three rounds is that percentages show this is the area where teams are most likely to find impact players/starters. This breakdown shows how teams approach the draft differently -- the Patriots take more shots at the dart board (20 players in the first three rounds since 2006 if Wes Welker is included), while a team like the Chargers (12) is more willing to leave holes on the draft board within the first three rounds to target a specific player. The Patriots have had some struggles in the third round. Meanwhile, their first two rounds stack up quite favorably to the rival Colts over this time period, as it looks like the Colts have hit some rocky terrain on the draft trail of late. The Steelers are impressive in this snapshot.