Experience at OLB the key for Pats?

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper is holding a conference call this morning to recap the NFL draft, and he relayed a discussion he had with Tedy Bruschi when it comes to the Patriots and outside linebackers.

The top pick of the second round, No. 33, was examined and why the Patriots went with cornerback Ras-I Dowling over pass-rushing outside linebackers such as Arizona's Brooks Reed and Pittsburgh's Jabaal Sheard, who went shortly after that pick.

"That's the question of the day," Kiper said. "Tedy was on the [TV] set and we were talking about that, and how he played in that defense, so he knows what it takes to play linebacker. He said it's a complex situation for a linebacker, and it's a lot for them to digest early in their careers, so [he likes] veterans -- Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas, Rosevelt Colvin.

"They drafted Jermaine Cunningham in the second round last year, and they have one year to develop him, so he'll be better this year than he was last year. ... You have [Rob] Ninkovich and you still have Tully Banta-Cain. I understand those guys only had 12 sacks combined, and you need more production than that. I know Belichick knows that. Remember, he passed on Clay Matthews a couple years ago, so he's been hearing about that the last couple of seasons.

"But I think it's about a philosophy. He believes you have to be a veteran, you have know what's going on. Using a first-round pick on a linebacker is risky for his situation. So you pass on those guys and develop from within."

Perhaps that explains part of Belichick's thought process leading him to Dowling over one of the draft's top-rated pass-rushing outside linebackers at the top of the second round. I'm hoping to further explore this, while also wondering how much Belichick is challenged by anyone on his staff about this possible approach.

As for the pick of Dowling, Kiper was complimentary.

"He would have been a top-20 pick had he played this year full-strength," he said. "But he had all those injuries."