Love in the air for Patriots

Over the course of the 2011 season, it was noted that defensive lineman Vince Wilfork had a dramatic spike in playing time.

In 2010, Wilfork finished the year at a 69.8 percent playing time clip. By the end of 2011, it was 86.8 percent.

Not to be overlooked is the increase in Wilfork's partner along the interior of the team's defense, second-year man Kyle Love. He actually spiked higher than Wilfork -- from 13.7 percent in 2010 to 50.5 percent in 2011.

Love played a lot of football for the Patriots this season, appearing in all 19 games as he beat out Albert Haynesworth and Ron Brace for the top spot next to Wilfork. His role was similar to what Wilfork's once was -- a first- and second-down player who came off the field in sub situations -- and he was cited by one NFL columnist as an up-and-coming NFL player who was flying under the radar.

Love entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Patriots in 2010. He played at Mississippi State and wasn't highly touted on the scouting radar; he wasn't profiled in Pro Football Weekly's draft preview that year, and another draft analyst website had him rated as the 93rd defensive tackle (out of 151).

Revisiting Love's story is a good reminder at this time of year as draft chatter starts to heat up.

His second-year rise reflects how a team can "hit" on a player even after passing on him in the draft.