FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In the early years of Bill Belichick's head-coaching tenure with the New England Patriots, selecting a big, powerful defensive tackle was a given if the opportunity presented itself.
There was Richard Seymour in the 2001 first round (sixth overall). Then Ty Warren in the 2003 first round (13th overall). And finally, Vince Wilfork in the 2004 first round (21st overall).
Belichick once explained the approach by saying there simply aren't that many 300-pound-plus defenders who are athletic and powerful, noting that those types of players were usually the first to score big-money contracts in free agency. In those days, the Patriots played a two-gapping 3-4 defense, and building a sturdy wall at the line of scrimmage made players such as Seymour, Warren and Wilfork even more valuable.
The Patriots haven't used a first-round pick on that type of player since Wilfork, but after considering trade options Thursday night, they went back to their roots in drafting 6-foot-2⅜, 319-pound Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown 32nd overall. In what hardly seems like a coincidence, Brown will now be part of the group called upon help fill the void created by Wilfork's free-agent departure to the Houston Texans.
"We feel good about our selection of Malcom," coach Bill Belichick said in a late-night news conference. "A combination of his talent, work ethic, production, skill set relative to what we're looking for, we felt like he was the best [fit] for us."
Capturing the throwback feel of the pick, Belichick even referenced Seymour when asked about Brown's college statistics and how he projects to the team's scheme.
"[When] we took Seymour, it was a big crisis because he only had half a sack in college and he couldn't rush the passer. I don't think that's very accurate, but that was big [in the media], couldn't get over that," he said. "I worry more about what they [do] when they get in our uniform."
It was perfect synergy -- Seymour quickly became a star -- and a reminder that Belichick's memory remains a steel trap.
As for Brown, few media analysts projected he'd be available at No. 32. ESPN's Todd McShay had him going No. 23 to the Detroit Lions, as did McShay's colleague Mel Kiper Jr. NFL Network's Mike Mayock, meanwhile, had Brown going No. 21 to the Cincinnati Bengals.
So the Patriots someday might have a few thank-yous to send out to teams such as the Lions (they took guard Laken Tomlinson), the run-defense-challenged Indianapolis Colts (receiver Phillip Dorsett) and the New Orleans Saints (linebacker Stephone Anthony), even though Belichick said this is the type of draft in which one team might have a player rated 15th and another team might have the same player rated in the 60s.
"Just seems like there's a lot of spread on a lot of players in this draft," he noted.
Belichick described Brown as a versatile player who has played everywhere from a 5-technique (head up on the tackle) to nose (over the center). He also noted Brown's athleticism, saying it shows up on the field by the way he runs and plays on his feet, while making the point that Brown, at 320 pounds, is a completely different type of defensive tackle than last year's first-round pick, Dominique Easley, who is a lighter, penetrating presence at around 290 pounds.
Brown, who is married with two children, described his style of play as "relentless." On a late-night conference call, he struck a balance between humble and confident, saying he'll play anywhere, do whatever's asked of him and work hard, before relaying his message to Patriots fans: "You’re all about to get the best player y’all have ever drafted. So just be ready for when I take the field.”
It'll be hard to top quarterback Tom Brady, of course, but if Brown can turn back the clock and follow in the footsteps of Seymour, Warren and Wilfork, that would be an ideal scenario for the Patriots.