It is the most wonderful time of the year…Everybody and their grandma are putting out their latest draft prognostications. The Globe, the Herald,, and a billion specialty football sites are posting who will go where and why. I do not have all day to muse on the draft (I do have to work and try to watch every baseball game on MLB Extra Innings between having a life), but have certainly made every attempt to focus on how I believe Belichick and Pioli are preparing for Saturday afternoon.

Earlier musings had me writing: I expect that there will be no offensive line help drafted early (maybe in the 3rd round or later), no linebackers picked early (Tully Banta-Cain & Dan Klecko will pick-up the slack outside & inside this season), and I'd say we can expect to see development-type linebackers like Banta-Cain and Klecko picked later in the draft (around rounds 5-7). Also, I expect more defensive line help to be drafted early (somehow I do not think that the Patriots can afford to keep Richard Seymour)but I hope I am wrong!), some more secondary help if there is a cornerback Belichick likes available in the second or third round, or possibly an offensive skill position (WR/RB/QB) in the first round if Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick see someone drop who is in their top ten (like Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork, who inexplicably fell into their laps on draft day the past two seasons like a giant-sized Christmas present).

I continue with that party line. The Patriots have addressed the huge hole at inside linebacker by picking up Monty! and will no doubt give Dan Klecko and Matt Chatham every chance to play a big role on defense this season. I simply do not see Belichick and Pioli picking up an offensive lineman in the first three rounds of the draft unless there is a stud tackle high on their board sitting right in front of them where they never expected him to drop. Depth at offensive guard and maybe even tackle is most likely to be addressed after the traditional June 1 salary cap cuts. Also, expect Gene Mruczkowski to get a long look at guard this summer. Mruczkowski has been groomed to step in at guard and back-up at center and should get every chance to win the starting guard spot vacated by Joe Andruzzi this year.

Despite the lack of talent at defensive tackle, I expect the Patriots to address this position if only because defensive tackles are hard to find, need to be groomed for the system and for the rigors of the NFL, and that after Vince Wilfork the position is thin with only Keith Traylor (thirty-six years old) and Ethan Kelley (seventh round pick practice squad nose tackle) at the position. If anything, a back-up for Wilfork at nose tackle almost makes too much sense.

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Poor Bronson Arroyo. Despite a nice start in which he stranded baserunners all game, Bronson left the game with a two run lead only to see Alan Embree cough up the lead and Keith Foulke cough up the ballgame with uncharacteristic wildness. This, however, should be seen only as a small bump in the road. The Sox bullpen is one of their strengths, and with the addition of Wade Miller in the starting rotation it will only get deeper as Arroyo or Wakefield will join the pen. Also, if Matt Mantei continues his steady progress, he could become the setup man who acts as the early closer, coming into games when the Sox need strikeouts with runners on base, whether it be the sixth, seventh or eighth inning.

Overall, the bullpen is strength of the Red Sox, as Foulke is a very effective closer and Mantei, Timlin, and Embree are excellent set-up men. With Myers as the lefty specialist and either Arroyo or Wakefield joining the pen, they are in the unique position to be able to hold a lead from the sixth inning on going forward. If the starters remain effective and consistently pitch into the sixth or seventh inning, it will only increase the effectiveness of the bullpen as they will be safe from being overworked.

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My god, my ribs, back and shoulder are all sore today! Someone alert my brain that I am not seventeen anymore and diving around the field like I am some ersatz Orlando Cabrera is only going to result in pain.

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One game left until the playoffs. One note on strategy, however, for Doc Rivers: just leave Big Al Jefferson in the game for as long as possible until he fouls out, and then insert Kendrick the Real Deal Perkins for him Perkins fouls out. Then, if there is anytime left in the game, feel free to bring in Mark Blount.

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