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Patriots Get High Grades From Experts For First-Round Picks

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NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Dont'a Hightower of Alabama holds up a jersey as he stands on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was selected #25 overall by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 26: Dont’a Hightower of Alabama holds up a jersey as he stands on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was selected #25 overall by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — All the dust has settled on the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but it’s still hard to believe that Bill Belichick and the Patriots traded for a higher pick not once but twice on the first night of the draft.

That is exactly what they did, though, and the experts who have weighed in on the picks are giving out high grades for Belichick’s decisions.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com gave the Pats an A+ for moving up and drafting Chandler Jones at No. 21.

“The Syracuse star was considered a bit of a late first-round sleeper, just the kind of player Belichick turns into a star in New England,” Prisco wrote, though he gave a “C” grade for the pick of Dont’a Hightower.

ESPN’s John Clayton listed the Patriots as one of his three winners of the first round.

“Bill Belichick made two wise trades, and finally got a pass-rusher (Chandler Jones from Syracuse) and a quality inside linebacker (Dont’a Hightower of Alabama),” Clayton wrote. “Those were significant and telling moves. It shows the Patriots might be moving back into a 3-4 defense, but now they can do it with two young linebackers who can rush. Jones is quick from the outside. Hightower can rush from the inside. The Patriots have only two remaining draft choices, but the two trades cost them only two fourth-round picks.”

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King sayid the Patriots made up for failing to make similar moves last year.

“I’ve said for the past year I thought New England should have taken either Jabaal Sheard or Brooks Reed last year. Bill Belichick made up for it in spades Thursday night,” King wrote.

FOX Sports’ John Czarnecki also liked both New England picks.

“If Hightower and Jones … are as good as advertised, the Patriots had a very good opening night,” he wrote.

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