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BEN VOLIN I SUNDAY FOOTBALL NOTES

What you should know about the 2017 NFL Draft

The Rocky statue stood in view of the stage being constructed for the NFL Draft in Philadelphia.
The Rocky statue stood in view of the stage being constructed for the NFL Draft in Philadelphia.Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The time is finally here for everybody’s favorite offseason event — the NFL Draft, where every team gets better, every prospect will work out exactly as planned, and the Patriots will take a player in the second round that everyone else had graded as a sixth-rounder.

The 82nd edition of the draft is being held in Philadelphia this year, beginning with the first round on Thursday, Rounds 2-3 on Friday night and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday. Let’s take a look at some interesting factoids about this year’s draft, both from a Patriots perspective and a league-wide perspective, with a big assist from the Patriots’ and league’s PR departments:

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■  The draft is a made-for-TV event, first and foremost, and the NFL has done a good job of making it more palatable. Teams have 10 minutes to make a pick in Round 1, seven minutes in Round 2, five minutes in Rounds 3-6, and four minutes in Round 7.

Last year’s draft lasted 14 hours, 5 minutes, with 3:29 spent on the first round. Compare that with 2007, when the first round lasted a whopping 6 hours, 8 minutes, and the entire draft took 18 hours, 5 minutes.

■  The Patriots have seven draft picks, but none until No. 72 in the third round, after sending their first-rounder to New Orleans in the Brandin Cooks trade and No. 64 to the Panthers in the Kony Ealy trade. The Patriots also forfeit their highest fourth-round pick (11th pick of the round) because of Deflategate, the last vestige of that episode.

The Patriots have never picked at No. 72 before. That selection has produced pass rusher Olivier Vernon, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, and former Patriots center Grey Ruegamer.

■  If there’s one thing we can predict for certain, it’s that the Patriots won’t stand pat with all of their picks. Since Bill Belichick was hired in 2000, the only year in which he didn’t make a draft-day trade was 2004.

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The Patriots have traded up 18 times under Belichick, and traded down 19 times. Last year, the Patriots ended up using only two of their original picks (Cyrus Jones, Jacoby Brissett), though they also used four compensatory picks. This year, compensatory picks can be traded, and the Patriots added one late in the third round from Cleveland in the Jamie Collins trade.

The Patriots traded up in 2012 to draft Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones four picks apart in the first round.
The Patriots traded up in 2012 to draft Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones four picks apart in the first round.Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports/File 2014/USA Today Sports

■  Trading up is almost always for a specific player, and that has netted the Patriots Rob Gronkowski, Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Matt Light, Matthew Slater, Asante Samuel, and Ty Warren. But not every trade-up is a home run, as the Patriots also have done it for Chad Jackson, Ron Brace, Eugene Wilson, Bethel Johnson, Rohan Davey, Rich Ohrnberger, and Kenyatta Jones.

■  Trading down in 2013 netted the Patriots Collins, Logan Ryan, and Josh Boyce. They also landed Devin McCourty after trading down in 2010. But the tactic does come with some risk. Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Clay Matthews, Michael Oher, Carl Nicks, and Joe Staley have been drafted with picks that were originally held by the Patriots. The Patriots also got receiver Taylor Price in 2010 as part of their trade-down for McCourty, when they could have had Bryant or Thomas.

■  League-wide, the trend of trading first-round picks is heading downward. Between 2000-09, the draft averaged 14 trades of first-round picks per year. Between 2010-16, the average was 11.3 trades per year, with only six in 2015 and eight in 2016.

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■  The Patriots only have one first-round pick on offense currently on their roster, left tackle Nate Solder (2011). And they have three first-rounders on defense — McCourty (2010), Hightower (2012), and Malcom Brown (2015). But they also have three former first-round picks in Stephon Gilmore (Bills, 2012), Shea McClellin (Bears, 2012), and Cooks (Saints, 2014).

Leonard Fournette played in seven of LSU’s 12 games, averging 120.4 yards rushing per contest.
Leonard Fournette played in seven of LSU’s 12 games, averging 120.4 yards rushing per contest.Gerald Herbert/AP/File 2016

■  The top of this year’s draft comes with “buyer beware” stickers, as several top prospects come with injury concerns. LSU running back Leonard Fournette has had chronic ankle issues and reportedly has loose ligaments. Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, a potential top-five pick, has had labrum issues in both shoulders. Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, flagged for having too diluted a urine sample at the NFL Combine, had rotator cuff surgery in February. Washington receiver John Ross, a likely first-rounder who set a Combine record with a 4.22 in the 40, has had surgeries on both knees, including a microfracture procedure, and had shoulder surgery in March that should affect his availability for the start of training camp. Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, a potential top-10 pick, had hip surgery in late January that could affect his training camp. Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore has had chronic hamstring issues since high school, though he made it through the 2016 season healthy for the first time in his career.

And that’s just a partial list. Injury concerns are often kept secret and are the biggest reason why prospects fall in the draft.

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■  If (when) Alabama has a player taken in the first round (it should have several), it will mark the ninth straight year the Crimson Tide have had a first-rounder, tying Florida (1983-91) for the second-longest streak. Miami has the longest streak at 14 years with a first-rounder (1995-2008).

■  Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson should become the sixth quarterback since 2006 to win a national championship and then get drafted in the first round. The others: Jameis Winston (2015), Cam Newton (2011), Tim Tebow (2010), Vince Young (2006), and Matt Leinart (2006).

CIRCLE THE DATE

Schedule has a lot to look forward to

The 2017 NFL schedule was released on Thursday night. Some interesting nuggets:

The Patriots will raise their fifth Super Bowl banner before their season opener at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots will raise their fifth Super Bowl banner before their season opener at Gillette Stadium.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

■  The Patriots and Chiefs will kick off the season on Sept. 7 at Gillette Stadium, a matchup that was tentatively scheduled back in early March. But the NFL didn’t set that game in stone until Tony Romo retired on April 4. Had he gone to the Texans, the NFL was ready to make Patriots-Texans the opening game.

The Falcons were strongly considered, but they wanted to open their new stadium on “Sunday Night Football,” a game that was pushed to Week 2 because of concerns the stadium wouldn’t be ready for Week 1. The NFL wasn’t going to then put the Falcons in prime time for the first two weeks of the season, eliminating them from kickoff game contention.

The Panthers also were considered for the opening game, but they didn’t exactly love being the road team in the kickoff game in 2016, and the NFL wasn’t going to do it to them two years in a row.

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■  The Patriots ended up having the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL last season, with an opponents’ winning percentage of .439 (Patriots haters should blame the natural rotation of the NFL schedule, not any pro-Patriots favors from the NFL). Their road will be much tougher in 2017 (at least on paper), as they have the 12th-toughest strength of schedule entering the season (.527). Quarterbacks they will face this year (assuming no injuries) include Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Derek Carr, and Philip Rivers, plus Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill, and Alex Smith. The Patriots will also play three straight road games (at the Bills, Dolphins, and Steelers in Weeks 13-15) for the first time since 2002.

■  The Colts have the easiest strength of schedule on paper (.424), while the Broncos have the toughest (.578). But as another example that strength of schedule mostly has to do with the luck of the draw of the schedule rotation, the three easiest schedules rest in the AFC South (Colts, Titans, Jaguars), and the four toughest schedules reside in the AFC West, which faces the AFC East and NFC East this year.

■  The Redskins play two games in Los Angeles this year, but the NFL didn’t schedule them back to back. They will play at the Rams in Week 2 and at the Chargers in Week 14. The Raiders, meanwhile, will play four games in the Eastern time zone, with only two in consecutive weeks (at the Bills and Dolphins in Weeks 8 and 9). They also play a “home” game in Mexico City.

■  The NFL thankfully dropped its requirement that every team play at least one game in prime time, as neither the Browns nor Jaguars will play on Thursday, Sunday or Monday night. Their only “national” TV games are in the 9:30 a.m. time slot from London.

The Jaguars play 12 games at 1 p.m. Eastern time, while the Browns play 14. Meanwhile, everyone wants a piece of the Cowboys. Only two of their games are scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. Eastern, with nine in the 4:05-4:25 national time slot. They will also play at least one game on all five networks (as will the Patriots).

ETC.

Newton’s 2016 a year to forget

Last season, Cam Newton threw 19 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions.
Last season, Cam Newton threw 19 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2016 season is one Cam Newton would like to forget. Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, Newton and the Panthers began last year 1-5 and stumbled to a 6-10, last-place finish. He also played the last four games of the season with a torn rotator cuff that required surgery at the end of March and could affect his availability for the start of this season.

Playing through pain and delaying surgery even though his team was 4-8 and out of playoff contention perhaps wasn’t the smartest move, but it was an admirable display of leadership.

“Was it smart? People may say it wasn’t, but at the end of the day I think the bigger picture was I’m one of the leaders on this team,” Newton said via the Panthers’ website. “I just want to set a good standard that, listen, the team comes first and I’m just going to put myself in position to try to lead this team as much as possible.”

More importantly, Newton needs to regain his swagger after a season in which he threw 19 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions, completed just 52.9 percent of passes, and averaged 234 passing yards per game.

“He’s going to have to rebuild his confidence. I mean, he was shook. Let’s be honest. I’m not going to lie about that,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said a few weeks ago at the NFL owners’ meetings. “The young man went through a tough time and we went through a tough time. Why? Because of the injuries that we suffered on the offensive line. That was probably the biggest thing. It just kind of shows you more of the importance of being able to protect your quarterback.”

Breaking down White’s contract

James White’s deal is reasonable enough that he has a decent chance of seeing it through all four years.
James White’s deal is reasonable enough that he has a decent chance of seeing it through all four years.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

When players reach a contract extension well before they hit unrestricted free agency, the numbers tend to fall on the “team-friendly” side of things, and that appears to be the case with Super Bowl hero James White, who signed a three-year extension on Wednesday, a full year before he was set to become a free agent.

White originally signed a four-year, $2.6 million deal in 2014 when he was a fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin, and was set to make the minimum $690,000 in 2017. White’s new deal will pay him $12.69 million over the next four years, representing a nice pay bump but nothing too crazy, either. White will still receive a $690,000 salary this year, but the Patriots rewarded White with a $4 million signing bonus. His base salaries from 2018-20 will be $1 million, $2.5 million, and $3 million, and he will make $31,250 for each game he is active in those seasons (for a maximum of $500,000).

Realistically, it’s two years and then “we’ll see,” but the deal is reasonable enough that White has a decent chance of seeing it through all four years.

Patriots shouldn’t be asked to pay

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File 2012

We wrote on Friday about Aaron Hernandez’s contract with the Patriots, and how language in his contract and a grievance settlement in 2014 should close the door on any chance his estate has of collecting the $5.91 million in guaranteed money that the Patriots refused to pay him when he was arrested for murder in 2013, even if the conviction is vacated.

This notion that the Patriots might have to pay is being driven by the attorneys of Hernandez’s victims, who know that Hernandez likely has nothing left for them to win in any wrongful death civil suits. Attorney Douglas Sheff, representing the mother of Odin Lloyd, is trying to put pressure on the Patriots, stating Friday that “we have issued a friendly challenge to the Patriots” to pay Hernandez’s victims. “We didn’t say the Patriots had a duty or an obligation [to pay],” he said. “We simply extended an invitation.”

While our heart breaks for the families of Hernandez’s victims, putting the onus on the Patriots to compensate them is misguided.

Extra points

Do you have a college degree and a minimum of 15 years’ experience officiating football? Do you have a strong business acumen and the “ability to make decisions in situations that are time sensitive and public-facing?” Then you could be a candidate for the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, a job that came open last week when Dean Blandino left the league. While the NFL likely has a short list of candidates already in mind for this important job — which will hold the responsibility of having final say on all instant replay calls this fall — it was funny to see the job advertisement posted Friday on a public website. We can only imagine the deluge of résumés the league received . . . The Colin Kaepernick Foundation announced last week that it made $100,000 donations to Life After Hate, Inc., Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, and Silence is Violence . . . According to Politico.com and the Washington Post, NFL owners Robert Kraft, Woody Johnson, Bob McNair, Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder, Stan Kroenke, and Shad Khan each contributed $1 million for the Donald Trump inaugural committee, either themselves or via their businesses. NFL Ventures also donated $100,000 . . . The NFL’s drug-testing window for the 2017 season began Thursday. For players who have never failed a test, they are tested just once a year for substances of abuse, with a majority of the tests coming early in training camp . . . Current and former Patriots Rob Ninkovich, Brandon King, Patrick Pass, and a surprise guest are hosting an NFL Draft party Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton. For more information, contact Ron Rice at 978-739-4040.

Style points

Only six playoff teams in NFL history had worse regular-season point differentials than the 2016 Houston Texans. Here’s a look at how the teams stack up:

Compiled by Michael Grossi

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.