Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 10/12/11
The New England Patriots know a lot about Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant because they had a chance to draft him twice. The Patriots held the 22nd pick in the 2010 draft. They traded down with Denver to No. 24, then traded down again with the Cowboys for the No. 27 pick. The Cowboys selected Bryant, whose stock plummeted because of off-field questions, at No. 24. New England picked up Devin McCourty at No. 27 and has no complaints. McCourty started all 16 games his rookie season and wound up making the Pro Bowl. He made 82 tackles and seven interceptions last season. There were other picks involved in the deals, but the headliners were Bryant and McCourty, who will likely be matched up against each other quite a bit when the Cowboys visit the Patriots on Sunday. The Patriots will know what's coming in Bryant, a player they seriously considered drafting. They even had Bryant come in for a pre-draft visit to get an up-close look. "We definitely did our work on Bryant," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the Boston Herald this week. The thinking at the time was the Bryant would be gone before the Patriots picked, but pre-draft jitters about Bryant's maturity and discipline issues caused several teams to back off Bryant. The opportunity was there to grab Bryant, who could have been the successor to Randy Moss, another so-called "problem child" receiver. The Patriots have had success getting Moss and other troubled players to blend into their culture, but went with McCourty when the opportunity came. "Really, you sort of take the draft as it comes," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said. "I think where you pick in that particular situation, there's a handful of players you think about picking in some capacity. "In the end, we make a decision that we feel is the best for our team. I'm sure Dallas is happy with the pick they made, and I would say we're thrilled with the player we have in our program, so I think it's worked out for both teams." Bryant has been spectacular at times in his two seasons in Dallas, despite having injury issues both years. In 12 games last season, Bryant caught 45 passes for six touchdowns, including three catches for 40-plus yards. He also returned two punts for touchdowns. In three games this season, he has 10 catches and three touchdowns despite being slowed by a thigh injury. "He's got, like a lot of these receivers, it seems like we see one every week that have outstanding size or they're very strong," Belichick said. "They have great reach, and even if you have them covered, you really don't have them covered because of their length and their ability to either body-up the defender, or just out-jump them or out-reach them for the ball. He's definitely in that category and a hard guy to tackle when he gets the ball in his hands." Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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