By HOWARD ULMAN
AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) _ The New England Patriots waited 3 1/2 hours to pick nobody in the first round of the NFL draft.
The next two days figure to be a lot busier than anticipated after they sent their first-round choice to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night for four picks.
After trading the 29th selection, their next pick is only the 52nd. So there was a chance the Patriots would package some of their additional choices to move up in the second round.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said that if several players they’re interested in remain available as the round progresses, they might wait a while before deciding whether to keep the pick.
But if some of those players are chosen “and then we want to make a move up, we have maybe a little more flexibility to do that,” he said. “So I think we’re open to anything at this point. So we’ll have to see how it unfolds.”
The Patriots obtained picks from the Vikings in the second, third, fourth and seventh rounds this year. Those are the 52nd, 83rd, 102nd and 229th overall. With the Patriots’ pick, the Vikings chose wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee.
“You guys still got to write a story for tomorrow?” Caserio joked at the start of his news conference after the first round.
The Patriots went into the draft with five picks, the fewest in their history. They had one in each the first, second and third rounds and two in the seventh and final round.
Now they have a total of eight picks _ two in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth and three in the seventh.
“There’s certainly a number of good football players that are still up on the board,” Caserio said. “I think there are some players that could have very easily gone in this round. So they haven’t. So (in) that second, third round, we thought there was some degree of value in the draft so we’re in a situation right now where, hopefully, we can capitalize on that.”
The Patriots traded a first-round pick for the fifth straight year and left themselves without a first-rounder for the first time since 2009. They had four second-round picks that year, but only one of them, starting tackle Sebastian Vollmer, remains with the team.
In 2010, they traded two first-round picks but still had one that they used to choose defensive back Devin McCourty. In 2011, they took offensive tackle Nate Solder with the first of two first-rounders then sent the second one to New Orleans. And last year, they traded for better picks in the first round and used them to take defensive end Chandler Jones from Syracuse with the 21st pick and linebacker Donta’ Hightower from Alabama with the 25th. Both started most of the games.
Caserio said the deal with Minnesota developed one or two picks before New England was to choose.
“We were ready to pick. We had a few players that we actually had in mind that we were going to talk about,” he said. “A few of them remain.”
The Patriots went 12-4 last season and lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game 28-13.
New England’s top needs entering the draft were at defensive back, wide receiver and defensive end.
They added receivers Danny Amendola, Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins in the offseason as new targets for Tom Brady. But of the eight players they drafted at that position over the last 10 years, only Julian Edelman has made an impact, only as a backup.
The first six of their seven picks last year were used on defensive players. The Patriots still need help on defense, but they also lack depth at wide receiver after losing Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, their top two pass catchers last season. Welker signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos and Lloyd was released.
After the first round ended on Thursday, there were several players left at positions of need that were available. They included wide receivers Keenan Allen of California, Markus Wheaton of Oregon State, Robert Woods of USC and Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech.
In the secondary, Jamar Taylor of Boise State, Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International and Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State were not picked Thursday.