Lombardi: Patriots took ‘calculated risk’ in Cannon

NEW YORK — It’s far too early to anoint anyone the steal of the 2011 NFL Draft. But if Marcus Cannon can bounce back from a reportedly treatable form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma — which he found out about last week and is expected to be mostly recovered from in several weeks — he could be that player.

That would work out well for the Patriots, who used the 138th overall pick in the draft on a player many experts had rated as a second-round talent. To get a sense of the high opinions on Cannon, NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan had him at No. 33 overall on his big board. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock listed Cannon at No. 47, and NFL.com’s Gil Brandt had him in the 41-to-50 tier.

NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi reported Saturday the Bears had been prepared, before word of Cannon’s condition spread, to take him in the first round. In a draft in which they owned the strength of multiple picks, including two in the fifth round, the Patriots took what Lombardi calls a “calculated risk.”

“If a risk wasn’t in their favor, they wouldn’t waste a draft pick on it,” Lombardi said. “I think that they believe within a few weeks he can be cleared up, and then they have a first-round (caliber) pick. Their doctors feel comfortable with (Cannon) at that pick in that round. Had they wanted to pick him in the second round, I’m not sure they would have felt that comfortable there. Everything New England does is a calculated risk.”

Lombardi considers Cannon one of the better tackles in the draft who can play any line position other than center, and a player he compares to Pro Bowler Donald Penn of the Bucs. That type of addition certainly would be a steal for the Patriots, who might have found two starters along a line potentially undergoing major changes in Cannon and first-round pick Nate Solder.

Much like their third-round pick of QB Ryan Mallett, this calculated risk could pay huge dividends for the Patriots.

Frank Tadych

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