FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It only took three hours and 20 minutes for the New England Patriots to be on the clock at the NFL draft Thursday night.

We’ll have to wait a little longer to actually find out who they want.

The Patriots, as expected, traded out of the first round, finding a very willing partner in the Minnesota Vikings to pick up some valuable draft picks.

New England entered this year’s draft with only five picks, the lowest number it’s ever had. Few NFL observers expected the team to sit still. Now it will have eight.

The Vikings, desperate to get Cordarrelle Patterson, a wide receiver from Tennessee, traded a second-round pick (52), third (83), fourth (102) and seventh (229) for the Patriots’ pick at No. 29.

This was the 51st draft-day trade executed by Bill Belichick since he became the Patriots’ head coach, the 16th time he has traded down.

“We had conversations with a few teams,” said Nick Caserio, the Patriots’ director of player personnel. “This was an opportunity that we thought made sense for us. It’s an opportunity to add more players to our team. We feel there are a lot of good players that are still available.”

He obviously looked at the team’s draft board and felt the Patriots could get more quality by moving down than selecting a player in the first round.

The Patriots now have two selections in each of the second (52 and 59) and third rounds (83 and 91), to be held Friday.

They also have one fourth and three sevenths, to be selected Saturday.

The seventh-round pick was pivotal, said Caserio, noting the Patriots’ success of finding wide receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Alfonso Dennard in the seventh round in past drafts.

To many observers, it looks like the Patriots came out with the best of the deal.

Thursday was a great night if you were a big young man, be it on the offensive or defensive lines.

Eric Fisher (Kansas City) and Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville) became the first offensive tackles to be drafted 1-2 since 1970.

Four of the first seven picks were offensive linemen. The other three were defensive ends.

By the end of the first round, nine offensive linemen and nine defensive linemen were selected. Only one quarterback was selected in the first round — Florida State’s E.J. Manuel by Buffalo at No. 16 in a big surprise — and no running backs — the first time since 1963.

None of that surprised Caserio.

The Vikings called the Patriots a few picks before it was time for New England to select. And the Patriots were willing to pick a player. But after talking for a while — and continuing talks with other teams — the Patriots settled on the Vikings deal.

“We thought it made sense for our football team to make the move,” said Caserio. “We feel pretty good about going into (Saturday). We feel there are football players out there who can help our team.

“Our whole goal is to try to improve the team and help us win games. We feel this effort will hopefully help that.”

While the Patriots could still use a pass rusher, their biggest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback. There are plenty out there.

Only three wide receivers were selected, leaving a group headed by California’s Keenan Allen, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, USC’s Robert Woods, Baylor’s Terrance Williams and Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton.

Only four cornerbacks are gone. Boise State’s Jamar Taylor leads a group that also includes Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay of Mississippi State, and Dwayne Gratz of Connecticut.

And don’t be surprised if the Patriots try to trade up in the second or third round to get some of them.

“We’ll see how it goes,” said Caserio. “If some of the players (the Patriots value) start to come off, then we want to make a move up, then we have a little more flexibility to do that. I think we’re open to anything at this point. We’ll have to see how it unfolds.”

The fun is just beginning for the Patriots and their fans.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH