New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has made a habit of trading draft picks over his career. One of those trades involved the Vikings two years ago, and it surely helped the Patriots defeat the Seahawks 28-24 on Sunday for their fourth Super Bowl championship under Belichick.

The Vikings traded four picks for the Patriots’ first round pick (No. 29 overall) in the 2013 draft to select Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings gave up a second- (52nd overall), third- (83rd), fourth- (102nd) and seventh-round pick (229th) in the deal.

The Patriots used the second-round pick on linebacker Jamie Collins, who this season had 116 tackles, two interceptions and four forced fumbles and also had eight tackles in the Super Bowl.

The third-round pick was Logan Ryan, a cornerback who had 42 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery this season. Ryan had one tackle and a pass deflection in the Super Bowl.

The fourth-round pick was Josh Boyce, who hasn’t played much and has only nine career receptions. He was inactive Sunday. That seventh-round pick eventually went to Tampa Bay as part of a trade in 2013 for running back LeGarrette Blount, who left for Pittsburgh last offseason, was released in November, ended up back with the Patriots and started Sunday.

Still while Vikings fans thought they stole a star in Patterson, and he still might be one, Belichick used those extra picks in the later rounds to pick up some key players on a Super Bowl-winning team.

Steckel saw talent

Count former Vikings coach Les Steckel among the many people who saw something special in Belichick years ago.

“I coached one year at the Naval Academy with Steve Belichick, Bill’s dad,” Steckel recalled Sunday. “Bill was a quality-control guy within the Baltimore Colts and later the Washington Redskins, and he would come over and walk in every time with a piece of chalk and go over to the blackboard — and yes, there were blackboards in 1977 — and he’d say, ‘Coach Steckel, let’s go over here and X and O it, let’s have at it.’

“I could tell right then he had no interest in playing politics to be a football coach. He wanted to be an X and O ‘strat-atician,’ and that was my concept as well. We really hit it off. When Bud [Grant] asked me to be the head coach when he stepped down that year [1984], I thought of Bill. I knew he was bright and I knew one thing for sure, he was going to be a great football coach. It just didn’t work out, but I knew he had a future.”

Yes, the Vikings and Steckel nearly had Belichick hired as an assistant coach in 1984, with Belichick interviewing for defensive coordinator, but he ended up staying with the New York Giants and was named their coordinator in ’85 before getting his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns in 1991.

Steckel said that one of the great things for the NFL was that Belichick, who was fired from Cleveland in 1995, got his second chance to be a head coach in New England in 2000.

Saunders on way

Flip Saunders might have shown he is a pretty smart basketball coach and also a great judge of talent when coaching the Timberwolves to eight consecutive postseason appearances before getting fired unjustly in 2005.

Now it appears that owner Glen Taylor made a good decision to hire Saunders as president of basketball operations in 2013, when Saunders proceeded to make a trade in the draft that is looking better and better, even though it was second-guessed by many.

The Wolves traded the No. 9 pick in the 2013 draft to Utah and received two first-round picks in return. The Jazz selected point guard Trey Burke, while the Wolves took forward Shabazz Muhammad at No. 14 and center Gorgui Dieng at No. 21. Muhammad was averaging 13.7 points and 4.0 rebounds before injuring his oblique. Dieng is averaging 10.0 points and 8.6 rebounds. He had 13 points and nine rebounds in the victory over Miami on Wednesday. He has 14 double-doubles this season and he is ninth in the NBA in blocks and 16th in rebounds.

Burke, meanwhile, is averaging 13.0 points and 4.8 assists per game, but he shooting only 37.5 percent from the floor and 31.9 percent from three-point range. It was an outstanding trade for the Wolves.

Then came the trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young. There’s no way the Wolves would trade Wiggins back for Love at this point. Love is seven years older than the 19-year-old Wiggins, and Wiggins also might have more potential, even though Love is an All-Star.

Meanwhile, Young is really improving, finishing with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting vs. the Heat, including matching a season high with five steals. Young is averaging 17.2 points on 48.4 percent shooting over his past 11 games.

Since getting Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic back, the Wolves have been much more competitive with victories over Boston and Miami and close losses to great teams in Dallas and Cleveland.

Another good sign is that the Wolves have shot 82.3 percent from the free-throw line since New Year’s Day, the best mark in the league in that span.

Give this team a top lottery pick, and good health, and they will compete with most of the opposition next season.


• Rubio played his second game back from his ankle injury Wednesday. The 24-year-old from Spain scored eight points to go along with nine assists and two steals. “It’s tough, but I feel good and feel happy to be back there and play basketball again,” he said. “I missed it so much. I want to do everything at the same time, I’ve got to take it easy. The ankle is not 100 percent yet but I’m getting back in rhythm but it takes time.”

• While the Big Ten has no teams ranked in the top 13 in the United States College Hockey Online poll, the Gophers’ former conference, the WCHA, has three of the top eight teams in the country, with Minnesota State Mankato ranked No. 1.

• Las Vegas oddsmaker Jimmy Shapiro has the Vikings at 40-1 to make it to the 2016 Super Bowl. Seattle is 5-1 and New England is 7-1.

• The Gophers are excited about punter Jacob Herbers from Battle Creek, Mich., who joined the team as a walk-on Wednesday. They say he’s a lefty and very technically sound for a kid coming out of high school. Herbers has a chance to compete immediately since he averaged 40.9 yards per punt last season.

• Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and his charity will host a private ribbon cutting for Sgt. Colin Faust between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday in Minnetrista, where he will be given the keys to his new home that the charity built for him.