Losing draft pick or picks may hurt more than expected

The NFL's spying scandal came to end when Commissioner Roger Goodell fined New England head coach Bill Belichick the NFL maximum $500,000, the Patriots $250,000 and took away conditional draft picks. If New England makes it to the playoffs, it loses its first-round pick in 2008. If it misses the playoffs, it forfeits its second- and third-round picks in 2008.

Obviously, Belichick and team owner Bob Kraft have deep enough pockets that they can simply write Goodell a quick check. So while the fines are impressive and clearly discourage this type of behavior in the future, they should have no impact on the on-field product. And there's reason to believe losing the draft picks will leave a minor blemish on this organization. After all, the Patriots acquired a first-round pick from San Francisco and a third-round pick from Oakland in trades last year.

Now that doesn't mean Goodell's ruling is soft. In fact, it forces New England to alter a key draft-day strategy and could penalize it for acting out of character during free agency last year.