Re-Grading the New England Patriots' Past 5 Drafts
The benefit of hindsight when grading the last five drafts of the New England Patriots is certainly helpful, but was decidedly unavailable when Bill Belichick's crew was on the clock the past five Aprils. Injuries, incidents away from football, lack of development...all tough things to predict.
With five years past, it is simple to grade the draft of 2009. As you edge closer to the 2013 draft class, however, the opportunity for prospects to develop or flame out still exists.
Here is Belichick's grade for his last five times in the draft room.
Round 2: Patrick Chung, SS, Oregon
Round 2: Ron Brace, DT, Boston College
Round 2: Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
Round 2: Sebastian Vollmer, OL, Houston
Round 3: Brandon Tate, WR, North Carolina
Round 3: Tyrone McKenzie, LB, South Florida
Round 4: Rich Ohrnberger, OL, Penn State
Round 5: George Bussey, OL, Louisville
Round 6: Jake Ingram, LS, Hawaii
Round 6: Myron Pryor, DT, Kentucky
Round 7: Julian Edelman, WR, Kent State
Round 7: Darryl Richard, DT, Georgia Tech
The 2009 draft was the worst of the last five years. The New England Patriots went for the quantity-over quality-approach, stocking up on second and third-round picks. Unfortunately, they really only hit on one of them—Sebastian Vollmer. Patrick Chung, Darius Butler and Brandon Tate have all had mild success in the NFL.
Jake Ingram had a decent career as a long snapper in New England, but the whole draft was saved by the speculative selection of Julian Edelman, a college quarterback at Kent State.
Edelman has thrived as a punt returner and slot receiver—at times lining up as the "Z" receiver—in Josh McDaniels' offense.
The haul in 2009 wasn't too impressive, but trading out of the first round in 2009 set up a big 2010.
1st Round: Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
2nd Round: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
2nd Round: Jermaine Cunningham, OLB, Florida
2nd Round: Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida
3rd Round: Taylor Price, WR, Ohio
4th Round: Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida
5th Round: Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan
6th Round: Ted Larsen, C, NC State
7th Round: Thomas Welch, OT, Vanderbilt
7th Round: Brandon Deaderick, DL, Alabama
7th Round: Kade Weston, DL, Georgia
7th Round: Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State
The 2010 draft is one of the best draft classes in recent memory for the New England Patriots. However, it could have been even more of a franchise-altering draft class with a couple of small changes.
You can't argue with the Pro Bowl performances of McCourty, Gronkowski and Hernandez. Spikes—despite his recent troubles—also had some very good seasons for Bill Belichick's defense.
However, the picks of Cunningham—with prospects such as Sean Lee and Carlos Dunlap still available—and Taylor Price, who was taken ahead of NaVorro Bowman, failed to have much of an effect. Zoltan Mesko and Brandon Deaderick each made contributions to the team before being released.
The 2010 draft class might be a great one, but it will be known for what it could have been as much as it will be known for McCourty and Gronkowski.
1st Round: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
2nd Round: Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
2nd Round: Shane Vereen, RB, Cal
3rd Round: Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU
3rd Round: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
5th Round: Marcus Cannon, OL, TCU
5th Round: Lee Smith, TE, Marshall
6th Round: Markell Carter, OLB, Central Arkansas
7th Round: Malcolm Williams, CB, Marshall
When five of your first six draft picks make big contributions to your team, that is a very successful draft. The only blemish is Ras-I Dowling, who played well in the very limited time that he was healthy.
Nate Solder has played at a high level and will compete for All-Pro honors the rest of his career. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen have had solid careers with injuries (Vereen) and fumbling (Ridley) the only warts on their games.
Ryan Mallett hasn't been called upon to do anything more than develop as a quarterback and run the scout team. The New England Patriots have thought enough of him to keep only two quarterbacks the past two seasons.
After Marcus Cannon, who has filled in nicely for Sebastian Vollmer on a few occasions, the trio of Lee Smith, Markell Carter and Malcolm Williams never gained much traction on the 53-man roster.
Extracting value out of Mallett either by trade or a compensatory pick would give this draft an even better look. If Solder, Vereen and Ridley sign second contracts with New England, this draft class will have been a resounding success.
1st Round: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
1st Round: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
2nd Round: Tavon Wilson, DB, Illinois
3rd Round: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
6th Round: Nate Ebner, DB, Ohio State
7th Round: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
7th Round: Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern
Like in 2009 with Julian Edelman, you can rectify earlier mistakes if you hit with seventh-round selections. After trading up to land Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower—two cornerstones of the New England Patriots defense—Tavon Wilson and Jake Bequette have been huge disappointments.
Wilson wasn't able to beat out rookie Duron Harmon for the safety position, although his special teams contributions have been solid. Bequette has been a complete non-factor. He logged 43 snaps over his first two years, including just 14 in 2013.
The addition of Alfonzo Dennard in Round 7 changes the complexion of the whole draft. While Wilson was considered a reach in Round 2, Dennard would have been seen as a value. If you switch those two picks around, a draft that included three likely opening-day starters on defense would have to be considered a success.
2nd Round: Jamie Collins, LB, Southern Miss
2nd Round: Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
3rd Round: Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
3rd Round: Duron Harmon, DB, Rutgers
4th Round: Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
7th Round: Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
7th Round: Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers
Grade: I (short-term grade of B+)
It is way too soon to make long-term judgments of the 2013 class of draft picks. But after one year, things are looking very promising.
Jamie Collins and Logan Ryan both looked like dynamic playmakers. Ryan finished with five interceptions on the year, while Collins' speed and athleticism were evident in coverage and rushing the passer. Duron Harmon filled in nicely at strong safety when called upon.
Eventually, the 2013 draft class will be judged on how well the receivers perform. Aaron Dobson struggled initially but developed into one of Tom Brady's top targets before developing a stress fracture in his foot. Josh Boyce was electric with the ball in his hands but had trouble finding the field.
Late-round choice Michael Buchanan made some plays early in the season, but couldn't be trusted to stay in his rush lane as the season wore on. Steve Beauharnais didn't see the field much in 2013, but he could have an opportunity in 2014 with Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher no longer with the team.