Our Draft Grader series is down to two which means it’s time to tell those New England Patriot fans what’s what with their drafting between 2008 and 2010.
As ever, every pick gets a grade between +2.0 and -2.0 (in 0.5 increments) that depends upon:
• Where they were drafted
• Their performance
• Their contribution (how many snaps their team got out of them)
• Other factors such as unforeseen injuries and conditions that could not have been accounted for
Let’s take a look at how the Patriots drafted.
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
They already had Tom Brady!
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
Rob Gronkowski, TE (42nd overall pick in 2010): What can you say about our top-ranked tight end from 2011? A good blocker (unlike most of his tight end peers), Gronkowski broke receiving records (including a 31-year-old one) as he picked up 1,327 yards with 17 touchdowns. You may cringe when he opens his mouth, but this guy is a serious problem for defenders.
Aaron Hernandez, TE (113th overall pick in 2010): If Gronkowski is a serious problems for defenders, Hernandez might be even more of a headache for defensive coordinators. You don’t know where the Patriots will line him up, but you know they’re likely going to find a way to get the ball in his hand and that means trouble for you. With 23 broken tackles in the regular season, he led all players that were not running backs.
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Sebastian Vollmer, T (58th overall pick in 2009): There seems to be injury concerns over Vollmer, which is a shame because he’s looked like one of the league’s better tackles since coming into the NFL. Strangely, has never replicated his rookie form, and some of that may be down to being switched from a left tackle spot that he seemed a natural for. Still, great find.
Brandon Spikes, LB (62nd overall pick in 2010): Injury has limited his playing time over two years to 907 snaps, but that’s enough playing time to know New England have picked up a fierce downhill linebacker who knifes through gaps like the best of them. In two seasons has amassed a quite incredible +29.1 grade. To think some draftniks thought Spikes lacked the athleticism to succeed in the NFL.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Jerod Mayo, LB (10th overall pick in 2008): Mayo isn’t exactly the type of playmaker you hope to get in the Top 10 of any draft, but his value to the Patriots as a solid player and leader on defense has been worth the pick.
Matt Slater, WR (153rd overall pick in 2008): A little used receiver, a surprise starter at safety at times and a special teams ace. Slater hasn’t surpassed his status as a fifth round pick, but his constant contributions (in one way or another) over a four year period make this a positive.
Myron Pryor, DT (207th overall pick in 2009): A former sixth-rounder, Pryor has shown an ability to get up field and make plays. It’s just a shame he’s been limited to just 402 snaps.
Julian Edelman, WR (232nd overall pick in 2009): It hasn’t always been pretty but Edelman has always contributed for the Pats whether it be on special teams, offense, or even defense. Good value from a seventh-rounder.
Devin McCourty, CB (27th overall pick in 2010): Last year went horribly wrong, but rather than bemoan the bad, it’s worth noting that McCourty was good enough in Year 1 for us to crown him our Rookie of the Year. Has questions to ask going forward, but on the balance of his two years, has been a success.
Zoltan Mesko, P (150th overall pick in 2010): Mesko has been a good player for the Patriots, though some might help for a little more than ‘good’ when you spend a pick on a punter.
Brandon Deaderick, DE (247th overall pick in 2010): Didn’t have the best 2011 as the Patriots tried to figure out what scheme they were running, but for a seventh round pick, has looked like a guy who can contribute on early downs.
0.0: It could have been worse
Bo Ruud, LB (197th overall pick in 2008): Missed his first year on injured reserve before being cut in 2009.
Patrick Chung, S (34th overall pick in 2009): Chung hasn’t always been the most reliable player out there, but his versatility and talent have helped make him one of the more respectable members of the New England secondary. A decent tackler, you sometimes wonder if his versatility is his undoing with so much asked of him.
George Bussey, G (170th overall pick in 2009): Missed his rookie year with a knee injury and was then cut a year later.
Jake Ingram, LS (198th overall pick in 2009): Lasted a season as the Pats’ long snapper before being cut.
Darryl Richard, DT (234th overall pick in 2009): Spent his rookie year on the practice squad and his sophomore season on injured reserve before being cut in September ’11.
Jermaine Cunningham, DE/LB (53rd overall pick in 2010): Something of a shame his sophomore season was something of a write off, Cunningham looked like the kind of two-way player who could develop into something in 2010. Needs to likely get on the field and do more as a pass rusher to justify the second round pick.
Ted Larsen, C (205th overall pick in 2010): Likely ticketed for the Patriots’ practice squad before Bucs snapped him off it.
Thomas Welch, T (208th overall pick in 2010): 42 snaps on the field for New England before returning to a practice squad he was subsequently stolen off by St Louis.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Shawn Crable, LB (78th overall pick in 2008): Spent most of his first two years in the league on injured reserve, and then when he was healthy produced nothing. Cut after 129 defensive snaps with the club. Pats get something of a pass because you just can’t tell how much injury cut into his potential.
Jonathan Wilhite, CB (129th overall pick in 2008): The former fourth round pick was something of a constant liability in his first two years, before showing some improvement in year three. Still, his -16.4 grade with the Patriots over 1,132 snaps explains why he’s no longer with New England.
Darius Butler, CB (41st overall pick in 2009): There was plenty to like about the rookie year of Butler, who had his ups and downs but looked like a competent number two cornerback in the making. Unfortunately developed a knack for making bad plays, which overshadowed a lot of good work he did and was let go by New England.
Brandon Tate, WR (83rd overall pick in 2009): In 577 snaps for the Patriots over two years the former third round pick notched up just 24 catches for 432 yards. A couple of touchdowns on kick returns save this somewhat, but Tate never delivered on what the Patriots really needed him to be.
Tyrone McKenzie, LB (97th overall pick in 2009): Who knows what might have been after McKenzie tore his ACL in his first off season minicamp. Never got on the field and was released from the practice squad two months after making it on.
Rich Ohrnberger, G (123rd overall pick in 2009): Waived after his rookie year and brought back to the practice squad, Ohrnberger managed 56 snaps for New England before they gave up on him.
Kade Weston, DT (248th overall pick in 2010):Released months after being drafted, Weston didn’t even make the practice squad.
Zac Robinson, QB (250th overall pick in 2010): Patriots didn’t think enough of him to put him on their practice squad as a rookie.
-1.0: What a waste!
Terrence Wheatley, CB (62nd overall pick in 2008): A second round pick who played just 100 snaps. Sure he missed most of his rookie year on injured reserve, but it’s telling how little he played when he was healthy.
Kevin O’Connell, QB (94th overall pick in 2008): Seemed like a bit of a reach at the time, and given how quickly the Pats cut the cord on this third round pick, was a waste of a valuable pick. Waived after a year with the team.
Ron Brace, DT (40th overall pick in 2009): The former second rounder has struggled to make much of an impact for the Patriots, managing just 402 career snaps and earning a -4.3 grade in the process. Missing time through injury only accounts for some of the reason why he’s struggled to get on the field.
Taylor Price, WR (90th overall pick in 2010): Just 41 total snaps and three receptions for the former third-rounder. One of the few failures from the 2010 class.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
No Russell/ Leaf hybrids in this draft.
When you really look at what New England does in the draft, there at times seems a staggering amount of awareness of the draft process. It’s something of a lottery, so the best way to win is to have as many tickets as possible. With 31 picks between 2008 and 2010, New England has the luxury of being able to strike out on players knowing that the percentages are in their favor that they’ll find someone to contribute. It’s why they don’t need their draft picks to succeed and why they can cut them when they no longer see value in them. You can’t argue with a strategy when it lands them the kind of class the 2010 group is shaping up to be, and you start to see why they are such a relentless machine.