Draft season is upon us as free agency quiets down and prospect watch goes into overdrive. But the reality for us is that we’re not that involved in the college side of things, but that doesn’t mean we’re not fans of the draft.
For me, though, that means reflecting back on drafts gone by to tell you which teams made the best picks and which ones the worst. So as I do every year, I’m grading every draft pick from 2009 through to 2011 on the PFF rating scale (-2 to +2), factoring in where they were drafted, injuries and a host of other things.
Up next? Well we’re moving in draft order so it’s the New England Patriots
+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round
Rob Gronkowski, TE (42nd overall pick in 2010): Injuries have impacted his playing time the past two years but it’s still worth noting that in his four years Gronkowski has managed 3,303 snaps for the Patriots. In that time he has established himself as the premier tight end in the NFL and one of few capable of contributing as both a receiver and blocker.
+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!
Sebastian Vollmer, OT (58th overall pick in 2009): While Vollmer himself has battled injuries at times, he’s still amassed 3,943 snaps and developed into arguably the top right tackle in the league. Sure the health problems aren’t ideal, but we’ll take a career grade of +97.2 over his first five years.
Devin McCourty, S (27th overall pick in 2010): A position shift from cornerback (where he was good) to safety (where he is very good) has seen McCourty fly under the radar as one of the very best deep safeties in the league. He may not have been what they expected but he has been exceptional.
+1.0: The scouts nailed it!
Julian Edelman, WR (232nd overall pick in 2009): Whether it be on special teams, defense, or offense, Edelman has performed a number of roles for the Patriots. What’s more is that he’s performed admirably, especially in 2013 where he had a breakout year as a receiver as he emerged from the shadow of Wes Welker. In the seventh round, that’s a big win.
Brandon Spikes, LB (62nd overall pick in 2010): As a two-down player who attacks the ball carrier, Spikes might be the best player there is. For me, given he was taken with the last pick of the second round, I can take that. He may have never developed into a legitimate every-down option but his work was good enough to turn 2,464 career snaps into a +39.8 grade.
Aaron Hernandez, TE (114th overall pick in 2010): Whatever you can say about Hernandez off the field (and there is a lot) there’s no denying that, on the field, he was a true game-changer. In fact, in his 2,288 career snaps he managed a very impressive +25.9 grade. Knowing what we know now you might question the pick, but even so the Patriots got a lot more out of him than the average fourth-rounder.
Nate Solder, OT (17th overall pick in 2011): Getting better every year he’s been in the league, Solder has solidified the left tackle spot in the wake of Matt Light’s retirement and become one of the best young tackles in the game.
+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor
Brandon Deaderick, DT (248th overall pick in 2010): Not every selection has to be a superstar. Deaderick was a below-average lineman but he was able to last 1,111 snaps without becoming a liability. You rarely get that much out of your seventh-rounders.
Stevan Ridley, RB (73rd overall pick in 2011): Time will tell just how good Ridley is but as a runner he certainly has the moves. The fumbling has limited his touches and makes this grade closer to neutral than it should have been.
Marcus Cannon, OL (138th overall pick in 2011): The former fifth-rounder has shown an ability to play guard and tackle when the team has needed him, and do both reasonably well. Given he’s in the early stages of his career, that bodes extremely well for him jumping up a category at some point.
0.0: It could have been worse
Brandon Tate, WR (83rd overall pick in 2009): Didn’t become the threat on offense he was meant to be but added enough with his returning that he gets the neutral grade.
Myron Pryor, DT (207th overall pick in 2009): Flashed some subpackage pass rush but injuries ensured he never really built on a promising 559-snap career as a Patriot.
Darryl Richard, DT (234th overall pick in 2009): Would spend two years with the team. One on injured reserve and the other on the practice squad.
Zoltan Mesko, P (151st overall pick in 2010): Just about scrapes into this category. A good but far from great punter during his time in New England.
Thomas Welch, OT (209th overall pick in 2010): Would have two stints with the team after declining an initial chance to be on their practice squad.
Ted Larsen, OL (206th overall pick in 2010): Likely destined for the practice squad as a rookie before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed him on waivers.
Kade Weston, DT (249th overall pick in 2010): Seventh-rounder who spent year one on injured reserve before being released.
Shane Vereen, RB (56th overall pick in 2011): Is a threat catching the ball out of the backfield but while his +14.2 grade is impressive he needs to play more than the 605 snaps he’s managed. If he keeps his 200 snaps per year average up he’ll be dropping a category.
Markell Carter, DE (194th overall pick in 2011): Sixth-rounder who spent a year on the practice squad before being released.
Malcolm Williams, CB (220th overall pick in 2011): Taken in the seventh, Williams would last two seasons with the team without making an appearance on defense. Did manage two special teams tackles.
-0.5: That pick was not put to good use
Patrick Chung, DB (34th overall pick in 2009): Eased into things as a rookie, Chung would go onto start the next three years but never brought the kind of assured play that you want from a safety. A minor disappointment even if the team got plenty of action out of him.
Rich Ohrnberger, OG (123rd overall pick in 2009): Hung around for a while but in only featuring on 56 offensive snaps, he didn’t offer much of a return on a fourth-round pick.
George Bussey, OG (170th overall pick in 2009): Waived after one year with the team, spending nearly all of it on injured reserve.
Jake Ingram, LS (198th overall pick in 2009): If you’re going to take a long snapper in any draft then my feeling is they should see out their contract at the very least.
Jermaine Cunningham, DE (53rd overall pick in 2010): Made a decent impression as a rookie but clearly didn’t impress the coaching staff following on from that, being limited to a largely situational role where he was miscast as a sub package rusher from the tackle spot.
Zac Robinson, QB (251st overall pick in 2010): Never caught on and was released without the option of joining the practice squad.
Ryan Mallet, QB (74th overall pick in 2011): Always dangerous to spend a value pick on a guy you don’t intend to see the field. Mallet was an insurance policy that the team never had to cash in and looks like offering the team nothing on the third-round pick they spent on him.
Lee Smith, TE (159th overall pick in 2011): Never ideal when a fifth-rounder is released during his rookie year.
-1.0: What a waste!
Darius Butler, CB (41st overall pick in 2009): Has gone on to have success elsewhere but was never a favorite of the Patriots’ coaching staff. Much more was expected of him and while he didn’t grade out badly, 921 snaps from a 41st overall pick isn’t a good return.
Tyrone McKenzie, LB (97th overall pick in 2009): A chance was taken on McKenzie but it was a gamble that didn’t pay off as he managed zero defensive snaps during his time with the team.
Taylor Price, WR (91st overall pick in 2010): Third-rounder who would get on the field for just 44 snaps. Another swing and a miss on a receiver in the middle rounds.
-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!
Ron Brace, DT (40th overall pick in 2009): Some saw him as the best 2009 Boston College defensive tackle. He wasn’t and while the Patriots kept him around for a while he could never break a pretty lackluster rotation, ending up playing just 494 snaps that earned a -6.1 grade.
Ras-I-Dowling, CB (33rd overall pick in 2011): Second-round pick cut two years into his career? Yep that’s a whiff.
-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!
Here are the teams we’ve covered so far:
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