Draft Grader: New England Patriots

While hitting on Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots have also whiffed big on a pair of second-round picks.

| 2 years ago

Draft Grader: New England Patriots

draftgraderNEfeatDraft 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!

Nope …


Here are the teams we’ve covered so far:

HOU | IND | JAX | KC | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI
PIT | SL | SD | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WAS


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled


  • Jeff

    Amazing to think that besides McCourty, BB has missed on almost every defensive back he has drafted early. Though I think Belichick will take that if his offense can score points. They have done very well this offseason upgrading the cornerback position.

    All they need now is for Rob “Glass-man” Gronkowski to stay on the field for a full season.

    • Hola Backgrinder

      For years I have been amazed at the free pass BB and the Pat’s get for being draft geniuses. How many times have they needed a WR, a DB or a RB in the draft and come up blank? If they didn’t have Tom Brady (and the defensive stars Belichick inherited when he took over the team) they would look more like BB’s early 90’s Cleveland teams than the Steel Curtain or 90’s Cowboys they get compared to.

      • mutzki

        I agree. BB gets all the praise for being a defensive genius and there isn’t a whole lot of stats to show for. If they weren’t playing in the worst division in football and in a weak AFC overall i think this team might struggle to find the success they have thoroughly enjoyed for the past years.

        • Lord Mad

          The AFC East has had the most wins outside of it’s division the last 10~ years and the AFC has actually had more SBs as well in that timeframe so you again fail on the weaker division. The NFC sent a 7-9 team to the playoffs not long ago. Nothing more needs to be said about the NFC. The AFC East being a weak division is bull crap.

          As far as your assertion about DBs, those aren’t exactly easy picks early on but BB has made several good DB picks over the past 4-5 years and that is all that matters. He has drafted the most all-pros since his initial tenure with the Patriots.

          • mutzki

            Bills haven’t been in the playoffs since 1999. Dolphins haven’t been in the playoffs since 08, before that in ’01. The Jets with a really good D had 2 good years in ’09 and ’10. I don’t rate divisions by wins outside of it, i rate them when it comes to the playoffs and playoff appearances.

            Since those teams have been getting nothing done in the postseason the Patriots for the past 5-6 years (not talking decade here) have had one of the easiest schedules within their own division (due to their division foes continuing to fail).

            Your point about the NFC sending a 7-9 team into the playoffs (I’m assuming you’re talking about the Seahawks in ’10) is moot. It only shows that the NFC West struggled mightily that year. Of course by now it looks like it’s the best division in football.

            Anyway, the only point i was trying to make is that if there is one person on the Patriots that deserves credit for all those winning seasons and success it should be Tom Brady, and not the “defensive guru” Bill Belichick.

          • terrific12

            Your argument isn’t logical. Let’s say AFC east has been a weakest division since 01 (which is very doubtful), then how it relates to BB’s reputation as a defensive genius? You just can’t overlook what he has done as a DC.

            Second, even if AFC east is the weakest division, still Pats has high winning % against every AFC division and teams from NFC since 01.

            Some people doubt his ability as a GM or his draft selections, and I can understand that because it is true that he wasted some of high picks to WRs and CBs. It is also true the most of defensive stars in the dynasty era were brought by Parcells.

            However, as you can see, he hit some great pickups too. Every team has misses and hits. When discussion is about patriots, people talk about BB and how he succeeded or how he failed but this is about organization. What BB has done so well is handling this patriots organization, and nobody can deny that.

          • mutzki

            I don’t deny that he has handled the roster great and made some great decisions. All i’m saying is if he is the defensive guru that journalists make him out to be, how come the Patriots for the past couple of years weren’t able to field a top 10 defense in the major statistical categories. That was my original point. Also i’m not going back to 01′ to look at those stats. I’m only talking about the past 4-5 years in everything i wrote.

          • Terrific12

            Simple, he is no longer defensive play caller.

            Let’s see, Jim Harbaugh is a former QB and former QB coach for OAK. Is 49ers a great passing team ? John Fox is defensive minded-coach but you know what kind of team DEN is.

            It is very true that the Patriots defense has been one of the worst in past 5 years. Still, they won more games than any other team in that period. Why? Because its offence has been one of the bests.

            So you see how it relates. While it is no doubt that their D# wasn’t impressive in past 5 years, it is also true that they allowed tons of yards in garbage time. Moreover, they were top 10 defense in terms of allowed points in each of past 5 years except 2011, the year they headed to SB.

            I certainly see your point. Allowed point is not the most proper stats to evaluate team defense, and I definitely think its defense has been the reason why they couldn’t win SB. However, i think it is too difficult to just pick up only 4~5 years of records and overturn what he has accomplished, which leads people to call him a defensive guru. Particularly for a coach like BB who has been one of the bests at his job for DECADEs.

            5 years maybe enough for Rex Ryan, but not for coach BB.

        • RandomOpinion

          Isn’t BB’s defensive game plan for Super Bowl XXV in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

        • Chris from Cape Cod

          Belichick hasn’t been called a ‘defensive genius’ by any of the main NE media outlets (Globe/Herald/WEEI) since 2005.
          I would agree that basically playing a first place schedule since 2002 doesn’t offset that it is a weak division, but the Pats have won over 75% of their games during the Brady era, a hundred points higher than anyone else.

        • vr1000

          He is a defensive genius, the Pats are almost always among the league leaders in turnover differential and points allowed. These are the most important statistics.

      • Chris from Cape Cod

        I assume you mean ‘draft genius’ sarcastically, because it’s never been attributed to BB besides a 6th rounder in 2000, though outside of 2006 his drafts have been not great, but well above average. He has missed on a majority of 2nd round picks, but has hit on nearly every 1st, and found great value in undrafted FAs. You can look at any of the other PFF draft grades they’ve done this far, and see that such is confirmed.
        As far as being much closer to mediocre without #12, such is certainly likely, but if the Dolphins hasn’t chosen Dante Culpepper over Brees in 2006 the Saints would have probably been the same team Archie Manning was ashamed to have his son associated with.

    • Pendergraph

      “Glass-man”, undifferentiated statement. Gronkowski’s had two injuries which were both freak accidents. Broke his forearm while on special teams duties and got his knee shattered by a low hit courtesy of TJ Ward. Any player of his size would have gotten his knee shredded, no matter whether you are talking about Megatron or Jimmy Graham. He played 46 consecutive games to start off his career. Hardly the track record of a glass man.

  • Hola Backgrinder

    “established himself as the premier tight end in the NFL” ummmmm…no. Sorry, this guy has only played in 18 games in the last 2 years. I’m a Parcells guy when it comes to injuries: you are what you do. Sure, Gronkowski is potentially the best TE in the league, but in reality he is a part time player who can’t be counted on to lace up his cleats and get in the game when you need him. Sounds harsh, but numbers don’t lie, and games played is a pretty important number.

    • Lord Mad

      He played his first two full seasons with no issues. Got hurt in the AFCCG and played through it into the SB. He had freak accidents, completely unrelated, the next two years. There is nothing to disagree about..when he is on the field and healthy..nobody is better than him. You can’t knock a guy for having a string of bad luck.

      • Jeff

        He’s like the Chad Pennington of TE’s. Granted CP was nowhere near as dominant as Rob at his position. Though his football accumen was off the charts. Just hoping that injury does not rob him of his career like it did of Pennington.

      • ryan

        The only problem i have with stuff like this is if you go back to the ravens draft page they strike them bad for sergio kindle who had the most freak accident of all and fell down the stairs and busted his skull open and never got to play a down. all this happened after the draft. How can you knock one team for a freak accident and not another. not saying either way is right, but some consistency would be nice

        • Lord Mad

          That’s tough because that didn’t happen on the field and wasn’t caused by anyone else but him. Gronk has however produced and every injury he had has been unrelated and freak accidents.

  • Jarodcore

    LOL@the trolls on here.