Well I’m back posting again and before I delve into the 2011 NFL Draft which is coming up in late April, I’m going to revisit the Patriots’ drafts over the last few years, as I did last year. So let’s kick this off with last year’s draft class. One year is always too short a window to properly judge a draft class, but it’s not too early to assess the impact last year’s rookie class had in 2010, and may have in the future.
- 1st Round, 27th Selection – Devin McCourty, Cornerback, Rutgers. I was not alone in being surprised by the pick of McCourty but I liked the pick. The player wasn’t the issue, just the position. Many didn’t consider CB to be a need for the Patriots but the decline in Darius Butler‘s play and the injury to Leigh Bodden resulted in a CB tandem of McCourty and Kyle Arrington for most of the year. McCourty stepped up to be one of the best rookies the NFL saw in 2010, with 82 tackles, 7 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, as well as being key on special teams. He received 2 votes for Defensive Rookie of the Year, with the remaining 48 all going to Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions. Over the next few years, whether it be alongside Bodden or someone else, McCourty should be a star corner for the Pats. 5/5
- 2nd Round, 42nd Selection – Rob Gronkowski, Tight End, Arizona. The Patriots picked up two TEs that I really liked coming into the 2010 NFL Draft. First up was Gronkowski, who’s biggest red flag going into the draft was a spinal injury. He showed no signs of any back problems, and hopefully that will continue, as he set a record for rookie TEs with 10 touchdown receptions. Combined with Aaron Hernandez, the Pats might have drafted their TEs for years to come. 5/5
- 2nd Round, 53rd Selection – Jermaine Cunningham, Defensive End, Florida. A 4-3 DE in college, Cunningham was converted to 3-4 OLB in the Pats’ system. Cunningham started for the first time in Week 3 and ended the season with 11 starts, but just one sack in a pretty unspectacular season for the rookie. Pass rush remains a problem for the Patriots and Cunningham will have to develop quickly if he’s going to be part of the answer. 3/5
- 2nd Round, 62nd Selection – Brandon Spikes, Inside Linebacker, Florida. Spikes had his fair share of controversy in his rookie year, with the release of an internet video clip showing him in a somewhat embarrassing light, and then missing the final 4 games of the season due to a substance-related suspension. In the 12 games he did play, however, Spikes showed potential to be the guy next to Jerod Mayo at inside linebacker and hopefully he can attract more positive attention next year. 3/5
- 3rd Round, 90th Selection – Taylor Price, Wide Receiver, Ohio. It would seem that Price found it hard to learn the Patriots’ offensive system after playing in a limited offense at Ohio. He was inactive for the first 15 games and only played in the Dolphins game in Week 17, catching 3 for 41 yards. A disappointing start for Price, but he may play more of a role next year. 2/5
- 4th Round, 113th Selection – Aaron Hernandez, Tight End, Florida. Hernandez might have been the steal of the draft. I ranked Hernandez as a 2nd round talent, but his off-field issues put some teams off. The Pats snapped him up in the 4th and he showed that talent from the start, finishing the season with 45 catches for 563 yards and 6 TDs. More of a WR/TE tweener and less of a blocker than Gronkowski, the two could be quite a TE tandem in the future for the Pats with their varied skills. 4/5
- 5th Round, 150th Selection – Zoltan Mesko, Punter, Michigan. The first punter or kicker taken in the draft, Mesko immediately became the guy at the position for the Pats, and despite a few bad punts, also had his fair share of great ones. Overall he looks like a solid NFL punter. 4/5
- 6th Round, 204th Selection – Ted Larsen, Offensive Lineman, North Carolina State. The Patriots cut Larsen in an attempt to get him on the practice squad. This backfired when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed Larsen off waivers. By week 6 he was starting for the Buccs at left guard. Having a starting-calibre guard would give you more leverage with guys like Logan Mankins in the offseason. Good pick but it ended up benefiting someone else not you. 1/5
- 7th Round, 208th Selection – Thomas Welch, Offensive Lineman, Vanderbilt. Welch was waived in final cuts and ended up on the Vikings practice squad. 1/5
- 7th Round, 247th Selection – Brandon Deaderick, Defensive End, Alabama. The first of three compensatory picks of varying success, Deaderick was by far the best, despite a mysterious suspension at the end of the year. He ended the season with 4 starts, 10 tackles, 2 sacks. 4/5
- 7th Round, 248th Selection – Kade Weston, Defensive Tackle, Georgia. Weston was waived and ended up on IR. Too early to tell on him.
- 7th Round, 250th Selection – Zac Robinson, Quarterback, Oklahoma State. The Pats cut Robinson, and then he went to the Seahawks practice squad, was active for one game and then cut and went to the Lions. 1/5
Overall the Patriots seem to have got some pretty good talent from this draft, particularly McCourty and the tight ends. Cunningham, Spikes and to a lesser extent Deaderick have also developed roles with the team and may develop into real starters. Time will tell with Price. The team also picked up Dane Fletcher as an undrafted free agent and he made a few plays here and there on defense and special teams. The Larsen move was bad roster management but it happens. A very nice draft I’d say.