Monday, May 18, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: New England Patriots

The Patriots were struck down early in 2008 with a severe knee injury to star QB Tom Brady. However, as they usually do, they ignored the setback and leisurely strolled to 11 wins with someone who hadn't started a football game since high school. Yeah, that's how New England works these days. Of course, the 11 wins weren't enough for them to win the division - which went to the resurgent Miami Dolphins - or even make the playoffs at all. Brady is back and the team is ready to roll again. A few things need to be addressed on defense, possibly through the draft, that will make this team a clear cut favorite to make the Super Bowl for the fifth time in nine seasons.

Even with the loss of Tom Brady for the most of the season, the Patriots still managed to have the 5th ranked offense in terms of total yards and the 8th ranked in terms of points scored. You can definitely see the drop off from Brady to Cassel. In 2007 the Brady-led Patriots averaged almost 300 yards passing per game, easily best in The League. In 2008 the Cassel-led attack ranked 12th at 223.1 yards per game through the air. Of course it's tough to judge Cassel versus the record setting year in '07, but that's fresh in everyone's memory. No one remembers the 12th ranked passing offense from 2006 or the 11th ranked one in 2004. Anyway, the passing offense taking a step back meant the rushing offense could step forward. They ranked 13th in 2007 with 115.6 yards per game and improved to 6th in 2008 at 142.4 yards per game. Of course, the offense hasn't been viewed as the problem recently. Nope, everyone says the defense is slowing down. Is that really so true when you lose only five games, allowing less than 20 points per game on average? Of course they did allow 107.6 yards rushing per game which ranked them 15th in the NFL, easily their lowest ranking since the 2002 season (137.4 yards/game, 31st). Every team has holes and needs to get younger some places. It seems that too much attention is paid to the Patriots old players. After all, results are results no matter the age of your vets.

Senor Sweatshirt returns for another season at the helm of the most successful franchise of the last decade (sorry Steelers fans, it's true). More assistants and coordinators are gone but no one seems worried. Brady is back and the offense remains in tact. Add a few new players on defense and this team is ready to steamroll the opposition.

2/2/34 - Patrick Chung, SS, Oregon
2/8/40 - Ron Brace, DT, Boston College
2/9/41 - Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
2/26/58 - Sebastian Vollmer, OT, Houston
3/19/83 - Brandon Tate, WR, North Carolina
3/33/97 - Tyrone McKenzie, ILB/OLB, South Florida
4/23/123 - Rich Ohrnberger, OG, Penn State
5/34/170 - George Bussey, OT, Louisville
6/25/198 - Jake Ingram, LS, Hawaii
6/34/207 - Myron Pryor, DT, Kentucky
7/23/232 - Julian Edelman, QB, Kent State
7/25/234 - Darryl Richard, DT/DE, Georgia Tech

  • LB - Check!
  • S - Check!
  • RB - Try again.
  • WR - Check!
Only one LB and not until their sixth pick? I guess Tedy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas aren't injury prone or old. They did a wonderful job strengthening the DL depth - something I would have classified as a need with Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour set to become free agents next offseason. They also added young pieces to the secondary as well as new talent along the OL. It helps when you have 12 picks to work with - including six in the Top 100. Oh, and they picked up more for next year as well.

GRADE: 90/100

Pick 1 - The Patriots first pick, 34th overall, and they reach for a SS. He wasn't the best safety left on the board - free or strong. William Moore and Rashad Johnson each would have been better values as would a few of the CBs that may switch to safety. Everyone knew they needed to replace Rodney Harrison but I'm not sure they had to reach for Chung here. Grade: 7

Pick 2 - This was a better pick. While Brace probably should have gone at the end of round two, he can play a position coveted by 3-4 teams: NT. With the possibility of Vince Wilfork leaving next offseason New England needed a backup plan. Brace was considered the second best option at NT, next to Boston College teammate B.J. Raji, who went ninth overall to Green Bay. Brace was the best DT available at this juncture as well. I was hoping he'd slide to Miami. Grade: 9

Pick 3 - The Patriots had the next pick as well and picked a guy many believed Belichick would take at 23rd overall (before he traded out). Connecticut's Darius Butler rose up draft boards after the combine and his Pro Day and was expected to be a late first round pick. He fell into round two and New England din't hesitate to take him at 41. Solid pick again. Grade: 10

Pick 4 - Here's another reach. Vollmer was at best a late second round pick that was more than likely to slip into the middle of round three. New England needed some depth along the OL and it's odd they skipped over Butler's teammate at UConn, William Beatty. Vollmer needs a lot of work and won't be ready to step in immediately. That's good for the Patriots; they don't need him to. Grade: 6

Pick 5 - The Patriots found a young WR to eventually take over for Randy Moss in UNCs Brandon Tate. The Patriots will have straighten him out; he has some work ethic issues and off-the-field problems. He has time to develop and they hope he turns out better than Chad Jackson. They needed young talent here and he was the best left available. Grade: 8

Pick 6 - Another phenomenal pick by New England. McKenzie, who will move inside in the NFL, was picked a little later than everyone assumed. He has the drive to succeed in the NFL, showing tremendous resolve and work ethic. Unfortunately he tore his ACL in mini camp and will miss his rookie season. He should be back and challenging for a starting spot in 2010. He'll be starting along side Jerod Mayo by 2011. Grade: 10

Pick 7 - They stretch for another OL and this time it's Penn State product Rich Ohrnberger, not Gerald Cadogan, who was widely believed to go late on Day 2 or even undrafted. Of the three PSU o-linemen in the draft, Ohrnberger was least likely to be picked. The Patriots selected Ohrnberger over Duke Robinson, Herman Johnson, Tyronne Green, and Trevor Canfield. I love my Nittany Lions but those other four players have much more untapped talent than Rich; he may have reached his potential. Grade: 4

Pick 8 - Another offensive lineman, making it their third in their first eight picks. This time it is OT Bussey. They keep scraping the barrel for some reliable backups along that line. And again they come up with someone that wasn't the best available (all of this is up for debate of course). Andrew Gardner and Lydon Murtha appear to have more upside and each were drafted later. With a few RBs and LBs available you'd think this pick may have been better spent elsewhere. Grade: 5

Pick 9 - The Patriots had so many picks they actually spent one on a long snapper, a position usually filled by a veteran free agent or a UDFA. But not New England. They go out and get the best available at the position ensuring no mistakes for Gostkowski. Sure a LB or RB would have been more acceptable but they spotted an area of weakness and went out and fixed it. He is a specialist though. Don't draft them! Grade: 5

Pick 10 - Another DT that has the bulk to play NT, though he is a bit short. The only better pick may have been Ricky Jean-Francois, but he would be a DE in their scheme. So really if the Patriots wanted a developmental guy at NT then this was the only way to go. Grade: 7

Pick 11 - Edelman is a little known slash player from Kent State. He could help institute a "wildcat" type attack. At best he is a developmental/emergency 3rd QB and slash player that is most likely destined for the practice squad. Zach Follett and Rashad Jennings were available at this time and would have been better picks. I don't really get this one. Grade: 3

Pick 12 - I love this pick. They get a guy great for their scheme and a possible replacement for Seymour. Richard is a run stuffer and won't provide much of a pass rush but that isn't what 3-4 DEs are meant for. He needs a year or two to develop but he will learn the playbook fast. This was a great pick. Grade: 9

GRADE: 83/120


At least three rotational guys for 2009 (Chung, Brace, and Butler) who may all start in 2010. Some high ceiling/developmental guys in Vollmer, Tate, Pryor, and Richard who could all be starting in 2011. That is a deep class, expected from a team with 12 picks. I would have liked to see them reach a little less and this could have been one of the greatest drafts ever on paper. They didn't address a small need at RB and did little at LB besides the now injured McKenzie.


WHY: I was a little disappointed in the class after going through it. They made far too many reaches but still had some solid picks that will contribute in the near future. I hate to question the Patriots because they have proven over the last decade they know how to run things. On paper though this class, while solid, fell a tiny bit short of expectations. Check back in three years.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: McKenzie
Worst Pick: Vollmer
Sleeper: Richard
Instant Impact: Chung
Developmental: Edelman

OTHER DRAFT GRADES - New England Patriots
CBS Sports (Prisco): B+
CBS Sports (Rang): B+
ESPN (Kiper): B+ (Brooks): A (Fan's): B
Walter: B



No comments: