Round And Round: Belichick’s Draft History

By Chris Warner

Followers of the most recent New England draft noted the contrast between the elation of Day One and the confusion of Day Two. This isn’t a new phenomenon, as we see in our round-by-round review of Bill Belichick’s drafts. (We ran a similar piece in 2009 on Patriots Daily – worth checking out for the scathing critique of the 2007 selections.)

This just in: drafting looks really, really hard. Sometimes Coach Bill Belichick seems to make it a little bit harder on himself.

We used to judge the success of players on whether or not they remained in New England. Considering Belichick has been drafting since 2000 and the average NFL career lasts about 4.5 minutes, we now look to “significant contributors,” i.e., starters or productive special teamers for more than one season.

All set? Let’s review…

First Round –

2000: None (pick went to NYJ for BB)

2001: Richard Seymour, DL, Georgia

2002: Dan Graham, TE, Colorado

2003: Ty Warren, DL, Texas A&M

2004: Vince Wilfork, DL, Miami; Benjamin Watson, TE, Georgia

2005: Logan Mankins, OL, Fresno State

2006: Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota

2007: Brandon Meriweather, DB, Miami

2008: Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee

2009: (No pick – traded down)

2010: Devin McCourty, DB, Rutgers

2011: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Total Picks: 11
Significant Contributors: 11
Percentage: 100

Here’s why fans got happy about the Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower picks: Patritos first-rounders have always ended up starting. Maybe Graham and Watson weren’t the greatest tight ends, and maybe Maroney showed the mental fortitude of a B-movie scream queen, but everyone here had solid production for the team.

In light of that, the various trades New England has made down to the second round become more interesting, especially considering the contrasting success rate.

Second Round –

2000: Adrian Klemm, OT, Hawaii

2001: Matt Light, OT, Purdue

2002: Deion Branch, WR, Louisville

2003: Eugene Wilson, DB, Illinois; Bethel Johnson, WR, Texas A&M

2004: Marquise Hill, DE, LSU

2005: (No pick)

2006: Chad Jackson, WR, Florida

2007: (No pick – traded for Wes Welker)

2008: Terrence Wheatley, DB, Colorado

2009: Patrick Chung, DB, Oregon; Ron Brace, DL, Boston College; Darius Butler, DB, Connecticut; Sebastian Vollmer, OT, Houston

2010: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona; Jermaine Cunningham, LB, Florida; Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida

2011: Ras-I Dowling, DB, Virginia; Shane Vereen, RB, California

Total Picks: 17
Significant Contributors: 7 (not including Welker – not a draft pick!)
Percentage: 41

Wow. This shows the reason behind Pats draft watchers feeling uneasy about the Tavon Wilson pick: because this round is more hot and cold than a cheap motel shower. An unproductive O-lineman (Klemm) followed by a potential Pats Hall-of-Famer (Light). A Super Bowl MVP receiver (Branch) followed by a one-note returner (Johnson). Starting safety Eugene Wilson vs. see-you-later cornerback Terrence Wheatley. Yikes.

Fans should take solace in New England showing improvement in their more recent Second-Round choices. Chung, Vollmer, Gronkowski and Spikes have all contributed at a high level, and the team has similar expectations for Dowling and Vereen. Still, the percentage drop makes us wonder whether it’s worth it for Belichick to trade down from the First Round.

Third Round –

2000: J. R. Redmond, RB, Arizona State

2001: Brock Williams, DB, Notre Dame

2002: (No pick)

2003: (No pick)

2004: Guss Scott, DB, Florida

2005: Ellis Hobbs III, CB, Iowa State; Nick Kaczur, OL, Toledo

2006: David Thomas, TE, Texas

2007: (No pick)

2008: Shawn Crable, OLB, Michigan; Kevin O’Connell, QB, San Diego State

2009: Brandon Tate, WR, North Carolina; Tyrone McKenzie, LB, South Florida

2010: Taylor Price, WR, Ohio

2011: Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU; Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

Total Picks: 13
Significant Contributors: 3
Percentage: 23

Ew. Rough. The Pats have taken a few calculated risks here – especially recently with multiple picks – and have gotten very little production out of this round. Ridley might break this streak, but looking at Round Three history can decreases one’s expectations of him.

Taylor Price. We had such high hopes.

We have similar optimism for Jake Bequette, a pass-rusher out of Arkansas with the right measurables (6-5, 274) and athleticism to make an impact. Which may or may not have been what we said about Crable. Hoo, boy.

Fourth Round –

2000: Greg Robinson-Randall, OT, Michigan State

2001: Kenyatta Jones, OT, South Florida; Jabari Holloway, TE, Notre Dame

2002: Rohan Davey, QB, LSU; Jarvis Green, DE, LSU

2003: Dan Klecko, DL, Temple; Asante Samuel, CB, Central Florida

2004: Dexter Reid, DB, North Carolina; Cedric Cobbs, RB, Arkansas

2005: James Sanders, DB, Fresno State

2006: Garrett Mills, FB, Tulsa; Stephen Gostkowski, K, Memphis

2007: Kareem Brown, DL, Miami

2008: Jonathan Wilhite, DB, Auburn

2009: Rich Ohrnberger, OT, Penn State

2010: Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida

2011: (No pick)

Total Picks: 16
Significant Contributors: 6
Percentage: 38

An uptick in success in this round from different types of players: those who might have been reaches (e.g. Gostkowski) or those who fell down draft boards (e.g. Hernandez). Amazing that Klecko was actually taken before Samuel in 2003 (looks like Belichick may have been bitten by the history bug there, thinking of Klecko’s father Joe). Overall, though, a decent percentage for the middle of the draft.

Fifth Round –

2000: Dave Stachelski, TE, Boise State; Jeff Marriott, DT, Missouri

2001: Hakim Akbar, DB, Washington

2002: (No pick)

2003: Dan Koppen, OL, Boston College

2004: P. K. Sam, WR, Florida State

2005: Ryan Claridge, OLB, UNLV

2006: Ryan O’Callaghan, OL, California

2007: Clint Oldenburg, OL, Colorado State

2008: Matthew Slater, WR, UCLA

2009: George Bussey, OT, Lousiville

2010: Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan

2011: Marcus Cannon, OL, TCU; Lee Smith, TE, Marshall

Total Picks: 15
Significant Contributors: 3
Percentage: 20

In 2009 we called this round “Koppen or Bust.” Since then, Slater has proven himself as a bona fide special-teams ace, Mesko has become the long-term solution at punter, and Cannon has demonstrated the ability to contribute regularly on the O-line, if not start (we didn’t count him as a significant contributor yet, though).

Sixth Round –

2000: Antwan Harris, CB, Virginia; Tom Brady, QB, Michigan; David Nugent, DT, Purdue.

2001: Arther Love, TE, South Carolina State; Leonard Myers, DB, Miami

2002: (No pick)

2003: Kliff Kingsbury, QB, Texas Tech

2004: (No pick)

2005: (No pick)

2006: Jeremy Mincey, OLB, Florida; Dan Stevenson, OL, Notre Dame; LeKevin Smith, DL, Nebraska

2007: Justin Rogers, OLB, SMU; Justise Hairston, RB, Central Connecticut; Corey Hilliard, OL, Oklahoma State

2008: Bo Ruud, OLB, Nebraska

2009: Jake Ingram, LS, Hawaii; Myron Pryor, DT, Kentucky

2010: Ted Larsen, C, NC State

2011: Markell Carter, LB, Central Arkansas

Total Picks: 17
Significant Contributors: 3
Percentage: 18

Nice little trivia: Tom Brady wasn’t even the first Patriot selected in the round. That honor goes to Harris, who epitomizes this section of the draft by showing some promise and fading into history. Pryor deserves a lot of credit for not only making the roster but also finding a pass-rushing niche to stay in Foxboro. We counted Ingram because he started at long snapper for a year.

Now we can see why the Pats picked Ohio State rugger Nate Ebner: you’re probably not going to find a starter in Round Six (unless you fall back into the Tom Brady Patch of Clover); you may as well nab someone you know will make special teams.

Seventh Round –

2000: Casey Tisdale, OLB, New Mexico; Patrick Pass, RB, Georgia

2001: Owen Pochman, K, BYU; T. J. Turner, LB, Michigan State

2002: Antwoine Womack, RB, Virginia; David Givens, WR, Notre Dame

2003: Spencer Nead, TE, BYU; Tully Banta-Cain, LB, California; Ethan Kelley, NT, Baylor

2004: Christian Morton, CB, Florida State

2005: Matt Cassel, QB, Southern California; Andy Stokes, TE, William Penn

2006: Willie Andrews, DB, Baylor

2007: Oscar Lua, LB, Southern California; Mike Elgin, OL, Iowa

2008: (No pick)

2009: Julian Edelman, WR, Toledo; Daryl Richard, DT, Georgia Tech

2010: Thomas Welch, OT, Vanderbilt; Brandon Deaderick, DE, Alabama; Kade Weston, DT, Georgia; Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State

2011: Malcolm Williams, DB, TCU

Total Picks: 22
Significant Contributors: 6
Percentage: 27

You know, for the final round, the Patriots have gotten some great value here. Pass blocked for the most prolific runner in team history (Corey Dillon), Givens caught a pass in every playoff game of the Pats’ Super Bowl runs, Banta-Cain led the team in QB sacks, Cassel started throughout 2008, Edelman has filled in everywhere, and Deaderick has worked up to starting D-line status. Makes us feel positive about d-back Alfonzo Dennard, who – if he can avoid punching anybody in the next few months – might prove himself a keeper.

The team’s final 2012 selection, Jeremy Ebert, looks like a pass-catcher with the speed to compete in camp. Worth watching.

With that percentage of high-yield players and the low cost of seventh-rounders, it makes us wonder if New England shouldn’t try one of those crazy, Moneyball-type systems that makes sense on paper: trade up for two first-rounders every year and fill out the roster with late picks and undrafted rookie free agents (UDFAs).

Former UDFAs currently on the roster include Brian Hoyer, Sergio Brown, Dane Fletcher, Kyle Love, Nick McDonald, and Jeff Tarpinian. Some have started; all have contributed at some level. They have the ability to construct a dependable “middle class” of players.

As New England looks to build a team and focuses on drafting sure things, they should remember that the constant sure things for them have come in Round One.

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • rick mc

     If the pats cut a player, it is most likely a miss for them. The player probably wasn’t right for the system or the Pats missed his talents.  I guess you could argue that the Pats didn’t have space or found a better player later, but if players are starting on other teams, they should be able to provide something for the Pats.

  • Chris Warner

    In Mincey’s case it may have been about patience. He didn’t tally a sack in the NFL until his third year, now as a DE. I think Rick MC has a point about fitting into the system. Agree that 3 starters would be a great amount of draft production, but tough to do.

  • Mark Bulg

    Graham never really paid off as a first round pick, getting dumped because he couldn’t hold on to the ball, and Maroney was best in his first year, and was never the same afterwards, much less improving. Neither was a bust, but neither was worth the first round pick. In War Room, Holley says that Belichick went against his scouts to draft Maroney, because one of his coaches in college was McDaniel’s brother, so they thought they had inside information. Should have listened to the scouts. Same thing happened with Chad Jackson – BB was friends with his coach, and over-rode his scouts.

    Then Brandon Meriweather had to be dumped – that’s a failure for a first round pick, and McCourty was one of the very worst starting CBs in the NFL last year, giving up among the most 100  yard games and 20+ yard catches among all DBs. This year will tell on McCourty, but he’s certainly not going in the right direction. 

    • rick mc

      You are really overestimating the impact of late first founders if you think the guys you listed are busts.

  • Alex

    In my nightmares, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are actually P.K. Sam, Adrian Klemm, Shawn Crable, and Chad Jackson.

  • toncy66

    As a full-fledged BB Kool-Aid drinker, I will offer the following observations:

    1–A 40% hit rate in the second round is pretty good. It’s right around the league average, I believe, and may be slightly better than that. It’s also the round with by far the highest bust rate–even BB himself has said that–because a lot of 2nd round picks are “tweener” types who are probably good enough to have a first round grade, but who slip into the second round because of “questions” that teams have about them. Many times, those questions turn out to be legitimate.

    2–The Patriots’ success in the regular season makes it harder on them come draft time, not BB’s draft philosophy. It’s simply not as easy to pull-in blue chippers when your first round picks are always in the lower third of the round. With the new rules for rookie contracts in place we’ll probably see more of what we saw last week in terms of trading up; but still, when you start off with a low first round pick because of your regular season success the year before, it’s harder to move up into the Top 12 picks, like Dallas did last week, and grab one of the “can’t miss” prospects.

    • Chris Warner

      Toncy66, I do think BB’s on a second-round hot streak recently, but the Tavon Wilson pick will make or break that analysis. In the column, just wanted to point out that, while 40 percent is okay, it pales in comparison to what the Pats do in the first, which is often not that many picks higher. Agree that rookie pay scale will open the door to more number 1s, and look forward to that.

      • toncy66

        Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say the T. Wilson pick makes or breaks the 2nd round analysis. If you look at the entire list of 2nd rounders, BB has been right about at the league average going all the way back to 2000. Missed on Klemm; hit on Light, Branch and E. Wilson; missed on B. Johnson; Marquise Hill was a tragic story, but we’ll never know how good he would or would not have been; in 2005 and 2007 he traded out, so you can’t really grade those picks (though I’d take Welker as the team’s “second rounder” any year); C. Jackson and Wheatley were busts; then he batted .500 on his four picks in 2009 (Chung and Vollmer being the hits); and did a very good job in the 2nd round in 2010, with the two 2011 2nd rounders getting “incompletes” for last year due to injuries. His recent hot streak in the second round followed a cold streak from 2004-2008, which followed another hot streak from 2001-2003. Again, I’d say he’s been right around the league average in the second round, and when you’re right around the average in anything, often you’ll see dramatic peaks and valleys if you plotted the history on a graph.

        Good job though. I didn’t realize his hit rates in the 4th and 7th rounds were that good, to be honest. I’d like to see how he stacks up in those rounds against the rest of the NFL (4th round in particular, because it strikes me that 38% is probably well above the league average in that round).

  • Donindc

    2nd round – 11 years, 11 solid picks.  Belichick doesn’t trade down only to avoid paying high salaries.  He doubles his picks that way!

    • Donindc

       I am counting Ras-I Dowling and Shane Vereen.  And Welker – he was obtained with a pick. 

      Matt Light, Deion Branch, Eugene Wilson, Wes Welker, Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen.

      11 solid picks (or at least could become solid) in 11 years.

      • Chris Warner

        Ron Brace? Really? Not the type of impact I’d want from a second-rounder. I also don’t include Welker (or any vet gotten by trade) because he was not picked by the team in that round. He’s just not a selection in my book. Though Dowling and Vereen look promising, there’s no way to tell how they will turn out. So, excluding 2011, make it seven picks in 10 years, which doesn’t quite cut it.

        • Donindc

           After looking up Brace, you are right.  Not much of an impact so far.  As for Welker – I wish they could trade all of their picks to other teams for players like him.  Granted – it doesn’t show drafting acumen, but it was a well spent pick.  But even 7 impact players in 10 years – 70% of the picks they were given to use doesn’t seem bad.  Good article, thanks.

        • Chris Warner

          All in all, Donindc, 7 in 10 years looks good. I just worry about the other misses and if they wouldn’t be better spent in the first (or the fourth, for that matter). As you pointed out, we have to like the relative success of the past few years.
          Thanks for commenting.

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