December 21, 2014

Making The Rounds

With the Pats out of the playoffs and undergoing the front-office pains of success, New England football minds have begun looking toward the team’s off-season tasks, including prepping for the draft. Hopefully, you had a chance to warm up your scouting muscles by checking out the East-West Shrine Game last Saturday afternoon. Check out this space later this week for a Pats-centric review of the game.  In the meantime, take a look at the rosters. Some potential late-round Patriots picks may lurk there.

While most draft reviews go year-by-year, this one will take a look at how the Pats brass has fared in each round. To keep it simple, we look at the players drafted and how many are still with the team to come up with a “success” percentage. 

Before we get started with the rounds, one comment on 2007’s draft: worst ever. And no, I’m not forgetting that the Patriots traded for Wes Welker and Randy Moss; I’m saying that the choices New England made in 2007 reeked.

Think about it in terms of a birthday party: You get ten gifts. The first one (Brandon Meriweather) has potential, so you’re excited about it. The next two (Welker, Moss) make you ecstatic. Then the ensuing seven presents include used socks, a wedgie and a jug of spit. Do you feel good about your haul? Overall, maybe you do, if you focus on the first three and forget about the rest, but it ticks you off when you have to write thank-you cards for the last few.

Okay, enough with the metaphor. Let’s get on to the rounds. (For details regarding traded picks, here’s a helpful link on the Patriots’ website).

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

Total Picks: 9
Still With Team: 8
Percentage: 89

Say what you want about the later rounds, the Pats know how to pick early. Graham is the only player not on the roster; he left for a lucrative contract with the Broncos. Seymour, Wilfork and Mankins have all been voted to the Pro Bowl, while Warren has rounded out one of the finest defensive lines in the NFL. You can argue for a miss regarding Maroney, but using history as an indicator, whomever the Patriots pick first should start and contribute at a high level.

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

Total Picks: 8
Still With Team: 2
Percentage: 25

Not great, but factoring in the loss of free agents Branch (to Seattle) and Wilson (to Houston) bumps up the less-than-specific “success” rate to 50 percent. Hard to get over the disappointment of Johnson and Jackson. If the Pats draft a receiver with a president’s name, look out. (Taurus Johnson, you’re off-limits. And while we’re at it, stay away, Ernest Jackson, Kenny McKinley and Michael Washington, all of whom can be seen here on ESPN’s helpful draft site).

As far as the current roster, Light made the Pro Bowl while Wheatley showed off some of his athleticism before getting hurt midway through the season. (I won’t even bring up the Welker trade, because it’s a trade, not a pick. I’m just saying.)

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

Total Picks: 8
Still With Team: 5
Percentage: 63

Okay, then. Redmond’s contributions are best remembered by watching the original “Three Games to Glory” DVD, when his short receptions drives going in the Snow Game and the Super Bowl. Hobbs and Kaczur are starters. In three years, Thomas has played in 32 games and caught 21 passes (eh), yet still gives hardcore apologists hope that he will become the pass-catching tight end the Patriots haven’t seen since Jermaine Wiggins in January 2002 (again, check out the DVD).

With all the talk of drafting a pass-rushing outside linebacker this year, Crable may be the “rookie” the Pats need after missing 2008 with an injury. O’Connell has potential that turned into expectation this year following the exploits of the former seventh-rounder who ended up starting at QB.

Tied for the fewest picks (along with Round Two), ol’ Round Three reminds us that quality beats out quantity. Only the first round has more players still with the team.

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

Total Picks: 14
Still With Team: 4
Percentage: 29

The year 2003 epitomizes this round and its hit-or-miss nature. On the one hand, they drafted Klecko, an undersized defensive lineman who never made the transition to a 3-4 linebacker and now plays fullback for the Eagles (his third team). On the other, Samuel nabbed 26 interceptions in six regular seasons and became one of the top corners in the league. As one might expect from mid-range picks, several players barely missed making the roster (Mills, Brown); some got time to improve but never did (Davey, Klecko, Reid, Cobbs); a few started and/or contributed regularly (Robinson-Randall, Holloway, Green, Sanders, Wilhite) and one got invited to Hawaii (Gostkowski).

Not a special round, but one in which the Pats could find some promise. Makes sense, given the location.

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

Total Picks: 9
Still With Team: 3
Percentage: 33

I always get a kick out of the fact that New England drafted Stachelski and Marriott before Brady. Despite having a higher percentage than the previous round, the fifth saw its picks contribute little before leaving Foxboro. Round Five has earned the nickname “Koppen or Bust.”

If you’re a new Patriots fan, you haven’t heard of any one of these guys drafted before Koppen in 2003. Sam and Claridge appeared as solid, athletic picks, but couldn’t overcome injury and insult (struggling to pick up the system). While the jury might still be out on O’Callaghan, they did return a verdict on Oldenburg: guilty of not being able to play in the NFL.

So now we come to the Slater pick, one that seems no less bizarre after the 2008 season. Slater had 13 special teams tackles and several mediocre kick returns, including a fumble vs. the Steelers. While few gems could be found in this part of the draft last April, New England could have considered receiver Josh Morgan. Not sure if they were looking for a wide receiver, a safety or a special teams ace, which confuses me still: can’t special teamers be developed from undrafted rookies, like Pierre Woods or Gary Guyton?

“Well,” you’re saying, “maybe Slater will return a couple of kicks for scores next year.” Sure. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and buy a minor league baseball team and re-name them the “Chris” and put my likeness on their hats. Maybe.

All I’m saying is, I can only go by what I know so far, and so far, Slater’s failed to produce.

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

Total Picks: 13
Still With Team: 3
Percentage: 23

Known in New England as “The Brady Round,” the Pats have had few other keepers here (and, really, nobody cares about any other sixth-rounders). While they avoided picking in three draft years, they made up for it in three others with three picks each. This “wide net” approach resulted in Brady and Smith sticking around, while Rogers got cut but picked up by Dallas to become a steady special teams player.

All of these players produced in college; few of them knew how to continue those contributions at the professional level. Ruud can improve this round’s rep a lot with a strong second year, even as a special teams player who makes the game-day roster on a regular basis. It is, after all, merely the sixth round. The Brady Round.

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)

 Total Picks: 15
Still With Team: 1
Percentage: 7

As one might expect, Round Seven has the lowest percentage of players still with the team. Going back a few years, though, reveals the misleading nature of this stat (and of this entire column, but really, it’s too late now). At one point Pass, Givens and Banta-Cain all started in New England. Andrews could very well have stayed with the club as a special teamer had he avoided an impression of “Goodfellas” and a subsequent Bob Kraft boot in his backside.

I can’t remember how that Cassel thing worked out.

When it comes to picking this late, we can give the Pats a pass (no pun intended), but a quick look at their undrafted rookies makes one wonder what they’re missing with their later picks.

These are more or less in chronological order: Stephen Neal, OL; Tom Ashworth, OL; Matt Knutson, OL; Shawn Mayer, DB; Eric Alexander, LB; Randall Gay, DB; Wesley Britt, OL; Antwain Spann, CB; Kyle Eckel, RB; Santonio Thomas, DL: Mike Wright, DL; Corey Mays, LB; Pierre Woods, OLB; P; Matt Gutierrez, QB; BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB; Vince Redd, OLB, Tyson Devree, TE.

Even taking into account that the Pats bring in about a dozen rookie free agents each year, having 17 of them eventually make the roster means that their scouts are doing their jobs. And that, dear readers, is the wonder of the draft: sometimes the good stuff comes afterwards.

Comments

  1. Interesting but 'Still in NFL' would be a better measure of success v 'Still w the Team.' By looking at only 'Still w the team', it implies that players such as Samuel, Givens, etc were not successful selections. They were, the team just elected not to keep them for one reason or another.

  2. Interesting analysis. I think its important to break out the chronology of drafting success, however, with the 2nd round a real negative statement whereas the 3rd round may turn out to be the opposite.

  3. I think the Pats need to use a new metric. They're great in the 1st round and mediocre at best the rest of the way. So whatever you're doing in the 1st rd. keep it up but then go to this new metric the rest of the way. And here it is: multiply production in college * the timed sprint in the combine. Highest number is best. So, for example, at QB pct. completion is production and multiply by the speed of the sprint (slower is better). On defense production is number of tackles. WR is number of catches per attempts thrown at. RB would be yards per carry. See the deal is always MULTIPLY by the speed. Not only will you get a guy who has a great chance to succeed but you target a guy that no one else is looking at.

  4. Mediocre at best the rest of the way? They found a Hall of Fame quarterback in the sixth round, a Pro Bowl center in the fifth, a starting QB in the seventh, and a starting receiver in the seventh. You're a tough audience, bobd.

  5. good point, medphred. I tried to address the players' value in the comments after each round. Though I considered a "Still in the NFL" category, it would have similar deficiencies. For example, while Samuel is still in the NFL, so is Jeremy Mincey. Possibly a "Made a free agent killing elsewhere" category? Hard to say.

    Thanks for writing.

  6. Hey Dan, sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I guess what you have to see is that the draft is both a science and an art. Now the picks you mentioned were based on "art". Their genius in the 1st round is based on science. That is metrics. What I was trying to do was improve upon their scientific approach in the latter rounds. If you combine a scientific method with their art or philosophical approach I think you could have something really good going on on day 2.

  7. bobd, any past use of this we could look at? i'm a sucker for a good formula. If you haven't had a chance to try it out yet, let's see it in a couple of months once the combine is over and the draft picks/trades/free agent acquisitions look more solid. If you can figure out a hard science for Day Two picks, you'd really have something there.

  8. Off the top of my head, a number of players say hi: CB Mike Richardson (6th round, 2007), LB Gary Guyton (2008 UDFA), S Raymond Ventrone (2005 UDFA).

    [BTW–I don't recommend getting on Ventrone's bad side. He knows how to deliver a hit.]

  9. Chris WI
    Hey Chris, no I haven't tried it. Just my observations. Here's the thought process. Assuming everyone gets on the board (deleting IQ dropouts and character flaw guys) the top 3 metrics seem to be: speed, college production and prototypical size.
    You combine all 3 and the highest of these fall in the 1st round. But what happens in the latter parts of round 2 and the other rounds. It seems that all the teams seem to gloss over production but keep speed. That's my point. I think in the latter rounds we should over emphasize production and fade speed. I mean if players are producing they must have something else on the ball. Let's see how it goes in this year's draft and see if the Pats draft some high production guys in the latter rounds.

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