What Does It All Mean?
Talent over Character; View Toward the Future
Part of the problem with analyzing a given team's draft is understanding you cannot consider only the players selected with actual picks. You have to consider picks traded for players, picks traded for other picks, players traded for picks (and who the team selected with those picks), and picks in future drafts.
New England traded their 5th-round pick (No. 165 overall) last September to Oakland for Doug Gabriel. Technically, that's part of the Patriots 2007 draft. But he was on the team all season, and he's already gone (released in December -- looks like he's back on the Raiders). So do you count that?
Well, yes. And no.
You also have to consider, peripherally, free agent acquisitions, because they affect how you draft and trade. And what about limbo players like Asante Samuel?
Analyzing a draft is almost as hard as predicting one.
As we delve into the analysis, let's take a summary look at the picks and trades:
|Round||Pick / Overall||Selected / Received||Notes|
|1||24 / 24||Brandon Meriweather||S||U of Miami||* received from Seattle
for Deion Branch
|1||28 / 28||S.F.'s 1st
round in '08
|and pick No.
110 (round 4)
|* No. 110 traded to
Oakland for Randy Moss
|2||28 / 60||Wes Welker||Trade from Miami||* March 2007|
|3||28 / 91||Oakland's
|Pick No. 211
|* used on ILB Oscar Lua,
|4||28 / 127||Kareem Brown||DT||U of Miami|
|5||28 / 165||Doug Gabriel||Trade from Oakland||* Sept. 2006|
|5||34 / 171||Clint Oldenburg||OT||Colorado State||* compensatory pick|
|6||6 / 180||Justin Rogers||OLB||SMU||* trade from Arizona for
OT Brandon Gorin
|6||28 / 202||Mike Richardson||CB||Notre Dame|
|6||34 / 207||Justise Hairston||RB||Central Conn. State||* compensatory pick|
|6||35 / 208||Corey Hilliard||OT||Oklahoma State||* compensatory pick|
|7||28 / 238||* part of Wes Welker trade|
|7||37 / 247||Mike Elgin||G||U of Iowa||* compensatory pick|
Let's start with the premise that every team gets seven picks -- one pick in each of the seven rounds.
New England also had four "compensatory selections" -- Under terms of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in a year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks (maximum of four) determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. Much like Einstein's Theory of Relativity, very few human beings can comprehend this formula.
So, the Patriots had 11 picks. Ultimately, New England ended up with 9 players drafted, 3 in trades, and 2 future picks -- 14 players (barring trades of those future picks).
From that perspective, New England is already way ahead of the game. But one of those players was Gabriel, and he's gone already, so .. um .. well, I guess that's 13 players, but then you have to say that the 5th-rounder was already gone, so it was 10 picks ....
See what I mean?
I've even seen some convoluted logic that argued New England got Randy Moss for nothing, because they got him for the No. 110 pick, which was an "extra" pick received from San Francisco in trade for New England's No. 28 pick. Well, ok. But, no.
Here's something to think about: In the first three rounds, New England drafted ...
... one player.
Yep. Just one: Brandon Meriweather.
You know what that means, don't you?
It means New England only has one big rookie contract coming up. Being stacked with veterans and huge free-agent signings, the Patriots had very few pressing needs. They used a couple picks to land Wes Welker, and they traded others to secure better picks in 2008, when the first few rounds are expected to be much deeper.
And that tells me that New England is serious about signing Samuel. They have the room under the salary cap, they won't have to pay big rookie contracts, and they didn't draft a cornerback. (Well, not until the 6th round. I don't think Mike Richardson is primed to be an NFL starter this year.)
(New England drafted Meriweather at No. 24, and their next selection was Kareem Brown at No. 127. That's the longest I can remember a team going without a selection since Mike Ditka traded New Orleans's entire draft for the No. 1 pick of Ricky Williams.)
The Patriots eventually made eight selections of their own on Day Two, five in the last two rounds. With no picks in the second or third round, the Patriots had just three picks in the first five rounds.
So what about these picks?
There's no doubt Meriweather has the athletic talent and tools. Purely from that perspective, he's a great pick. Most other teams were expected to steer clear of him because of his "character issues." I avoided him in the SB Nation Mock Draft for the same reason.
Bill Belichick is confident Meriweather will be a positive contributor. He dismissed Meriweather's past transgressions, rationalizing "If none of us got a chance because of mistakes we've made, none of us would ever have a chance."
I guess that depends what you term a mistake. I've certainly made bad decisions, but I've never stomped on people's heads on national television.
"In Bill we trust," I keep telling myself. "Serenity now!" I'm not happy, but there's no choice but to give Meriweather a chance. One misstep, however, and I'll be among the first to say "I told you so."
What goes for Meriweather goes quadruple for Moss. But we'll talk more about him -- and whether the acquisitions of Moss and Meriweather signal a change in philosophy in Foxboro -- in the next day or two.
As for the rest of these picks, each is a coin flip at this point.
At first I saw no point of drafting Kareem Brown. But consider that Richard Seymour is entering his 7th year in the league. He has years ahead of him, but he won't play forever. Marquise Hill hasn't awed anyone, either. It's time for some new blood to groom for the future. Brown's scouting reports don't read like what you'd expect from a star of tomorrow, but neither did Samuel's. Or Tom Brady's.
I expected an offensive lineman or two, but I expected one in the first round. Offensive tackles Clint Oldenburg in the fifth and Corey Hilliard in the seventh probably don't have too much of a chance. One of them may displace Ryan O'Callaghan or Gene Mruczkowski, but more likely they'll end up on the practice squad or on another team. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of those picks acquired in 2008 to be used on a big-time offensive lineman.
Same with linebackers Justin Rogers (6th round) and Oscar Lua (7th). There's no doubt New England needs future linebackers, and stranger things have happened, but I haven't read anything to convince me these guys are anything more than third-stringers and special teamers.
Despite the success of Brady, it's hard to take a 6th- or 7th-round pick very seriously (sorry, 6thround). So, I don't see much of a future for cornerback Mike Richardson, running back Justise Hairston, or guard Mike Elgin. Most certainly, there are few players taken in these rounds that anyone is going to guarantee a bright NFL future.
Outside of Meriweather and possibly Brown, this draft isn't about the 2007 New England Patriots. Free agency was about the 2007 Patriots. This draft was about the 2008 Patriots. Almost opposite of this draft, New England has five picks in the first three rounds, and depending on the success of a couple west coast teams, they could be very high picks.
One more thing: What about Troy Brown?
Belichick says he expect Brown to have a role on this year's team. That could be anything.
Wide receiver? It's not looking good -- maybe fifth-string or emergency status. Kick or punt returner? Not if Welker (and Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk and whoever else is healthy). How about defensive back? Possibly, and probably Brown's best shot, especially with New England's recent history of fragility in that unit. If Brown survives the 53-man cut, this is probably his final season in a Patriots uniform.
Overall grade: B-