For every Tom Brady, there's a Ryan Claridge. The New England Patriots have been known throughout the league for their year in and year out success in running the draft. However, I want to see if the people directly responsible for the drafted players' growth- the positional coaches- really do have an effect upon how successful a player will be in the NFL.
The Patriots have been notorious for not drafting their own running backs, but instead have been content utilizing used product, regardless of how run the tread on their wheels. Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney are the only two running backs drafted by the Patriots that have had any effect this past decade, with Maroney being the only RB drafted since 2001. Is this fact due to the Patriots inability to groom running backs? Or is it because other running backs do just as well, if not better, than if we drafted them ourselves?
RB Coach – Ivan Fears (02-)
2002, 7th – Antwoine Womack (2002)
Stats: Never played. Out of Football.
Womack was drafted at the end of 2002 and spent his whole rookie season on the IR. He was released at the beginning of the 2003 pre-season. In the 2002 season, he sat behind Antowain Smith (FA who played for theBuffalo Bills), Kevin Faulk ('99, 2nd round, Patriots draft pick) and J.R. Redmond ('00, 3rd round, Patriots draft pick). In 2003, he was cut in favor of Smith, Faulk and Michael Cloud (FA who played for the Kansas City Chiefs). Womack was a late round pick who wasn't expected to have a large impact.
2004, 4th – Cedric Cobbs (2004-05)
Stats: 25 atts, 59 yards, 0 TDs. Out of Football.
Cobbs played in 3 games for the Patriots, but mainly in a 2004 Week 13 blowout against theCleveland Browns. He ran 16 times for 29 yards (not very impressive). Cobbs was cut after being injured in 2005- and was generally injury maligned during his time at New England. In 2004, he was behind Rabih Abdullah (special teamer, former Chicago Bears), Faulk and Corey Dillon (former Cincinnati Bengal, acquired for a 2nd round draft pick). In 2005, the Patriots went with just Faulk and Dillon, although they DID sign Heath Evans in the middle of the season.
2006, 1st – Laurence Maroney (2006-)
Stats: 582 atts, 2430 yards, 21 TDs. Rotational RB for the New England Patriots
Maroney has had the most success out of all the decade's draftees. In 2006, he provided a formidable committee with Dillon, Faulk and Evans. Maroney is still a part of our committee, but no one knows for how much longer. Like every other back who has been drafted, Maroney has been injured in every single season on the roster. When Maroney was drafted I don't know if we were planning on gravitating towards a committee back system, but his performance and injuries have definitely pushed us down the RBBC path. Maroney was most likely expected to take the reigns from Corey Dillon, but was unable to fill his shoes.
2007, 6th – Justise Hairston (2007 offseason)
Stats: Never played.
Hairston was drafted, injured and released all prior to the 2007 season starting. He didn't have any real career with the Patriots.
The Patriots have yet to draft an early round RB since Maroney and the constant injuries are a good enough reason why not to invest a high draft pick. Our committee is constructed to prevent injuries from derailing our running game. While that may prevent us from ever having a star like Chris Johnson or Ray Rice, it allows us have a running game regardless of the health of any one running back.
Due to our ability to continue to pick up quality players who fill the role, we haven't had a real need to develop a back. Also, constant injuries to our draft picks have cost those players roster spots to free agent pick-ups who remained healthy. RB Coach Ivan Fears has done a stand out job with the running backs on the roster, always doing the best with what he's given. He may not create fantastic players, but he helps the players know their roles and fulfill their duties the fullest.
I don't see a turnover with Fears anytime soon, nor do I see us utilizing an early draft pick on a running back to allow Fears to groom a player. With Maroney being the only player drafted to see the field, he has been a reasonable success. While he may not have be deemed worthy of a first round pick, he hasn't been a bust. We can't really evaluate Fears as a talent developer, but he has done a darn good job as a talent maximizer.
Players drafted: 4
# Coach T/Os: 0
Players with playing experience: 1
Players considered a success: 1
Success Rate of Draft Picks: 25%
Success Rate of Players who See the Field: 100%