Oh no! The Patriots just lost another cornerback! Now opposing receivers are going to be wide open and make a ton of big pla...
You know what? Nevermind. This isn't that big a deal.
But it does raise a question. With Ras-I Dowling headed to IR - again - and the Patriots left woefully thin at defensive back - again - I can't help but wonder if it's too early to place Dowling among what is really becoming an incredibly crowded backfield of Belichick cornerback draft busts.
I'm going to overlook the fact that I had never heard of Dowling before April of 2011. I'm also going to overlook his injury-riddled college career and his red-shirt rookie season. Hell, I'll even overlook his meteoric plummet down the depth chart and the time he lost to Sterling Moore, who (while he has been decent for New England) couldn't even find a spot on Oakland's practice squad. What I can't overlook, though, is where this team drafted him in relation to his total lack of production thus far in his career.
New England selected Dowling with the 33rd pick of the 2010 Draft, a pick made even more valuable by a change in formatting which gave the 1st round its own day and started everyone fresh with Round 2 the next. This new format allowed teams ample time to reassess the first round, re-set their draft boards, and come back to the later rounds with a more soild idea with what they were looking to get out of Day 2. New England, having swapped draft picks with the Carolina Panthers the year before, was sitting pretty with the first pick of the day, several other picks in that and the later rounds, and completely in the drivers seat in terms of controlling the draft board and setting themselves up for both 2011 and beyond. I, like most people, thought that the Patriots would trade that 33rd pick for a 2012 1st rounder and maybe a later 2011 pick, or at the very least take one of the stud pass rushers still on the board. However, as usual, Belichick zigged while everyone else zagged, and Dowling became the first player off the board that day. Two years later, and we're all still waiting to see what he's capable of.
I'm not going to sit here and list all of the players that were still on the board that the Patriots could have had at 33; I find that kind of 20/20 hindsight completely pointless and nobody really knows whether or not a player will be able to hack it in the NFL out of college. But for a team that was known to trade up and down the draft board at will and acquire solid value while stockpiling future draft picks, that they selected an injury-prone cornerback who has yet to play a full season since 2008 with one of the most valuable picks of the 2011 draft is about as un-Belichickian as it gets. There have been busts in the past, of course, but this one is decidedly different. Belichick had a full 24 hours to sit on this pick. I'm sure he had offers coming in left and right for it. There were plenty of options as to what he could do. He opted to forgo all of those and take a corner who has thus far accomplished only slightly more than me so far in his NFL career.
I don't think that it's time to officially label Dowling a bust. I'm going to give him one more season. But I will say that if Dowling goes the way of Darius Butler, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite, Shawn Crable, and Tyrone McKenzie, I won't think twice about labeling him one of the biggest busts of Belichick's coaching tenure.
Does anyone know if Troy Brown is still available?