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New England Patriots Drafted Players Development: Offensive Line

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 since 2001. 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.

Our offensive line has been one of the most solid lines in the NFL for the whole decade, largely in part of the coach- Dante Scarneccia. Scar has been around since the beginning of time and he has made offensive linemen great. He has proven himself at the beginning of the decade, with Matt Light and Dan Koppen, at the middle of the decade with Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur and more recently with Sebastian Vollmer. With the players who were drafted at the beginning of the decade starting to slow down, it's up to Scarneccia to start grooming our future O-Line. Will he be able?

O-Line Coach – Dante Scarneccia (01-)

2001, 2nd – Matt Light OT (2001-)

Stats: Current Starter for the New England Patriots.

Light started 12 out of the 14 games he played as a rookie and was a starter in the Super Bowl. Talk about immediate dividends. Light has been the rock on our offensive line for the whole decade and his contract is up after this season. Who knows if the Patriots will re-sign him. All that is known is that Matt Light has been one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL for this entire decade.

 

2001, 4th – Kenyatta Jones OT (2001-03)

Stats: Started 11 games for the New England Patriots. Out of Football.

Jones didn't have immediate success like Light, but we was the starting tackle in 2002. Unfortunately, that season was cut short due to an injury. He started the 2003 season on the PUP list and, after attempting to prank his roommate by pouring extremely hot water on him, was kicked off the team. He went on to start a couple more games for the Washington Redskins. Who knows how successful he'd become if he hadn't decided to "prank" someone. Perhaps he could have grown from his successful 2002 campaign.

 

Due to the quantity of linemen, the rest of the linemen are after the jump!

 

2003, 5th – Dan Koppen C (2003-)

Stats: Current Starter for the New England Patriots.

Koppen was drafted with the intention of sitting behind long time starter Damien Woody (who was also drafted and was a big success, but was before 2001). However, due to a knee injury to Woody, Koppen was thrust into a starting role much earlier than expected- and even had to start in the Super Bowl. After that Super Bowl win, Woody went elsewhere and Koppen has been our center ever since. This past season wasn't his best and, as insurance, the Patriots drafted Ted Larsen in this past draft's 6th round. While Koppen still has a few more years as a Patriots, it's unknown if he'll stick around for another contract, or if he'll go the way of Woody.

 

2005, 1stLogan Mankins OG (2005-)

Stats: Current Starter for the New England Patriots.

In the wake of Joe Andruzzi's leaving in free agency, the Patriots drafted Mankins and thrust him into the starting role from week 1. He has started every game in his career. That's 80/80 games. That means he hasn't missed a single game. He's a Pro Bowl guard who is in the midst of a contract dispute. He needs to be resigned for another half decade.

 

2005, 3rd – Nick Kaczur OT (2005-)

Stats: Started for New England Patriots, currently second-string tackle.

While Kaczur may have fallen out of grace with the fans, as of late, he hasn't performed any worse than Matt Light on the opposite side of the offensive line- it's just that Vollmer has done better than both. Due to a Matt Light injury in 2005, Kaczur started most of the season at LT (surprise, right?), but was injured in the 2006 training camp so he was prevented from grabbing either starting tackle job. Regardless, with his return, he has held the starting RT position since midway through the 2006 season...until Vollmer emerged.


 

2006, 5th – Ryan O’Callaghan OT (2006-08)

Stats: Current Starting Right Tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Talk about continuing to get immediate success from the rookies. O'Callaghan started 6 games as a rookie and was a reliable back-up for the next season, after Kaczur's return. However, an injury plagued 2008 season led the Patriots to be cut before the 2009 season- where he was quickly scooped up by the Chiefs and inserted into a starting role.

 

2006, 6thDan Stevenson OG (2006)

Stats: Never played.

Stevenson was drafted late and was the first draftee to have 0 success in the NFL. He was put on the practice squad as a rookie, but was cut after the first 8 games of the season. He hasn't played a down in the NFL.

 

2007, 5thClint Oldenburg OT (2007)

Stats: Current last-string tackle for the Washington Redskins.

Much like Stevenson, Oldenburg never had success. He was cut by the Patriots at training camp. 


 

2007, 6thCorey Hilliard OT (2007)

Stats: Current second-string tackle for the Detroit Lions.

 Identical situation as Oldenburg- cut during training camp.


 

2007, 7thMike Elgin OG (2007)

Stats: Never played.

Same as the above players- cut during training camp.


 

2009, 2nd – Sebastian Vollmer OT (2009-)

Stats: Current Starter for the New England Patriots

Vollmer emerged last year as the newest potential starter on our O-Line; I think he'll be replacing Kaczur for this season. Vollmer was a great surprise because he was considered a large project and slightly overdrafted by the Patriots. He was easily one of the top 2 rookie OTs in the NFL this past year and should look to continue that success next season.

 

2009, 4thRich Ohrnberger OG (2009-)

Stats: Used for 6 snaps his rookie year.

Buried in a depth chart behind Mankins, undrafted

Stephen Neal, and recently acquired Veteran Dan Connolly.

 

2009, 5thGeorge Bussey OG (2009-)

Stats: Did not play his rookie year.

Sat on the IR.

 

2010, 6th – Ted Larsen C (2010-)

Stats: TBD

 

2010, 7thThomas Welch OT (2010-)

Stats: TBD

 

The first 6 picks of the decade all were starters at some point in their career. The next 4 never played a down in the NFL. The next batch includes Vollmer and all the other young players who are too young to judge, but it appears as if they have promise. What's up with that odd 4 in a row? The answer: Fantastic previous drafts. If so many players have exceeded expectations and performed well as starters, why be worried if these players never developed into good players? I'd be more worried about why we utilized draft picks on players on a clearly overcrowded situation instead of looking in some other direction (perhaps upgrading our running back committee with some late round picks?).

It's clear that Scarneccia knows what he's doing when developing young players. I'm assuming that he has a hand in the drafting process and can give input on which players are easiest to mold into future great Patriot linemen. I think that Larsen and Vollmer have the greatest chance out of the past two drafts of becoming starters in the next two years.

Only 1 player, before 2009, who was drafted in the 5th round, or earlier, did not become a starter. That was Clint Oldenburg in 2007, when the Patriots had some scary offensive line success until the Super Bowl.

The Patriots aren't really willing to groom a player that doesn't show promise. If a player doesn't do well, they'll most likely be cut. If Bussey doesn't recover well from his injury, look for him to be one of the first cuts. Thomas Welch will most likely get a practice squad slot, but he'll have to push to the top as early as possible or he'll be cut as well.

 

Players drafted: 15

# Coach T/Os: 0

Players with playing experience: 7

Players considered a success: 6 (not calling Jones a success due to his short career)

Success Rate of Draft Picks: 46% (not counting Welch or Larsen)

Success Rate of Players who See the Field: 86%