After weeks of voting, one player has done what he was never able to do as a player: dominate the competition. That player is Ras-I Dowling. Dowling was was voted as the biggest bust of the Bill Belichick era during our Pats Madness tournament over the last one-and-a-half months, earning the title by barely beating Chad Jackson: combining the online and Twitter votes, we had more than 1,200 votes, and Dowling won by just 10.
Jackson was my favorite to win the tournament from the start, because he is a cautionary tale in falling in love with an athletic freak who didn’t have a ton of production in college. After three years, and one dominant season at Florida, he left for the NFL in 2006, and proceeded to light the combine on fire. Jackson posted the second fastest 40-time of the entire combine, the best shuttle time for a receiver, and the second best three-cone drill. Throw in the fact that he had the fourth best vertical jump among wideouts and the eight longest broad jump.
Dowling ended up having a heck of a combine as well, though, boosting his draft stock. He ran a 4.40 40-yard-dash, which was sixth best for cornerbacks in 2011, and did 19 reps on the bench, which was also sixth among his position group. He was the third tallest corner in the draft, presenting some serious upside and size that the Patriots desperately needed at the position. Dowling was a guy with elite size and athleticism for the position, which prompted the Patriots to take him with the 33rd overall pick.
Being the first selection in the second round makes that pick one of the most valuable the Patriots have ever had. The entire league had all night to think about who would be available, and Bill Belichick had all night to try to move the pick. He instead went with Dowling. One of the major concerns with him was that he was often injured, and actually hurt his hamstring at the combine running the 40. That would be a precursor for the rest of his career, as just couldn’t stay healthy: he would play in just nine games for the Patriots, making 10 total tackles in his two-year career with the team.
The 2011 Patriots team would obviously ended up in the Super Bowl, but got there despite its defense. Julian Edelman would play slot corner, while Sterling Moore and Kyle Arrington would all log serious minutes at the corner position. Having a big corner to plug in might have helped that team, but Dowling simply could not provide that. He was cut by the Patriots before the 2013 season, and would end up playing three games for the Raiders in 2014, and even ended up on the Panthers’ practice squad when they went to the Super Bowl in 2015 before being out of the league for good.
Now, if the Patriots had hit on Dowling, they probably would not have traded for Aqib Talib in 2012, which means they also may not have felt the need to sign both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner before the 2014 season. That might be a bit of a leap, but, it did all end up working out in the end for the Patriots, even though the Dowling pick was obviously a waste. Likewise, if Jackson pans out, do the Patriots trade for Randy Moss and Wes Welker the following offseason? Whatever the outcome, Bill Belichick missed like he had never missed when he took Ras-I Dowling and Chad Jackson.
Let’s hope that no one he selects this weekend ends up in this discussion, whenever it’s had again. Of course, the Patriots are better at drafting than a lot of people think, so the chances of them ending up with another Dowling or Jackson this year appear to be slim.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and, of course, voting. Hopefully you enjoyed this year’s version of Pats Madness as much as we did making it!