From 2001-2005, the Patriots had an incredible run of draft picks. (That doesn’t even include taking Tom Brady in the 6th round in 2000.) Those picks helped form the core of a team that captured three Super Bowls. Over the last few years, though, some of the bright young minds in that war room have moved on. (This story from April 2009 is required reading.) The last three drafts haven’t been as successful (though Julian Edelman in the 7th round last year was a great find). Last night the Patriots didn’t fill a need with Rutgers DB/ST Devin McCourty. (The reaction at Vince Wilfork’s party: “who?”) After taking corner Darius Butler in the 2nd round last year, did a pretty good pass defense really need another corner?
The trouble is that McCourty isn’t going to come screaming off the edge and tilt offense’s protection in his direction, opening things for pass rushers to make plays. He’s certainly not going to help bridge the gap at receiver, with Randy Moss a good possibility to be out the door after 2010. He’s also not going to give Tom Brady the security blanket a good tight end could over the middle. Point is, the Patriots entered last night with a plethora of needs. They left without the biggest ones addressed.
The coach’s decision to trade down twice before finally picking McCourty with the 27th selection in the first round last night gave the Patriots secondary its fifth rookie addition in the past three drafts. If any had shown the potential to make Pats fans forget Asante Samuel, the team would have opted last night to fill its other significant needs at linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver and running back. That Belichick felt the need to again try to shore up a secondary that was torched last season for more than 300 yards passing by five different quarterbacks instead was an indictment of the selections of cornerback Terrence Wheatley (second round) and Jonathan Wilhite (fourth) in 2008, Darius Butler and safety Patrick Chung in the second round last year and perhaps even the free agent signings of Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs.
The Jets, drafting two spots after the Patriots, scooped up a cornerback, Kyle Wilson from Boise State. (He returns kicks, too … see these 2008 stats. McCourty is a kick-blocking specialist, though – seven in his three years at Rutgers.)
When you compare Wilson to McCourty, the following draft pundits had Wilson higher: Scouts, Inc, Rick Gosselin, Mel Kiper, Sports Illustrated and Mike Mayock. [UPDATE: Kiper had Wilson over McCourty in his mock draft, but in this rating, had McCourty over Wilson.] Wilson has been steadily climbing the charts since an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl.
Peter King tweeted last night that the Jets have the best trio of cornerbacks in the league. (And they’ll need ‘em against a non-conference QB slate of Favre, Roethlisberger, Cutler, Schaub, Rodgers and Flacco.)
The curious New England selection reminded a Boston writer about the 1997 draft debacle when the Patriots took CB Chris Canty (bust, out of the league in four years) over Sam Madison (four Pro Bowls).