This is a multi-part review and grading of the previous drafts of the New England Patriots under head coach and lead front-office executive Bill Belichick which started with the grading of the 2013 draft (previous installments of the series are found here: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004,2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008). As the Patriots are preparing for free agency to kick off this week and the draft later in May, this period of time after the Super Bowl and before the meat of the off-season is often the only slow time in the NFL calendar.
I started this series last season before it was interrupted due to the shocking revelations in the Aaron Hernandez saga taking place. After that, it was Tim Tebow time and training camp had so many storylines that past drafts slipped to the wayside. As fans and the team prepare for the 2014 free agency next week and the NFL Draft in May (pushed back this year) it is a great opportunity to take the time to look back to the previous drafts of the New England Patriots in the Bill Belichick era and re-grade them with a clearer understanding of the drafted players impact upon the team.
As a note, these draft grades take into account the player’s impact while in New England weighed against the other players who were available in the draft at that time, as well as the strength of the draft as a whole that season. In addition, the position of the player taken in the draft is compared to the team’s need at that time, and it also takes into consideration how the player contributes to the team’s winning, whatever their role ended up being in New England. Below is the revisit and re-grading of the Bill Belichick draft that followed one of the strangest seasons in the Belichick era: the 2009 NFL Draft.
The 2008 season started with great promise. After the 2007 juggernaut fell one game short, the Patriots seemed intent on repeating and finishing the job. Unfortunately, in the first quarter of the opening weekend the Patriots season changed in a hurry. Quarterback Tom Brady suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of game one against Kansas City. He was lost for the year and replaced by a quarterback who had not started a game since high school in Matt Cassel. Somehow, New England rode veteran wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker on offense and a strong defense that worked through injuries to linebacker Tedy Bruschi and safety Rodney Harrison to carry the team to 11 victories. The Patriots missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker and headed into the 2009 needing to restock a defense that had grown old and was showing cracks since their last Super Bowl win after the 2004 season.