New England Patriots: Revisiting and Grading the Draft: 2010

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Dec 28, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) runs the ball against New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

1st Round #27 overall: Devin McCourty, Defensive Back

The Patriots traded back twice in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft from their original spot at #22 overall. That pick went to Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos for #24 and a fourth round pick (#113 overall). Denver snagged Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas at that spot. At #24 the Patriots moved back again this time trading to #27 so the Dallas Cowboys could move up and snag troubled Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys added a third round draft pick (#90 overall) in exchange for New England’s fourth round draft pick (#119) to jump up three spots.


For the Patriots, as much as these two receivers would have helped in New England, Belichick was able to move down twice and still get his own All Pro receiving threat later in the draft. The Patriots needed to cash in and increase their own picks as they had already depleted the middle rounds. New England had already traded a third and fifth round draft pick for disappointing outside linebacker Derrick Burgess. The Patriots picked up a third round pick and moved up six spots in the fourth round by moving back five spots.


At #27 overall the Patriots made a pure “need” pick. The secondary was in shambles and the team was desperate for help at cornerback.  Safety Eric Berry (#5 overall to Kansas City), Joe Haden (#7 overall to Cleveland), safety Earl Thomas (#14 overall to Seattle), and cornerback Kareem Jackson (#20 overall to Houston) were already off the board. New England could have stayed put and grabbed McCourty but rolled the dice and were able to enhance their draft spot and still get McCourty.


McCourty was and All Pro as a rookie as he instantly became the best player in the secondary as Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite slid down the depth chart. McCourty struggled in 2011 as he allowed over 1,000 yards receiving in the regular season before shutting down Thomas and Denver in the playoffs, being ignored in the AFC Championship game (Joe Flacco picked on Sterling Moore, Patrick Chung, Julian Edelman–yes, playing slot cornerback–and Kyle Arrington) and then had an uneven performance in the Super Bowl covering Hakeem Nicks.


Oct 5, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) runs off the field following a win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium. New England Patriots defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 43-17. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012 McCourty was moved to safety after New England traded for Aqib Talib. It was not due to McCourty not playing well–McCourty was the second-highest ranked cornerbacker by at the time–but because the safety play with Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, and Patrick Chung was subpar. The three safeties were all best as a strong safety and have thrived in that role in New England, but none of them were able to play the deep centerfield role that McCourty has filled since.


In 2013 McCourty was an All Pro at free safety and in 2014 continued his strong play in the last year of his rookie deal. McCourty was paid handsomely by the Patriots this past off-season after receiving interest and more money from other franchises. Bill Belichick and the Patriots were willing to give a little more than they wanted to and McCourty was willing to take less than to move to another franchise and the Patriots were able to keep a key component to their success in the past half decade.



While it is possible to argue that New England should have stayed put and taken Thomas (maybe?) or Bryan (no!) to boost the offense, the Patriots made a solid pick. The next defensive backs off the board were New York Jets washout cornerback Kyle Wilson at #29 overall, inconsistent New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson at #32 overall, and former Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook at #34 overall.  McCourty has outperformed all of these cornerbacks (as well as Kareem Jackson).


In the spots between the Patriots trade down and where they picked McCourty, other than Thomas and Bryant went tackle Bryan Bulaga #23 to Green Bay, quarterback Tim Tebow to Denver at #25, and defensive tackle Dan Williams at #26 overall to Arizona. Bulaga–when healthy–has been solid but the Patriots did not have a need for tackle having invested a second round pick in 2009 on Sebastian Vollmer. Tebow…yeah, everyone knows that story. Williams is a solid run-stuffer, but again in 2009 the Patriots had used a second round pick on Ron Brace to be the nose tackle of the future.


After McCourty was off the board there were some solid picks such as Jared Odrick at #28 to Miami and busts like running back Jahvid Best at #30 to Detroit. Jerry Hughes was a bust in Indianapolis at #31 overall but revitalized himself in Buffalo. Tackle Rodger Saffold (#33 overall to St. Louis) was solid, defensive backs Nate Allen (#37 to Philadelphia) and T.J. Ward (#38 overall to Cleveland) were good picks, but defensive tackle Brian Price (#35 to Tampa Bay),  wide receiver Dexter McCluster (#36 to Kansas City), and wide receiver Arrelious Benn (#39 overall to Tampa Bay) were all less bang for the buck.



New England made two trades back and got a player who has been an All Pro player at two positions. They got the perfect player for their defense–and special teams–and was the consummate “Patriots player”.


Next: Round Two