New England Patriots: Revisiting and Grading the Draft: 2011

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Feb 2, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speaks during the Super Bowl XLIX-Winning Head Coach and MVP Press Conference at Media Center-Press Conference Room B. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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 continuing from the summer of 2013. The project started with a debate regarding the Patriots previous drafts under Belichick and how they stacked up against the rest of the NFL. This started with the grading of the 2013 draft  and then expanded to previous installments of the series looking at the previous drafts under Belichick. The previous seasons are found here: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004,2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen (34) celebrates after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As the Patriots are winding down free agency and the draft not until the end of April and beginning of 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 in 2013 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. In 2014, the series continued but again fell off as the offseason of Darrelle Revis turned attention to other matters. However, the immediate draft review for 2014 is here.


As fans and the team prepare for the 2015 NFL Draft in 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. Interestingly, as much as the Patriots are praised by draft gurus for wisely taking the best player available, it is clear they draft for need regularly–especially in the first two rounds.

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 most frustrating and disappointing finishes in the Belichick era: the 2011 NFL Draft.


Jan 28, 2014; New York, NY, USA; NFL former receiver Randy Moss at Fox Sports press conference at Empire East Ballroom at the Sheraton New York, Times Square in advance of Super Bowl XLVIII. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2010 NFL season washed away a season of transition in 2009 as the Patriots improved from 10-6 to 14-2. The season started with former first round draft pick running back Laurence Maroney sent to Denver with a sixth round draft pick for their fourth round pick. Then the Randy Moss saga took place where the veteran wide receiver pouted about not receiving a contract extension in the first quarter of the season and was shipped to Minnesota for their third round draft pick after week four. The Patriots had also dumped moody veteran linebacker Adalius Thomas and underperforming cornerback Shawn Springs.


With a improved locker room situation and a re-signed defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to a record contract, the Patriots were a happy unit. However, one key player was not happy: Left guard Logan Mankins held out half of the season before returning late in the season. But there was a  joyous reunion as former Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Deion Branch returned to New England via trade.


The Patriots committed just 10 turnovers on offense all season long while New England won 11 of their last 12 games to earn a bye and face their AFC East rivals the New York Jets in the Divisional Playoffs. Unfortunately, despite having defeated the Jets 45-3 just a month earlier, New England quarterback Tom Brady threw his first interception since week five on their first drive. A dropped touchdown pass by tight end Alge Crumpler on the next drive led to a 3-0 lead. However, the Jets added two unanswered touchdowns and the Patriots never recovered and their season ended with a 28-21 loss to the Jets.


After a second straight season ending with a disappointing loss, the Patriots needed to do some serious work to get through the AFC and back to the Super Bowl. The first step to making a change was to obtain some impact players to build for 2011 and beyond in the 2011 NFL Draft:

Misc Passing Rushing Receiving
Year Rnd Pick Pos To AP1 PB St CarAV G Cmp Att Yds TD Int Att Yds TD Rec Yds TD Int Sk College/Univ
2011 1 17 Nate Solder OL 2014 0 0 3 28 63 Colorado
2011 2 33 Ras-I Dowling DB 2014 0 0 0 1 12 Virginia
2011 2 56 Shane Vereen RB 2014 0 0 0 16 42 217 907 7 107 1023 7 California
2011 3 73 Stevan Ridley RB 2014 0 0 1 22 52 649 2817 22 23 146 0 LSU
2011 3 74 Ryan Mallett QB 2014 0 0 0 1 7 42 79 417 2 3 14 -11 0 Arkansas
2011 5 138 Marcus Cannon OL 2014 0 0 0 10 53 TCU
2011 5 159 Lee Smith TE 2014 0 0 2 1 56 20 144 3 Tennessee
2011 6 194 Markell Carter LB 2011 0 0 0 0 0 Central Arkansas
2011 7 219 Malcolm Williams DB 2012 0 0 0 0 4 TCU

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/29/2015.

Next: 1st Round