New England Patriots: Revisiting and Grading the Draft: 2011

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December 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive back Ras-I Dowling (36) during the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Bills 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

2nd Round #33 overall: cornerback Ras-I Dowling


There are misses in the draft and then there are terrible misses. With the first pick of the second round (and second day of the draft) the New England Patriots were busy fielding phone calls from teams looking to move up in the NFL Draft in 2011. With an entire day to weigh options and Bill Belichick’s ability to turn draft picks into value, a trade down was expected. So–of course–the Patriots did the unexpected and kept the pick.


With the pick the Patriots drafted who they thought was going to be their cornerback for the future. Ras-I Dowling was tall, long, strong, and fast. He was the prototype cornerback (six-foot-one and 210 pounds and ran a 4.40 40-yard dash) who dropped to the top of the second round only because of injury concerns while at Virginia. If Dowling could get over his health issues (like Rob Gronkowski was able to do) then the drafting of Dowling had the potential to be a top ten talent at a discount rate.


After missing most of training camp as a rookie, Dowling was a surprise starter in week one and had a strong game against Miami allowing just two completions on six targets. In week two against San Diego he went down with a hip injury. After a month of recovery he was ruled out for the season and underwent surgery. In 2012 Dowling had lost his starting job and was coming off the bench before a thigh injury ended his season in October.


In 2013 Dowling was surprisingly waived before the start of the season as another injury in training camp kept him off the field and the Patriots went with rookie Logan Ryan and second year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard going into the season.  Dowling eventually caught on with the Jets on their practice squad and then in 2014 he was cut at the end of training camp and ended up on the Oakland Raiders’ practice squad before being activated for the last three games of the season.


Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard (97) against Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 23-13. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports


As far as swings and misses in the draft go, there were few as such a spectacular failure as Dowling. Forget the quarterbacks taken after Dowling was at #33 overall (Andy Dalton at #35 and Colin Kaepernick at #36) but a current Patriots free agent signing (Jabaal Sheard #37 overall) could have been in New England all along. Perhaps former Patriots trade target Akeem Ayers (#39 overall) would have been a fit from day one. Denver got safety Rahim Moore at #45 overall and tackle/guard Orlando Franklin at #46 overall.



The only thing that saved Dowling from being an “F” is that the Patriots at least got nine games out of the oft-injured cornerback. Green Bay took washout offensive lineman Derek Sherrod and got one start in four years out of the #32 overall pick in the first round; Arizona took running back Ryan Williams at #38 overall and got just five games from him; and Indianapolis struck out on #49 overall pick offensive lineman Ben Ijalana. With Dowling a second round pick, it leapfrogs him just over Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder (the three top-12 overall pick quarterbacks who flamed out).


Next: 2nd Round Continued