Should the end of the title be a question mark or an exclamation point? Many draft pundits including one on Fox sports believes that the New England Patriots were the best team in the 2009 NFL Draft. In fact, some have gone so far to say that the team improved by so much that only LB is left as a need and that the team should easily compete for another Super Bowl run next season and is set for years to come after that. Beleive what you want, think what you want, but I really don’t see much difference between the draft by the Miami Dolphins and that of that Cheatriots Patriots.
I will be the first to admit that I have been critical, o.k. overly critical of the Dolphins draft this year. I also admit that I really don’t “get” some of their picks. I don’t think that any team however should be ranked on their entire drafts either. Meaning, why should anyone give kudos to who was drafted in rounds 6 and 7 unless that person was a steal who fell from the top? They shouldn’t. All things considered, at that point, everyone is darn near even.
Here is what one writer on FoxSports.com had to say regarding the Patriots, ranked number 1, and the Dolphins ranked number 10.
1. New England Patriots
What happens when an 11-win team adds a healthy Tom Brady, Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs, one of the best cornerbacks in the draft (Darius Butler), and one of the best safeties in the draft (Patrick Chung)?
You get a team fighting to add a fourth Super Bowl ring to Brady’s hand, that’s what.
It’s amazing how the Patriots have re-tooled. They’re a pass-rushing linebacker away from being really, really scary right now.
10. Miami Dolphins
Vontae Davis and Pat White are both extremely talented, but nobody’s really sure if either is going to pan out in the NFL.
Davis apparently already believes he’s the best cornerback in Miami history and has developed a reputation for ignoring his coaches.
White is a supremely talented football player without a position. Can he play QB in the NFL? WR? RB? None of the above? All of the above?
Hmmmm, maybe we should take a closer look…especially from someone as critical as I was over the draft.
First Picks: Vontae’ Davis (Miami) vs. Darrius Butler (Patrick Chung): Did the drafting of Chung make the Patriots a better team? Answer: No. Did the drafting of Davis make Miami a better team? Answer: Yes.
Explanation: New England’s Rodney Harrison is on his way out so the drafting of Chung was need. If Harrison is gone, it is hard to believe that Chung will be anywhere near as good as Harrison has been. Not in his first year, not in his 2nd year. Maybe he starts to show more Harrison consistency in year 3. Was it a bad pick? Not really but it surely doesn’t make the Patriots a Super Bowl contender, or for that matter a playoff contender in and of itself. For the Dolphins however, the drafting of Davis was also a pick for need. Unlike Chung who will be replacing or possibly replacing a starter, Davis isn’t replacing anyone. The Phins needed a CB opposite Will Allen and Davis will compete immediately with Eric Green and Jason Allen for the starting job.
Winner - while of course long term success can not be judged by any means, the Dolphins are likely to get as much from Davis in the short term vs. what they had last year or on the roster now that what the Patriots will get out of Chung compared to Rodney Harrison. Either way, both teams filled a need spot for their future.
2nd Picks: Pat White (Miami) vs. Darrius Butler (NE): Did New England get better by drafting Butler? Answer: Yes. Will Pat White make Miami better? Answer: Yes.
Explanation: The Patriots will pit Butler against Leigh Bodden their free agent CB signing from this off-season. On the other side, Shawn Springs should have that position locked down. Vontae’ Davis will compete against Eric Green. Butler against Bodden. While the future of both players looks strong, Butler may not see the field as quickly as Davis. Still, Butler should adapt quickly and give the Patriots some much needed depth which will help their team. Pat White is a question mark. His success depends on how he is used. As a QB, White will not likely help the Phins this year, but as a WC QB/RB/WR White could potentially be a standout in the East as well as the entire NFL. The Dolphins will use White to run their WC formations and will build the WC/Spread offense around the talents of White who is far better suited to run that style of offense than Ronnie Brown.
Winner: For the short term, the Dolphins. White should be able to give the offense a much needed jolt of electricity while Butler will be competing for a job…which will make him better in the long term. White may suffer long term if the WC/Spread offense fails in the NFL.
3rd Picks: Sean Smith (Miami) vs. Ron Brace (NE) Do either make their teams better? No.
Explanation: Ron Brace was drafted by the Patriots to be the under-study of Vince Willfork who is likely to be gone after next season VIA free agency. Which means that while his upside is tremendous, he likely will not come in and make a major impact his rookie year and unless he is stellar in his soph year, he won’t equal the production of Willfork for a few years at best. For Miami Smith is a roaming Safety that will see playing time in the nickle and dime packages. He won’t beat out Gibril Wilson or Yeremiah Bell who were both signed this off-season. Smith however will have the time, like Brace to develop at the NFL level.
Winner: Both. Each pick represents needed depth at their respective positions and both players will not likely start in their rookie campaigns. However each team addressed a foundation player for their future and that is just as important.
4th Picks: Patrick Turner (Miami) vs. Sebastian Vollmer (NE): Will either make their teams better? Answer: No.
Explanation: Both players could be considered risky, developmental, and reach players. Turner was taken in the 3rd round with the Dolphins first pick while Vollmer was taken in round 2 with the Patriots 4th 2nd round pick. Vollmer is a 6’7″ monster offensive tackle, but the problem is that until his senior year in college, he was a TE. Vollmer has a long way to go before he is a LT in this league and has some work to do to become a solid RT. Vollmer will be a raw back-up while the Patriots work on developing his skills. He has potential but that potential will not likely be seen in the next year or two.
For the Dolphins, Turner is a big physical receiver that like Vollmer had really only one solid year at his current position. Turner wasted 3 years at USC until breaking out in his 4th. Many believe that the Phins reached for this pick and I still feel they did as well. Turner may someday develop into a solid WR but the Dolphins won’t likely get that kind of production for a year or two.
Winner: Neither the Patriots or the Dolphins improved their starting rosters or their teams with these picks. In the future both players may be contributors or starters but for now they need to learn what the NFL is about and both will have their share of struggling.
Picks 5: Brian Hartline (Miami) vs. Brandon Tate (NE). Will they make their teams better? Answer: Miami…maybe.
Explanation: Tate is one of the pure offensive talents from this years draft. A return specialist with tremendous skills who can take it the distance every time he touches the ball. He is also a top WR prospect who could exploede in the New England offense. However, Tate is coming off a major ACL repair and likely will not be ready for this season. The Patriots will have to wait and hope that he can return from the injury. A risky selection in the 3rd round with a lot of upside but a lot questions as well surrounding his knee. For the Dolphins the selection of Brian Hartline raised more than eyebrows but also brought into question where the genius Bill Parcells was at.
Hartline will not likely contribute on offense as a WR but could see more action this year than Dolphins 3rd round pick Patrick Turner. Hartline excels on special teams and he should make a niche’ on the team as a gunner on kick-offs and punts. He simply likes to hit people.
Winner: The Dolphins win on this one for two reasons. One, the player they selected does not come with a serious injury concern that could keep the player sidelined through the start of the season and two, the Dolphins should get ST production from Hartline. If Tate recovers fully however, all bets are off. Hartline is a reach no matter which way you look at it in round 4 but Tate is a bigger reach in round 3 given his injury.
After round 4 the picks that each team made were for need and raised some eyebrows, like the selection of John Nalbone the big Monmouth TE by Miami. Not likely to contribute right away, Nalbone has the chance to develop. Chris Clemons in round 6 stands out because he is already receiving accolades from the media from his mini-camp performance. Clemons could be the Dolphins steal in this years draft and will push Will Allen by years end for the starting job. Clemons should replace him in the 2010 season.
In NE the drafting of OLB Tyrone McKenzie in round 3 stands as a need pick and the Patriots got a guy who could back-up the other LB’s and maybe become the SAM backer in the future. For now, he will be a depth product awaiting development and isn’t likely to challenge for a starting roll.
All in all, both teams did uniquely well but neither team did enough to warrant being ranked in the top 5 of the draft and probably not in the top 10. The picks of Davis, White, Smith, Hartline, and Clemons by the Dolphins should give the Phins 5 solid contributors this year in some way with Davis, White, and Smith the possible early stars of the draft. In NE, Butler and Chung should help their team this year but both will be hard pressed to outperform the veterans they are replacing or competing against. Ron Brace is a very solid prospect but will have a depth roll this year. The rest of the Patriots were early mid-round selections to fill depth spots rather than starting rolls.
Grades: Both teams really don’t rate more than a “B” but after the season is over, the Dolphins may find more production from the class than the Patriots. If that production is positive it will put those rookies a year ahead of the rookies in New England.
The Patriots draft will be remembered more for the trading frenzy that Bill Belichick went on during the draft. Trading out of the first round, having 4 picks in round 2, gaining two extra 2nd rounders next year. What it will produce will have to wait a few years before it can be realized. For now, only Butler and Chung stand to be close to immediate producing rookies.