Best Draft Belongs To New England?

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 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?

Nobody’s sure…




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.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Brian Hartline Darius Butler Miami Dolphins New England Patriots NFL Draft Pat White Patrick Chung Patrick Turner Sean Smith Vontae Davis

  • Soup

    Check your fly, your bias is showing.

    The Pats secondary should be vastly improved from last year, both due to the signings of Bodden, Butler and Springs and due to the development of Wheatley and Wilhite (picks from last year). Chung wasn’t drafted out of need: if you recall, Harrison was injured yet again for the majority of last season and had James Sanders fill in admirably. The Pats also play in rotation, so Chung and Brace will sub in for Sanders and Wilfork respectively (don’t count out Brace playing as a DE either); Chung will likely see action on the first two downs helping in the box until he improves in coverage (after which he’ll start). Also count on Shawn Crable playing this year at OLB; he showed a lot of promise and could potentially have a breakout year. The offense returns largely intact, and Brady returns. Take the sixth ranked rushing team from last season and put Brady out there in place of Matt Cassel and you have what will likely prove to be an unstoppable offense (again) teamed up with a vastly improved defense.

    The question I have about the Dolphins is how do you work White into the wildcat? Does he replace Pennington on the outside or Brown under center? If he’s under center (and Pennington comes off the field), the WildCat becomes nothing more than an offense with a Vince Young type QB. If you split him out wide to replace Pennington, you force teams to respect the QB as a receiver but add no new surprises.

    Vontae Davis was drafted out of need, but he hasn’t yet proven himself on the NFL level, and as you point out the pundits have serious questions about his ability to do so.

    As it stands, the Patriots have better depth already on their roster. Many of the picks were developmental prospects who give them a solid insurance policy if many of their players leave next season (which is potentially uncapped). We’ll have to wait and see if it pans out, but Belichick’s strategy has won out for since about 2000.

    Also, don’t discount 6th and 7th round picks. Those rounds are where talent evaluators make their money (Brady and Cassel).

  • Rob H

    UM Dude, I think your bias is showing too….  This is a Dolphins site, there is nothing wrong with telling it how it is, which is what Brian did.

  • Brian Miller

    Soup:  First of all, I was very critical of the Phins draft.  I looked at this from a very unbiased perspective.  My point is that there are quite a few media darlings who are raving about the Pats draft and I think that is very biased.  The Pats made no huge picks that will impact their team this year.  They filled needs and holes which they should.  Is Miami’s draft better?  Not really but NE is a far cry from having the best draft this year.

  • Samdolphin

    Brian:  The draft does not, by itself determine how good of a team the Dolphins will field in 2009.  The Dolphins addressed some of their needs in the draft and did what I call a good Draft (B).  They could not do as well as NE because the Pats had more picks than the Dolphins.  The Dolphins did acquire some quality players in both FA acquisitions and UDFA and will probably acquire more after other teams start to cut back.  Some of the quality players are as follows.

    QB/RB/WR Pat White (23) D2a
    RB/ST Tony Kimble (23) UDFA
    FB/TE/ST Jared Bronson (25) UDFA
    WR/ST Brandon London 2yr (25) PS
    WR/ST Brian Hartline (23) D4
    WR/ST Patrick Turner (23) D3
    WR/ST Chris Williams (22) UDFA
    TE/ST John Nalbone (23) D5a
    C/G/ST Mark Lewis (24) UDFA
    C/G/ST Joe Berger (23) 5YR FA
    C/ST   Jake Grove (29) 6yr T ( Oak.)
    DT/ST Louis Ellis (23) UDFA
    OLB/DE/ST Orion Martin (24) UDFA
    DE/ST    Tony Mc Daniels (24) T (Jax.)
    DE/ST  Ryan Baker (24) UDFA
    LB/ST   George Tearrius (22) 1yr WFA  ( N.O.)
    LB/ST   Erik Walden  (24) 2yr WFA  (K. C.)
    LB/ST   William Kershaw (25) FA
    LB/ST   John Folsom (24) D7a
    LB/ST   Cameron Wake (27) FA
    CB/ST   Erik Green (27) UFA (Ariz.)
    CB/ST   Vontae Davis (21) D1
    CB/ST   Sean Smith  (22) D2b
    CB/ST   Nathan Jones (28) 6yr UFA 08 (Dal.)
    S / ST   Gibril Wilson (28) 5yr  FA 09
    S / ST   Tyrone Culver (26) 4yr FA 09
    S /ST    Chris Clemons (24)   D5b
    S / ST   Etan Kilmer  (26) 3yr FA 09

    Their are others that only TC will identify but I think all of these will make the team or at least the PS.

  • Brian Miller

    Actually Sam I disagree. While I know that the end result of any draft can’t be truly graded out until 3 years down the road, I do think you can look at a teams draft and compare them to another team pick for pick.  As I stated I tend to throw away the later picks unless someone drops because they tend to be, on paper, somewhat equal.  for lack of a better word.  I also don’t think that you can classify a draft good or bad based on off-season moves and FA signings.  It’s a draft and it’s actually as simple as that.  Nothing sugar coated and nothing added to it.  Position for position, starter/back-up, need/BPA.  Initial impressions based solely on that alone.

  • Samdolphin

    Brian:  I went back and read your assessments of the Dolphins Offense and Defense Pre-draft and it was very good.  I see why you are not a betting man.  Draft was 5 Os and 4 Ds so you lost if you had bet.  To me the draft is just one of the processes that a team goes through to establish this year’s team.  You are right we must wait for a least a couple of years to see just how all the processes have made your team.  Having said that, I already think that last year’s draft was a big sucess.  But we maybe could not have been so sucessful if they hadn’t kept turning over the stones and re-vamped the bottom of the roster all year long.  The Chad Pennington stone fell on us.

  • Brian Miller

    Sam:  i agree with you but also if I look at last years draft I think it’s easier to judge that draft on who was drafted.  Giving last year a grade of A is easy.  The Phins, the day after the draft was over, had 3 possible immediate starters in Long, Merling, and Langford.  Also a possible starter in Henne.

    Of course the draft is a compliment to the entire roster.  New and old.  It can’t be anything but.  However, what I refer to here is simply analyzing the drafted players and how they affect their teams this year as rookies.  Already the Pats have lost McKenzie for the year.  Does that make their draft worse?  
    These same people who say that NE’s draft was stellar this year will be saying that essentially NE will have another top draft pick next year when McKenzie returns.  The problem for me is that McKenzie was drafted this year so he is not part of next years class and I won’t consider that when I do next year analysis of their drafted rookies.
    There is way too much that goes into making a player the right fit for your team to hand out grades legitimately.  It’s safe to say in three or 4 years we can go back and hand it a grade based on how those players performed.  That’s why I simply analyze a teams draft for who they drafted vs. who they didn’t or who someone else did.  With consideration to the teams needs.