So embarrassing as this is to admit, I had enough time on my hands yesterday to go back through the Patriots' Belichick-era drafts and do a little exercise. I went back and scored each draft according to a simple system that numerically measured the contribution of each drafted player. I looked at each draft, picked out all the players who made even slightly significant contributions, and assigned them a number on a scale of 1 to 10, one being the smallest contribution and 10 the most. In this system 10 is a perennial Pro Bowler who ranks in the top 4-5 at his position, while 1 is a player who at least made the team and made some kind of contribution -- Bethel Johnson for me was somewhere between a 1 and a 2, for example. I made one exception for Brady, a transcendent Hall of Fame player whose worth is almost incalculable: he got 20 points in the system, while no one else got more than 10 (and Seymour was the only 10). A good number would be a 7 or an 8, which to me is an above-average perennial starter, with 8 representing occasional Pro Bowl level -- Matt Light being a good example. Obviously my numbers are going to be different than those of some others, and I won't go into all of them, but I'll make the obvious point that the best draft before 2009 was easily 2003, which to me rated like this: Ty Warren 8 Eugene Wilson 5 (I normally rated a solid starter at 6, being conservative here) Bethel Johnson 1 Dan Klecko 0 (again, being conservative) Asante Samuel 9 (I shaded some players up or down a point if they provided value above or below expectation) Dan Koppen 8 Kliff Kingsbury 0 Spencer Nead 0 Tully Banta-Cain 4 (I'm rating here TBC the draft choice, whose value to us capped out at a very good reserve rusher who had one excellent year in 2006; the 10-sack guy we had last year was technically a free agent acquisition) Ethan Kelley 0 You add that up and you get 35. Prior to '09, no other draft in the last 10 years rated much higher than mid-20s, with the low being the notorious Brandon Meriweather draft, in which his 7 points were the entire total. Now look at 2009. I gave the players two numbers, one where they are now and one where they might reasonably expect to be in a few years. I tried to be conservative and some who might yet be real contributors I gave no points at all just because of the unknown -- Brace being a good example: Patrick Chung 2 (7) Ron Brace 0 Darius Butler 5 (7) Sebastian Vollmer 8 (9) Brandon Tate 0 (6) Tyrone McKenzie 0 Rich Ohrnberger 0 George Bussey 0 Jake Ingram 3 (to me that's as high as a long-snapper can rate) Myron Pryor 2 (4) Julian Edelman 5 (7) Darryl Richard 0 A few notes: -- Vollmer to me is already an 8 and has an outside shot of being the second 10 of BB's drafts; after getting a franchise QB, drafting a 10-year left tackle (and low in the second round to boot) is about the best thing you can get out of a draft. -- Even if none of the players pans out beyond what we saw last season, this is already a contender for the second-best draft of BB's tenure, based mainly on getting a tackle, a fringe-solid starting corner in Butler, a core special-teamer in Ingram, and an above-average skill position player in Edelman. -- If Chung pans out like it looks like he will, and becomes even a merely average starting safety, 2009 is suddenly right up there with 2003 based on getting a star tackle and three regular contributors, plus Ingram. -- If, in addition to Chung, Tate pans out -- and right now he looks like the starting split end opposite Moss -- it'll be hard to argue that this wasn't the best draft of BB's tenure. Five good starting-level players in one draft is ridiculously rare, and if you throw in the fact that Pryor and perhaps McKenzie could develop into dependable reserves, you've got a real home-run, cornerstone-type draft. You add the value of Brian Hoyer to that group and it's a special class. And none of this factors in how absurdly good the draft would be if Ron Brace pans out as even a good backup d-lineman, an eminently realistic possibility. One draft like this can set up a team for years. The 2003 draft was really the foundation of 3-4 contending runs, in 2004, 2006 and 2007 for sure, and to a lesser extent 2003 (only Wilson and Koppen played big roles that year). And the wild thing is, the 2010 draft could be just as good. Just looking right now at the early returns, it looks a lot like the Pats may have gotten four long-term regulars in McCourty, Gronkowski, Spikes and Hernandez, plus a punter. Even if none of this year's late-round fliers pans out, even if Price and Cunningham are flops, they have a very good shot at two cornerstone drafts in a row. And they again have four picks in the top two rounds next year. I was a little bummed about the Pats' prospects headed into this summer, but the development of Chung and Tate and the play of the 2010 rookies (especially McCourty and Spikes, who to me look like special players) tells me that the Pats played the situation more or less correctly over the past few years: they sacrificed picks to acquire vets like Moss and Welker when they were close to a title, then took a step back after 2007 and 2008 and re-stocked the roster with new talent in preparation for the last 5-6 years of Brady's career. It would have been nice if they had hit on a few more of those high picks in the lean years (Crable, O'Connell, etc) but better late than never. Do I have this wrong, or are these past two drafts already contenders to unseat the 2003 draft as BB's best ever?