April 26, 2003
Wacky Draft Alters Patriotic Strategy
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
FOXBOROUGH -- The Cardinals last won an NFL title in 1947.
And it's days like Saturday which will prove why Arizona will probably have to wait another 56 years for their next one.
Everyone thinks Cincinnati is the worst organization in the NFL, and that Mike Brown is no better an owner than Mel Kiper's barber is at hairstyles. But the Cardinals, led by their unique owner, Bill (here's the real ThanksDad, everyone) Bidwill and his band of football quacks, outdid the Bengals in terms of draft illogic at the 2003 NFL Draft. And it's not the first time that the Cardinals have had head scratching drafts. This is merely the latest in a long line of bringing in average players to fill gaping needs.
This year, it's not so much about drafting average players as it is literally screwing up the entire draft. By trading down at the six position, all the while passing on local product Terrell Suggs, they allowed New Orleans to select Georgia defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, and literally destroy everyone's draft boards out there, both professional as well as lay. One team impacted by this questionable wisdom was the Patriots, who saw their hopes in landing the tackle of their dreams evaporate in a cloud of trade-ups by other teams and lousy breaks based on stupidity.
The Patriots watched as Kentucky's Dewayne Robertson, their most coveted player, was taken at four by the Jets, who traded up to that position on Friday with Chicago. This was no surprise, and Patriot Nation wondered if Bill Belichick could possibly snatch Sullivan at perhaps the ten slot (Baltimore).
But Arizona turned down a chance to take Suggs, who played his college ball in the same stadium the Cards play in, and was a perfect fit for that team. They instead traded down with New Orleans, settling in on the 18th and 19th picks. Jim Haslett then selected Sullivan, who really wasn't supposed to go until the 10-15 range.
Sullivan was Richard Seymour's linemate at Georgia, and was considered the perfect fit if the Patriots couldn't trade up for Robertson. There existed the chance that the Patriots might either luck out with Sullivan falling to 14, or trading up just a few slots to get him. But Haslett shocked everyone by taking Sullivan so early, and greater Phoenix cursed Dave McGinnis for passing on Arizona State's Suggs, who wound up going at 10 to Baltimore.
By the 12th pick, Penn State's Jimmy Kennedy, the other "super stud" down lineman, was still on the board. The Rams figured to take Georgia LB Boss Bailey (brother of Champ) at 12, but the Rams bamboozled everyone and took Kennedy at 12. Chicago was next at 13, followed by the Patriots. Their top three jewels were all gone.
Then Chicago got nasty with the Patriots, and induced them to trade up one spot so they could take Texas A&M's Ty Warren, the next best DL out there. The Bears extorted a sixth round pick from the Pats, obviously part of a "trade up with us or we'll take Warren" scheme. Belichick likely had no choice, and handed the R6 to Da Bears. Thus Warren the Aggie became Warren the Patriot.
Warren, who claims former Aggie running back Curtis Dickey as his uncle, has great versatility and can play either a 3-4 or a 4-3. Belichick has been looking for a 2-gap tackle, and Warren can certainly fit that bill. He may not have the overall talent as Kennedy or Sullivan, but drafting Warren did hit the spot in terms of need for the Patriots.
Naysayers might criticize this pick as being "far below what could have been gotten". In reality, Belichick got the best player he could at the most needed position. Nobody figured Sullivan to go as high as he did, as several draft pundits have blasted Arizona for "screwing up the entire draft". The only thing Belichick might slightly be called upon would be for not beating the Jets to getting the four pick from Chicago (or possibly for not getting the two from Detroit). In reality, the Jets paid dearly for one single player with a great deal of pressure now squarely on his broad shoulders.
Belichick subsequently traded away the 19 pick to Baltimore for a second round this year and a first round next year. The Patriots took two players in round two, Illinois cornerback Eugene Wilson and Texas A&M wide receiver Bethel Johnson. The Patriots finished the day void of round three picks, and have five picks set for the final day (two fourths, a fifth, two sevenths).
Wilson was ranked the 5th best cornerback at ESPN, and 26th overall on Rich Gosselin's Top 100 list. He's small (5-10), but he excels in both zone and man-to-man coverages. His basic cornerback tools are good, as are his natural instincts. These instincts also engender a "negative", in that "things come too easily" (ESPN) to him and that he doesn't work hard enough at the game. ESPN goes further in saying that Wilson is not a "film junkie", something that film junkie Belichick may have to change.
Belichick made a few New England fans scratch their heads with the selection of Johnson. Staying once again away from tall wideouts (he's 5-11), Johnson is described by Belichick as having "great hands", and is ranked at 44 on Gosselin's top 100. ESPN had some scathing things to say about Johnson, calling him "dumb", "immature", "inconsistent", "sloppy" and "underachiever". He was not listed as one of ESPN's top ten at the wideout position.
The latter pick was the worst received of the three, but many panned the Deion Branch selection last year. Branch showed a great deal of upside in his rookie year, and the same may ring true for Johnson. Being a second round pick will naturally magnify any negatives Johnson may bring to the table, but all final judgments on this and any player are best left for when things happen for real in the fall.
Grading this draft (which should really wait until its conclusion on Sunday) will be tricky. On the one hand, Belichick really didn't get what he wanted. On the other hand, he got what he thought was the best at what he needed. These three positions are exactly what this column thought the first three draft picks should have addressed, though this kind of prediction wasn't all that hard to make.
Look at the bright side. Did Belichick blow or minds and pick three more tight ends?
Or picked another Christian Peter?
Or take too long to make a selection?
Now, go home and give me your mock for round four on Sunday.
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