April 24, 2004
Patriots Draft Day Thoughts
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Back in the 1970s, the Patriots came up with all kinds of slogans to try and ignite hysteria among its fandom. "Together We Can Make It" comes to mind.
Fast Forward to 2004. Let's try "The New England Patriots-We're Smarter Than You" on for size. If you believe all of the experts, this team sees things other teams don't on draft day.
We'll see. The success of a team's draft can't be judged immediately. It takes a few years at the least.
Every year when I try to predict what positions the Patriots will address, I end up looking like a fool. Nostradamus, I'm not. This year, I thought the Patriots would go after help in the defensive secondary and at inside linebacker in the first round. File away my ineptitude so that next year, when I get up on my soapbox, you can kick me right off of it.
Strange things seem to happen every year in the first round. How did a talent like the University of Miami's Vince Wilfork fall into the team's lap at the twenty-first slot? If the reports are true, Wilfork will make us soon forget about the loss of big Ted Washington and his ability to eat up blockers in the trenches. According to Pro Football Weekly, Wilfork was the second highest rated defensive tackle in the draft and the thirteenth highest-rated player overall. He had 64 tackles, 11 ½ tackles for loss, and six sacks last year for the Hurricanes. Clearly, this selection was a case of the team seeing such amazing value on the board at this spot, it had to take Wilfork regardless of the its identified needs.
"The rich get richer," ESPN's Chris Mortenson said after the selection was announced. According to Pro Football Weekly, one of the only downsides to Wilfork is that he has short arms. We were warned about the same detriment a few years ago when the team surprised us and took a defensive tackle from Georgia. Richard Seymour hasn't worked out so bad, has he?
When Commissioner Taglibue announced "With the uhhhh 32nd pick, the New England Patriots select tight end Ben Watson of Georgia" dead silence overtook the auditorium as everyone asked "Now what are they thinking?" (More on the Commissioner's Wizard of Uhhhs later).
Drafting a tight end wasn't on any of our radar screens. Anybody who tells you that they thought the Pats were going to go for a tight end in the first round is either a big fat liar or is indeed Nostradamus. With Daniel Graham finally developing and Christian Fauria being so dependable in the red zone, I thought the Patriots were all set at this position. "Okay, now they've gone too far. I've wasted six hours of my life for this?" I sighed.
"Why not a guard, a cornerback, a linebacker, or a big receiver?" I asked my dog, Timber.
When Timber didn't offer any opinions of his own, I began to think "Okay, the Patriots did need a big receiver to complement their small receivers. So I suppose that if Player A is "very well-built with a rare combination of strength and speed," who cares if he is a receiver or a tight end?" No disrespect to Fred Baxter, but this is probably a major upgrade at the third tight end spot.
It's worth noting that Watson originally went to Duke on a football and academic scholarship before transferring to Georgia. He ranked very high on the Wonderlic intelligence test given earlier this year at the scouting combine. It's no accident that the three teams with the most college graduates in the NFL are the Colts, Panthers, and your Patriots. Chew on that for a minute.
Rounding out the first day, the team took LSU defensive end Marquise Hill and Florida safety Guss Scott. The close friendship of LSU coach Nick Saban and Belichick was at work again. Hill comes in at 6' 6" and 300 pounds. The Patriots must figure that Willie McGinest will start to show his age at some point and that Hill will, at the least, be an immediate upgrade over seldom-used veteran Rick Lyle. Scott was the third ranked strong safety in the draft. And if he develops, it may allow the team to move Eugene Wilson down to a corner spot in the event that L'affaire Law blows up in the team's face.
The second day brought North Carolina free safety Dexter Reid (fourth round, 113), Arkansas running back Cedric Cobbs (fourth round, 128), Florida State wide receiver P.K. Sam (fifth round, 164) and Illinois cornerback Christian Morton (seventh round, 233 and a college teammate of Eugene Wilson).
So how does all of this help the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title?
Who knows? Come November, will you still be able to name the top three teams that are mentioned in USA Today on Monday as "really upgrading themselves?"
The sick thing about the draft is that we can't turn it off. Somehow, it makes all of us believe that we could become Directors of Scouting for a NFL club if your boss ever wises up and lays you off. I wouldn't know Guss Scott if he came up and whacked me in the behind with a wet towel. Yet, there I was writing a few paragraphs ago that he might be the solution to the Ty Law fiasco. Who appointed me Scott Pioli's right hand man?
For one weekend every April, we're all experts.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wondering if the Patriots will do a hip hop remake of the 1985 Chicago Bears timeless hit, "The Super Bowl Shuffle?":
Let me set the scene for you: The lovely and talented-and yes, mother to be-Mrs. Rousseau comes home from a taxing twelve hour shift in the ER to find yours truly konked out on the couch watching hour nine of the draft. After shooting me "that look," she asks "Why can't all of these teams just work it out amongst themselves instead of wasting an entire weekend?" If you have an answer to that question that won't get me sleeping out in the garage, please drop me a line. I'm still stumped as to how to answer that one.
Chris Berman pointed out that Miami has no cold weather games this year. They play the Bills, Jets, and the Patriots on the road in the fall.
I laugh every time they show that old clip from the 1994 draft when then-Colts GM Bill Polian rhetorically asks an ESPN reporter "Just who the hell is Mel Kiper, Jr., anyway?"
Does Michael Irvin truly belong on the draft day panel? It's one thing to be outlandish. But if you are going to be outlandish, back it up with logic and fact, Mr. Irvin.
Which raises the question: Why isn't Tom Jackson involved in the draft coverage? Besides his silly outburst about the Patriots hating their coach last year, he has generally acquitted himself nicely on Sunday NFL Countdown.
While a high-priced Washington, D.C. attorney in his former life, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue must have taken diction lessons from Ted Kennedy on the "Wizard of Uhhhhhhs." (See above reference)
Did you notice the Bills just traded away yet another first round pick for a quarterback? Makes you wonder if they regret doing the same thing when they pulled the trigger on Drew Bledsoe two years ago. Over the last three drafts, the Bills have used their first round picks on Bledsoe, a running back who sat out his rookie year with a serious knee injury (Willis McGahee), and a backup quarterback of the future (J.P. Losman). Draft records like this get general managers fired, Mr. Donahoe.
While we're at it, the Dolphins had one pick on the first day of the draft. Miami's draft weekend slogan might be "Aimlessly Building Toward Above-Average Mediocrity."
That's it for this weekend. I would be happy to hear from you and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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