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Losing Eaton Caused Moribund Pats Draft

Bob George
Bob George on Twitter
22 years ago at 8:58 pm ET
Posted Under: 2001 Patriots Draft

FOXBOROUGH — Okay, I promise. If the Patriots win one of the next three or four Super Bowls, I will stand before you and condemn my ability to dare write about this team.

Right now, the only good thing going for this team is The Skeleton out there near North Street. Draft weekend has come and gone, and the Patriots blew it. They had a chance to score big this weekend, and they blew it.

Now, for the tricky part: They didn’t blow it this weekend. Not entirely, that is.

They blew it several weeks back when Chad Eaton signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. Once that happened, it took away any chance of Bill Belichick not drafting a defensive lineman with the top pick in the draft, no matter who was available at six. But Eaton went back to his home state, and the Pats were left with a gaping hole in the middle of their defensive line the size of Washington State.

It was clear that the Patriots had lots of needs to address at the 2001 NFL Draft. To attempt to fill every void with three picks on Saturday is not possible, and to condemn the Patriots for not doing so is not fair.

It is fair to condemn the team for not attempting to do so. In a hail of trade-downs and K-Mart thought processes, the Patriots gave themselves precious little to work with from the draft crop, unless Belichick is really good at weaving a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Ron Borges of the Globe slapped the Patriots’ wrist today by bringing up the Vonnie Holliday thing again (the DL the Pats passed on in ’98 in favor of Robert Edwards). Borges said that not drafting Holliday forced the team to “waste” its top pick on Richard Seymour of Georgia.

Right idea, wrong analogy.

The pick was wasted to replace Eaton. Had Eaton stayed put, there would have been no need to draft Seymour. Holliday never played a down for New England. Eaton was a fixture at nose tackle, a point driven home when teams ran up the Patriots’ gut during Eaton’s injury absence last year.

Wasted. Ugh. The all-important six pick. The most anticipated Patriot draft pick since Drew Bledsoe. Wasted. All that waiting for wasted? College students have no problem with waiting to get wasted. Works differently in pro football, I guess.

Calling Seymour a “waste” is not fair to this fine young man, who gave great interviews all weekend. He got up here in short order, introduced himself to Bob Kraft and the Patriot family, posed for publicity stills at The Skeleton, and was more than gracious to any reporter who wanted to talk to him.

But picking Seymour, however great he may yet become, was precipitated by general mismanagement. Passing on David Terrell may turn out to be a bigger blunder than passing on Holliday. The fact that Seymour is not a natural physical fit for the Patriot defense confounds things even further.

To make matters worse, the Patriots spent the rest of the draft trading down and grabbing guys you never heard of. Positions that don’t need stockpiling were addressed. Positions of need were ignored. Their next-to-last pick was on a kicker who was not projected to even be drafted. This is why everyone’s cranky right now.

Let’s slow down for a second and suss out Seymour before moving on to the rest of the Chris Canty and Ed Ellis wannabes.

Seymour is too tall and not heavy enough to play middle guard. He is not quick enough to play end. So why take Seymour at all?

Belichick gave a puzzling answer Saturday night on WCVB. He talked about him possibly playing tackle for a while, then moving him to end. He never really came out and used the words “nose tackle”.

This may shed some light on why Seymour was chosen. Because linebackers were generally ignored in the draft by the Patriots, it could be a sign that Belichick might switch to a 4-3 defense next year. If that be the case, then Seymour would be a better fit. He could concentrate on rushing the passer versus filling gaps for linebackers.

In this scenario, you could start with a core of Seymour, Bobby Hamilton, Henry Thomas (if he returns) and Willie McGinest. Belichick and Romeo Crennel are supposedly hoping that either Thomas or free agent Anthony Pleasant connect with Seymour and act as big brother figures, teaching him the pro game as he goes along. With a linebacker corps of Ted Johnson, Mike Vrabel, Andy Katzenmoyer and Tedi Bruschi as the core group here, Seymour would be a good fit.

So, fine. Hey, the Ravens won a Super Bowl with no offense. Know of any men other than Trent Dilfer who went from winning Super Bowl quarterback to being unemployed? The NFL is the new NBA. Defense uber alles.

In New England, the feeling was more like Terrell uber alles.

Let’s make this clear: Belichick drafted Seymour out of need, and the need was there. There is no debate as to this issue.

But was passing on Terrell worth covering your tail for losing Eaton?

A point was raised tonight on WBZ. Consider what Terry Glenn did for the Patriots in his rookie season of 1996. 90 receptions, 10 in one game. Pats go to the Super Bowl. What would Terrell have meant along those lines this year?

Many experts are comparing Terrell to Randy Moss, but many other experts caution against such a comparison. Rather, Terrell was merely perceived as a huge game-breaking threat, paired alongside another such player the Patriots already had.

1996 was the only season in which Glenn and Shawn Jefferson played together for a full season. Glenn was injured for much of the next three years. When finally healthy in 2000, Jefferson was an Atlanta Falcon. Troy Brown works better in the slot, and no other Patriot receiver can carry Jefferson’s jock at the wideout spot opposite Glenn.

Not that any fan should care personally, but Kraft might have wanted Terrell to help put fannies in those new Skeleton seats. Defense may win championships, but offense sells tickets. The defense may yet carry the day in Foxborough, but let’s hope soon enough before anyone starts sweating the cost of The Skeleton.

As for the rest of the draft, Patriot fans were left pretty much to wallow in their drinking spirits, and head to the websites of Joel Buchsbaum, ESPN or The Sporting News to find out who the hell these guys are. And scream at each other as to why the Patriots kept trading down.

At one point, the Patriots owned three fifth-round picks. That’s like saying you own three AMC Pacers. Now, before you go out and name every successful fifth-round draft choice in NFL history, think about what would have happened if a few of these low choices were packaged to trade up, God forbid.

The names roll off your tongue — period. Matt Light. Brock Williams. Kenyatta Jones. The other Kenyatta, folks, and not the big one. Jabari Holloway. Hakim Akbar. Arther Love. Leonard Myers. Owen Pochman. T.J. Turner.

Michael Felger of the Herald had a great take on Light tonight on WBZ. He said that “if Light makes the club, then the 2000 draft was a waste…what are we to think of Adrian Klemm and Greg Robinson-Randall if Light makes this team?” Actually, Light projects out as a guard, so the Patriots took perhaps the heir apparent to Max Lane. With a second round pick.

Unless he wins a starting spot. Then one of the free agent signings (Mike Compton, Joe Panos) this spring was a waste.

Williams got busted for drunk driving at Notre Dame. Jones’ description by Buchsbaum paints this guy as the next Ed Ellis. Akbar was hailed as a “steal”, and is touted as the next Lawyer Milloy — whoops, he already is a Patriot. Holloway and Love perhaps spell the end of the line for Rod Rutledge and perhaps Chris Eitzmann. Myers? Heck, you can never have enough cornerbacks, I always say. Is Pochman the kickoff man of Belichick’s dreams? If Turner turns out to be the next Marty Moore, then call this draft a success.

Of course, all these guys can go into Smithfield, play their hearts out, win jobs, and get the Patriot ship righted again. And all this whining we’re all doing right now turns out to be a bunch of fans who think they know everything when in fact they don’t.

Scott Pioli pointed out very candidly last night on WCVB the process as to how players are evaluated. Footage from the NFL combine at Indianapolis was provided. Pioli was very specific in pointing out exactly what the Patriots are looking for in players, as well as the difference between what you see on paper versus live in-person.

If Pioli followed these precepts this weekend, these guys must have gone to charm school or something. For the Patriots to totally ignore wide receiver and running back is beyond anyone’s imagination.

If there be any logic involved here, allow me to attempt to offer up some.

Passing on a running back is perhaps, and I do mean perhaps, a good sign that Edwards is well on his way back into the lineup. If this be the case, winning and losing would fall secondary to what would have to be the most endearing and heartwarming Boston sports story so far this millenium. This is the farthest thing possible from a guarantee, but perhaps Edwards is poised to regain his job. As to regaining his 1,000-yard form, that remains to be seen.

Wideouts? Steve DeOssie, who bleeds defense even more than Belichick does, said on WBZ tonight that the Patriots are “set” at wide receiver. Maybe he thinks Tony Simmons finally “gets it” now. Or that Shockmain Davis, Sean Morey or Curtis Jackson is going to emerge from nowhere and pull a Kurt Warner on us all. If Brown has to spend another year at the two WR spot, ignoring the wideout becomes a ton more foolish.

Whatever the case, the Patriots had a chance to score big this weekend, and it just didn’t happen. On paper, at least. We assume Pioli knows what he’s talking about. It’s just hard to believe at this time.

If this draft craps out, how will it affect the 2002 Patriot War Room? Kraft could not be blamed if someone else is brought in to run the show. Trouble is, will it be 1996 Redux?

Just in case, Belichick should stay away from “high and mighty” for a while. At least until he’s earned it.


Posted Under: 2001 Patriots Draft
Tags: 2001 NFL Draft 2001 Patriots Offseason Bill Belichick Chad Eaton David Terrell New England Patriots Richard Seymour

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