Forget all these new weapons for Tom Brady. They just traded him to Buffalo.
The presses were stopped, and the 2002 Draft was relegated to gossip column status. Drew Bledsoe was trotted out to the Buffalo media, holding up a Rob Johnson special. Folks on either side of the aisle on Bledsoe chimed in with their closing comments, and the Former Franchise is now a bona fide Buffalo Bill.
And so, as Bledsoe took out a full page ad in Friday’s Boston papers to thank his former fan base, then going out and pitching a few balls in a rookie camp, Patriot Nation finally found closure to arguably the most momentous trade in team history. Closure means time to let him go, and time to look ahead.
And time to look back. At last weekend. You know, that other big event.
The Bledsoe trade wiped the draft off of Page One, and took much of the focus away from what grade you might have given the draft. Even if Bledsoe were still a Patriot, the draft turned out to be rather bland and uninspiring for Patriot Nation. Picking last in the rounds for the first time in franchise history thanks to winning the Vince, Patriot Nation really had no big marquee draftees to look forward to.
Until the Patriots traded up.
This column pleaded for a linebacker with the first pick. With no trade prospects to move up into the top ten and a shot at maybe one of the four prime stud defensive linemen, the Patriots were advised by this column to go for the best linebacker at 32. But with Northwestern’s Napoleon Harris the best linebacker in an otherwise weak year for the position expected to go mid-first round, the Patriots had to set their minds on a second-tier backer at 32.
Then the trade news broke. The Patriots traded up to 21, sending Washington their 1st, 3rd and 7th round picks. Harris was still on the board at 21. Perfect. The strategy was working.
Except the Patriots shocked those who wanted Harris and grabbed Colorado’s Daniel Graham, the second best tight end on most draft boards. The Patriots ignored a position of need and instead padded an already clogged position. The Patriots are loaded with tight ends of all shapes and sizes and talent levels. Some say the Pats have six tight ends, and some who count fullback Scott Dragos as a tight end say seven.
Now they have Graham. Catches good. Blocks lousy. Low Wonderlic score.
Shoot, we already had Jermaine Wiggins, and this guy not only catches, but makes clutch catches in important situations (ask Oakland and St. Louis how they feel about Wiggins, especially Oakland). And we already bagged free agents Cam Cleeland and Christian Fauria. Both of these men are injury liabilities, but if Cleeland is healthy, he is the tight end of the future and not Graham.
Meanwhile, Roman Phifer sits unsigned, Bryan Cox now plays for the Saints, and Andy Katzenmoyer is probably too scared to ever play in the NFL again. The Patriots did pick up free agent Ryan Phillips, but he was a backup linebacker on a lousy Colt defense. Some figured that, by Oakland grabbing Harris at 23, they would end their interest in Phifer and his signing by the Patriots would become a foregone conclusion. Well, it’s a week later, and Phifer still ain’t signed.
Some feel that Graham will be the closest thing to the next Ben Coates that the Patriots will get, someone who will fit Brady’s passing style perfectly. Be this true or not, this becomes a suspect pick if the Patriots do not sign Phifer, or someone else down the road to shore up the thin linebacker depth.
With their second pick, we predicted a wide receiver. Bingo.
But the Patriots took Louisville’s Deion Branch, passing on other wideouts who were higher rated and still available. Branch has Troy Brown dimensions, and got some rave reviews with his stats and performance with the Cardinals. But most experts were using the word “reach”, while others were calling this a “Chris Canty pick”.
Apparently, the Patriots maxed out on tall with the signing of Donald Hayes. Well, when you consider that smaller wideouts have fared better in Foxborough while tall guys (Tony Simmons) fall by the wayside, going small seems to be the way to go. Branch gives the Patriots more depth at the kind of wideout they like. It just remains to be seen if they could have done better.
The Patriots sent their third round pick to the Redskins to obtain the pick they used on Graham. So, they didn’t select again until the fourth round. They had two fourths, two fifths and a seventh left. They wound up swapping fourths with Denver in exchange for one of the fifths, then sent the other fifth to Dallas for another seventh, among other things. So, the Patriots wound up with two fourths and two sevenths to finish out the draft.
They traded up to snatch their third string quarterback of the future, LSU’s Rohan Davey. With Brady being the sexiest sixth round pick in NFL history on everyone’s minds, there was a run on late round quarterbacks in 2002. Davey was hailed as a good pick, and some have called him similar to a Daunte Culpepper. Davey is 6-2 and 245 pounds, but sometimes can balloon up to 250 pounds. He has a good arm, but sometimes his mechanics are suspect, especially when flushed out of the pocket.
Another LSU Tiger came to New England later in the fourth round. The Patriots selected a smallish defensive end, Jarvis Green. Green is quick, but his lack of size may cause him to be overpowered a lot at the pro level. Perhaps the Patriots see him as the next Greg Spires, to be used in certain situations.
The two seventh round picks were more head scratchers than anything else. The Patriots went for Virginia running back Antwoine Womack, then finished their draft with Notre Dame wideout David Givens. Womack is currently on the shelf with an ACL injury, and is unavailable until 2003. He is a trash-talker who comes with some legal baggage in his past. Givens is someone billed as “someone good at lots of things, but not great at anything”. Givens may be the next Tony Gaiter. The Patriots can only hope that the same doesn’t hold for Branch.
Of all the six picks, the only intelligent ones seem to be the two fourth rounders. You have two pretty good finds, a tight end who should have been a linebacker, two smallish wideouts, and an injured back with a big mouth. For someone like Bill Belichick who usually favors the defense, it was a surprising draft. The tone seemed to be to get Brady more weapons. The only question is whether or not the weapons selected were quality ones.
Anyone who dares to criticize the drafting need only be reminded of last year, when most everyone condemned the pick of Richard Seymour over David Terrell. Seymour will soon own more Super Bowl rings than Terrell. What in the blazes do we know?
Belichick and Scott Pioli may be gunning for June 1 to make other changes. In reality, the draft meant little to the Patriots this year, especially if the major holes are to be filled, like last year, with free agents. Belichick and Pioli have proven time and time again that they know how to get free agents that perform.
If that be the case, then “grading” this draft is more like complimenting a blade of grass on how green it looks. It’s not really necessary or useful. Graham may turn out to be the jewel of this haul after all, and give Brady a security blankie much like Bledsoe had in Coates. If the Patriots do shore up the linebacker situation, then the Graham pick may turn out to be a good one after all.
June 1. Stay tuned.
At least the Patriot quarterback situation won’t matter at all.
Posted Under: 2002 Patriots Draft