Another Cornerback Draft Bust

Ras-I Dowling's release is the latest in the long line of draft bust by the Patriots

By Kevin Saleeba

FOXBORO – It's official, another draft bust at the cornerback position for the Patriots.

Ever since New England decided to not re-sign pro bowl cornerback Asante Samuel following the 2007 season in an attempt to save money, the Patriots have drafted seven cornerbacks in an attempt to replace Samuel's production.

Since leaving New England, Samuel has 28 interceptions. Six of the seven players drafted to fill his shoes have a total 18 interceptions. The latest draft failure is third-year player Ras-I Dowling who was released by the team on Wednesday.

Dowling, 25, was drafted by New England in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Virginia. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound cornerback played in only nine games during his two seasons with the Patriots and tallied a meager 10 total tackles and one pass defense. After starting his first two games of his rookie season, he was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury. Last season, Dowling was limited to seven games before being placed on injured reserve with a thigh injury.

Despite being such a high draft pick, Dowling could never stay on the field and is one of a long line of cornerback draft busts.

The Other Patriots Cornerback Draft Busts Since 2007 (After Samuel):

Terrence Wheatley

Wheatley was drafted in the second round (62nd overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft. In two seasons, Wheatley played a total of 11 games, one start, recording three tackles and no interceptions.
Terrence Wheatley(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

After suffering a foot injury in the 2010 preseason, Wheatley was waived by the Patriots midway through that season without playing a snap for New England.

Jonathan Wilhite

Wilhite was drafted in the fourth round (129th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft. He managed to play three unproductive seasons the Patriots with only three interceptions in 39 games played. He was waived by the team prior to the start of the 2011 season.

Darius Butler

Butler was drafted (41st overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. In July of that year, he signed a four-year contract with the Patriots that included a $2.1 million in guaranteed money.

After catching three interceptions in 14 games his rookie year, his play slipped his second season without recording a pick in 15 games. During that second season, Butler started the first two games, including a Patriots loss to the New York Jets in Week 2. In the game, he gave up a touchdown reception and was penalized twice for defensive pass interference on another Jets touchdown drive. He was replaced as a starter by Kyle Arrington the next week and was not part of the team's defensive sub packages.

The Patriots waived Butler prior to opening the 2011 season opener.

Devin McCourty

McCourty was drafted in the first round (27th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft as a corner. McCourty made Patriots fans forget about the past cornerback busts making the pro bowl his first season in the NFL.
Devin McCourty (Kevin Saleeba / Patriots Insider)

McCourty finished his rookie season starting all 16 games, with 82 tackles, seven interceptions, one sack, two forced fumbles and 17 passes defensed. He was named to the 2011 Pro Bowl, and was named a First Team All-Pro by the Sporting News and Second Team All-Pro by the Associated Press. Other than winner Ndamukong Suh, McCourty was the only rookie to earn votes (2 of 50) for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.

So why is McCourty on the list? His play at corner dipped significantly the next two seasons with an increase in pass interference calls against him and only two interceptions at corner. He was subsequently moved to safety where he played well with five interceptions last season. But with his move to safety, the hole at cornerback still remained.

Malcolm Williams

Williams was drafted in the 7th round (219th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft. After playing in four games over two seasons with only two career tackles to show, Williams was released by New England in April of 2013.

Alfonzo Dennard

Dennard was drafted in the seventh round (224th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft. Expected to be one of the best cornerbacks in the draft that year, he slipped down the draft board after being charged with hitting a police officer in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Alfonzo Dennard (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots took a chance and drafted Dennard and he played well in 12 games his rookie season with three interceptions and showed he could cover well.

When Dennard was convicted of felony assault on a police officer on February 20, 2013, he caught a break and was later sentenced to only 30 days in jail beginning on March 1, 2014, and two years of probation. However, three months into his probation, Dennard was arrested on suspicion of a DUI in July and has yet to see even the practice field this season.

Logan Ryan

Ryan was drafted in the third round (83rd overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Logan Ryan (Kevin Saleeba / Patriots Insider)

The jury is still out on the 5-foot-11, 195 pound rookie. He has played well this preseason and probably the reason Dowling became expendable.

It seems if the Patriots simply paid the money to the proven talent that was Asante Samuel in the first place, maybe they could have used those draft picks to fill other holes on the team.

On second thought, knowing their draft record they may have messed those draft picks up anyway.


Kevin Saleeba is the senior editor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinSaleeba

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