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Now that the dust has settled on yet another draft season, it is time to take a look at how the 2009 version of "Let's Make a Deal", errr, the NFL Draft shaped up for the New England Patriots.
Since Bill Belichick took over the drafting duties in 2000, the Patriots have had a remarkable amount of success, drafting at least one eventual Pro Bowl player in every year except 2002. That year, they only managed to pick up four solid starters, including Daniel Graham and Deion Branch.
The "Hoodie's" genius appeared to be waning since 2006, where he was only able to acquire one Pro Bowler, kicker Stephen Gostkowsi, and three starters: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Meriweather, and Laurence Maroney. Even Coach Belichick couldn't dodge reading about how he was slipping.
"I looked back and read about how bad our draft was two years ago With all due respect to all you guys who are going to be giving us grades, you don't get any points for that," Belichick said. "You get points for winning games, and that's what we're here to do, build our team."
The rumored demise of the Patriot front office seems to have been greatly exaggerated. The 2009 draft harkened back to the glory days of 2003. In that draft the Patriots selected Asante Samuel, Ty Warren, and Dan Koppen, all of whom would visit Hawaii at least once after the regular season was over. Contributors Eugene Wilson, Tully Banta-Cain, and Bethel Johnson also were selected during that bumper year.
Although it is preposterously early to evaluate the draft class, one can draw many parallels between the draft picks of 2003 and 2009. During each draft, the Patriots got a quick corner that can close on the ball (Asante Samuel - Darius Butler), a 3-4 cornerstone (Ty Warren - Ron Brace), and a smart offensive linemen (Dan Koppen - Sebastian Vollmer). A hard-hitting safety (Eugene Wilson - Patrick Chung) and a speedy receiver/returner with a history of injuries (Bethel Johnson - Brandon Tate) were a part of each class as well.
The 2003 Draft allowed the Patriots to continue chalking up 10-plus win seasons like it was nothing. Provided that Belichick's magic touch didn't leave with former Patriot executive Scott Pioli, the 2009 Draft has set the table for the Patriots to be sitting at the head of the NFL table for a long, long, time.
James Christensen has been an avid follower of all things Patriot. You can read more of his material at his blog nepatriotsdraft.com