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Poor drafts and resulting lack of young talent explain why Patriots are struggling

John Tomase
September 24, 2018 - 4:21 pm

Nothing will kill an NFL team more inexorably than a string of bad drafts. The Patriots may be paying that price as we speak.

The best Patriots teams tended to win within a year or two of multiple outstanding drafts. The 1999-2001 drafts yielded Damien Woody, Kevin Faulk, Richard Seymour, Matt Light, and a quarterback by the name of Brady.

The 2002-04 drafts brought in Daniel Graham, Deion Branch, Jarvis Green, Ty Warren, Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel, Dan Koppen, Vince Wilfork, and Ben Watson.

The 2010-12 hauls included Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Chandler Jones, and Dont'a Hightower.

In every case, Super Bowls followed -- five championships in eight chances.

The worst Patriots teams of the last dozen years tended to miss on consecutive drafts. The 2005 draft, for instance, landed one impact player in guard Logan Mankins. The following draft might've been the worst of the Bill Belichick Era, with wasted picks on Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson at the top, and then whiffs on the other eight picks, save for kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

The 2009 team, which went 10-6, similarly suffered from a young talent deficiency, thanks to drafts in 2008 and 2009 that yield Jerod Mayo, Patrick Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, and not much else to provide immediate help (7th rounder Julian Edelman would eventually blossom, and Matthew Slater remains a special teams ace).

That brings us to 2018. The Patriots are 1-2 and it's not hard to see where they're lacking. Recent drafts have been terrible.

Since 2015, the Patriots have hit on exactly three players: defensive end Trey Flowers, guard Shaq Mason, and guard Joe Thuney. Defensive end Deatrich Wise may blossom, and 2018 fifth-rounder Ja'Whaun Bentley has potential, but the pipeline of young talent supporting Tom Brady's final days has run pretty dry.

Just consider the team's first- and second-round picks since 2012. Of the 13 players taken at the top of those drafts, the only ones contributing for New England are running back Sony Michel (if you can call his first two games contributing), defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, and Hightower. Oh, and Cyrus Jones was just re-signed to field kicks.

That's it. Chandler Jones is racking up sacks in Arizona, Jamie Collins is playing in Cleveland, Aaron Dobson is out of the NFL, Dominique Easley is sidelined by a knee injury with the Rams, Jordan Richards is in Atlanta, and Duke Dawson is sidelined. That's a pretty meager return for a team's most valuable draft capital.

Only two of nine selections remain from the 2016 draft, and one of them, Jones, was just cut and then re-signed off the Ravens practice squad.

All of that explains as well as anything else how the Pats have ended up in this position, with the worst talent at receiver in the NFL and a lack of speed all over the defense.

Draft poorly, and eventually a price will be paid.