For all the success the New England Patriots have had for what seems to be an eternity, the highly trained eye of Bill Belichick has been messing up when it comes to picking defensive backs in the draft, hence the Pats’ problematic situation in the secondary for the last few years.
While the starting foursome of Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory isn’t all that bad, the quality behind them until this offseason has been lacking. The Patriots have tried to improve the situation for the last five years, taking at least one player in either the first or second round from the 2007 NFL draft until 2012, but only two of them, McCourty and Tavos Wilson, are still with the team.
In 2007, the Patriots used their first round pick on Brandon Meriweather (24th overall), coming out of Miami as a two-time First Team All ACC player. He did make two Pro-Bowls while playing for the Patriots, but he was let go after starting 40 times for through his four seasons with the team, and hasn’t done much since leaving them with the Bears and Redskins.
The Patriots used their second round pick (62nd overall) on cornerback Terrence Wheatley, coming out of Colorado with two first-team All-Big 12 selections to his name. However, he was often injured and never made it back into Belichick’s good grace when returning, playing only 11 times in two seasons for the team before being waived. He played one more game for the Jags in 2010, but hasn’t played since then.
In 2009 the Patriots used their first two picks on defensive backs. The first was Patrick Chung, a safety coming out of Oregon (guess what, with two first-team conference selections), as the 34th overall pick, followed by Darius Butler, a cornerback out of UConn with the 41st overall pick. Chung started 24 times for the Patriots during his four seasons with the team, but left this offseason, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. Butler managed only 8 starts in two seasons with the team and was released before the 2011 campaign. He’s currently with the Indianapolis Colts.
Devin McCourty was picked in the first round of the 2010 draft, with the Patriots using the 27th overall pick on him. Maybe the only successful pick the Pats have had, as the former Rutgers player ended up intercepting 7 passes during his rookie season, the second-most by a Patriots rookie and tied for second in the NFL in 2010. He made the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team that year, but has moved to safety since.
In 2011, the Patriots picked Ras-I Dowling from Virginia with their second round pick, but the former Virginia player played in only 8 games during his two seasons with the team and was waived after the preseason schedule ended last week.
Their 2012 draft pick, safety Tavon Wilson (second round, 48th overall), coming out of Illinois, played as a backup safety during his rookie year, averaging 28 snaps per game. He isn’t likely to play a lot more this season.