It's time to look at the Patriots' 2004 draft class in NESN.com's series that profiles each of Bill Belichick's draft performances as the New England head coach. Check here for the looks at 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005.
The Patriots acquired running back Corey Dillon from the Bengals in an unprecedented move by the organization's new regime, which to that point had prided itself on assembling a roster full of straight-edged characters. They took a chance on Dillon, who was a problem child in Cincinnati, and snagged him for a second-round pick in the 2004 draft. The Patriots were in dire need of a running back, and Dillon needed a fresh start. He rushed for 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2004, and he was an integral performer during the Patriots' drive to a third Super Bowl title.
The team's best pick in 2004 has turned into its most compelling offseason storyline in 2010. New England took Miami defensive tackle Vince Wilfork with the 21st pick, and the hulking Hurricane has been a rock in the middle of the Patriots' defense for the last six seasons. The Patriots assigned their 2010 franchise tag on Wilfork last week, but the team has stated it's using the tag to extend a buffer period to work out a long-term contract extension. Wilfork has become one of the best defensive linemen in the league, and he was a steal at that point in the draft.
The Pats spent a first-round pick on a tight end for the second time in three years, and it was Ben Watson's turn in 2004. Watson was a physical freak, fast as a wide receiver and, ideally, a perfect complement to Daniel Graham's prowess as a blocker. But the Watson pick never truly panned out, at least not in terms of what a team would want out of a first-rounder. He battled injuries and only caught 167 passes for 2,102 yards and 20 touchdowns in six seasons. Watson is a free agent this offseason, and it would be surprising if the two sides continued their marriage.
The Rest of the Picks
Defensive end Marquise Hill, second round, No. 63 overall: Hill was a good backup lineman for the Patriots, but he died in a 2007 jet skiing accident in Louisiana. The Patriots still have a memorial dedicated to Hill in their locker room.
Safety Guss Scott, third round, No. 95 overall: The Florida product showed some potential to be a serviceable backup, but he never got past a string of injuries. Scott and the Pats parted ways in 2006, and he has subsequently spent time with the Texans, Seahawks and Dolphins.
Safety Dexter Reid, third round, No. 113 overall: Reid didn't amount to much during his brief stints with the Patriots and Colts, and he is now out of football. Reid also managed to find himself a bit of legal trouble.
Running back Cedric Cobbs, fourth round, No. 128 overall: Cobbs was a star at Arkansas, but he never broke through in the NFL, with the exception of a handful of flashy preseason performances. The running back only spent parts of two seasons with the Patriots and now plays arena football in Arkansas.
Wide receiver P.K. Sam, fifth round, No. 164 overall: The Florida State product made the Patriots' active roster, but he only played in two games before being placed on injured reserve. Sam has also spent time with the Bengals, Dolphins, Raiders and Bills, and he is currently playing in the Canadian Football League.
Cornerback Christian Morton, seventh round, No. 233 overall: Morton was cut prior to the 2004 regular season, and he also spent time with the Browns, Falcons, Redskins, Panthers, Broncos and Titans. He has not been with a team since he was cut by the Titans last July.
Who They Missed
The Patriots weren't exactly looking for linebackers in 2004, but Karlos Dansby was taken directly after Watson. Dansby has been a very good middle linebacker for the Cardinals and will be one of the highest-paid free agents this offseason. The Cardinals were brilliant again in the third round, selecting Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett immediately after the Pats took Hill. Another strong defensive end, Shaun Phillips, was taken three picks after Scott. And Vikings defensive end Jared Allen – who was on the short list for the league's 2009 Defensive Player of the Year honor — was taken at No. 126.
This was also an extremely thin draft for tight ends. The Browns took Kellen Winslow with the sixth pick, and the only serviceable tight end taken after Watson was Washington's Chris Cooley (third round, No. 81).
Wilfork has been a stud and the Dillon acquisition helped the Patriots win a Super Bowl, so this draft should be considered a success in that regard. Watson hasn't given the Pats first-round value, and they didn't hit on the rest of their picks, so they did a poor job on that side of things. Belichick probably wishes he was able to add some more depth, but any draft that helps net a Super Bowl ring has to be considered a job well done. It certainly wasn't a great performance by the scouting staff, but it was good enough.