It's time to take a look at Bill Belichick's third draft as the Patriots head coach. Below is a breakdown of his 2002 draft class, which is the latest in the NESN.com series. Check here for the looks at the franchise's 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2003 drafts. And come back next week to read the final two installments of this series.
It was the Patriots' first draft as Super Bowl champions, and the football world was ready for Belichick's third draft as the New England head coach. Quarterback Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick in 2000, hadn't even been a star for half of a year, and draft gurus wanted to see if Belichick could find another big contributor in the late rounds. Sure enough, he got one, as the Pats selected Notre Dame wide receiver David Givens with the 253rd pick. Givens was a slow starter, but he and Deion Branch eventually emerged as two of Brady's favorite targets for a few seasons.
Branch, an undersized wide receiver from Louisville, fell to the second round, and the Patriots scooped him up with the 65th pick. He was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX and very well could have been the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVIII. Branch was tremendous in the postseason, catching 21 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown in his two Super Bowls, and he had 41 receptions for 629 yards and two touchdowns in eight playoff games for the Patriots.
Branch and the organization had a contractual spat in 2006, which led to his holdout and the levying of heavy fines. The Patriots sent him to Seattle for a first-round draft pick, and that turned into Brandon Meriweather.
Daniel Graham was a very sturdy blocking tight end, but there are select few instances when teams should really expend a first-round pick on a blocking tight end. Graham didn't have the surest of hands and only caught 120 passes for 1,393 yards and 17 touchdowns in five seasons with the Patriots, and he also battled a string of injuries that kept him off the field. It was widely known Graham would leave town once his contract expired after the 2006 season, and he promptly left to sign with his hometown Broncos.
It's also worth wondering if this led to the Patriots' selection of tight end Ben Watson in the 2004 draft, and that didn't exactly work out, either.
And perhaps worst of all, the Pats traded up to No. 21 to land Graham. They sent their first-rounder (No. 32), third-rounder (96) and seventh-rounder (234) to Washington to move up 11 spots in the draft. Plus, knowing what we know now, it's simply amazing Belichick left safety Ed Reed on the board. Belichick has spent a measurable percentage of the last decade praising Reed, who was taken 24th by the Ravens.
The Rest of the Picks
Quarterback Rohan Davey, fourth round, No. 117 overall: The first six quarterbacks of the 2002 draft were — you might want to chug a bottle of Pepto-Bismol before reading this — David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Josh McCown, David Garrard and Davey. And trust us, the next nine quarterbacks are even worse. Davey played well during a 2004 stint in NFL Europe, but he failed to carry that momentum back to New England and was released after the Pats signed Doug Flutie in 2005.
Defensive end Jarvis Green, fourth round, No. 126 overall: Green has always been at his best as a backup, but has struggled during extended strings as a starter. He was solid in 2006 and 2007, racking up 114 total tackles and 14 sacks, but Green fell off last season with 46 tackles and one sack. As far as fourth-rounders go, there shouldn't be any complaints about Green, who is a free agent this offseason.
Running back Antwoine Womack, seventh round, No. 237 overall: The Virginia product couldn't stay healthy and never played a down in the NFL. He also had a go-round with the Giants.
Wide receiver David Givens, seventh round, No. 253 overall: Givens only caught nine passes as a rookie, but he had 34 receptions for 510 yards and a career-high six touchdown in 2003. The 6-footer showed his greatest potential in Week 9 against the Broncos when he and Brady worked in perfect harmony during the team's game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Brady threw a back-shoulder pass toward the left side of the end zone, and Givens turned around at the right time to make the catch. It showed what type of chemistry Brady had with his receivers, and Givens only grew from there. He caught 158 passes for 2,214 yards and 12 touchdowns in four seasons with the Patriots, and he turned that into a five-year, $24 million contract with the Titans. Givens tore his ACL midway through 2006 and never played in another regular-season game.
Who They Missed
The Patriots were obviously targeting Graham when they traded up to draft him, but Reed, defensive end Charles Grant and cornerback Lito Sheppard were all taken after Graham in the first round. Linebacker David Thornton was the only notable player selected between the third-round pick that the Pats traded to land Graham and the fourth-rounder they used on Davey, so it's tough to forecast how that might have turned out.
Green has obviously worked out for the Patriots, but the Packers drafted defensive end Aaron Kampman — who has 54 career sacks — 30 picks later.
For the Patriots' sake, Graham was the best tight end available. Jeremy Shockey (No. 14) was the only tight end taken before him.
Graham was a good player, and his value as a blocker shouldn't be overlooked. He just didn't provide first-round value. Branch, Green and Givens were also all important pieces during a pair of Super Bowl titles, and their draft status caused them to sign very favorable contracts from the organization's point of view. This wasn't a great draft, but the Patriots did net a Super Bowl MVP and some quality depth. Good job overall.
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