The Patriots have gotten back to work this week with the start of their conditioning workouts, and they'll make some key additions to the roster next week during the draft. Therefore, it seems like a good time to revisit some past drafts, and that's just how we'll start this edition of the Two-Minute Drill.
1. The Patriots have drafted 29 players who are still under contract with the team: One from 2000 (quarterback Tom Brady), one from 2001 (left tackle Matt Light, who could retire), one from 2002 (wide receiver Deion Branch), one from 2003 (center Dan Koppen), one from 2004 (defensive lineman Vince Wilfork), one from 2005 (left guard Logan Mankins), one from 2006 (kicker Stephen Gostkowski), zero from 2007, two from 2008 (linebacker Jerod Mayo, special teams captain Matthew Slater), five from 2009 (safety Patrick Chung, defensive lineman Ron Brace, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, defensive tackle Myron Pryor, wide receiver Julian Edelman), seven from 2010 (cornerback Devin McCourty, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, linebacker Brandon Spikes, tight end Aaron Hernandez, punter Zoltan Mesko, defensive end Brandon Deaderick) and eight from 2011 (tackle Nate Solder, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, running back Shane Vereen, running back Stevan Ridley, quarterback Ryan Mallett, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, defensive end Markell Carter, special teamer Malcolm Williams).
2. That number will increase if the Patriots re-sign running back Kevin Faulk, who said he wants to play in 2012, which I've kind of seen coming since February. Since that's what Faulk wants, I'd be absolutely stunned if Bill Belichick didn't invite him to camp for a chance to make the team.
3. It's definitely an eye-opener that there are only seven draft picks over an eight-year stretch who are still on the Patriots' roster. However, I don't know if that necessarily means a whole lot because it would take hours to see how that number stacks up with the rest of the league. It's been well-documented that the 2006 and 2007 draft classes were poor, but that statistic isn't reflective of the Patriots' draft classes from 2000-05, which were all very good.
4. The Patriots only hit on two players from the 2008 draft class, and both of them (Mayo and Slater) received second contracts, which is a positive sign. Of course, it wasn't so positive when cornerback Terrence Wheatley, linebacker Shawn Crable and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite quickly fizzled out.
5. All five draft picks who remain from the 2009 class — Chung, Brace, Vollmer, Pryor and Edelman — are in the final year of their contracts. That 12-man class looked pretty good right away, but cornerback Darius Butler and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie never panned out. It'll be easier to make a more thorough determination of that class within the year, as the Patriots decide if those players deserve second contracts.
6. That should be a no-brainer for Chung and Vollmer, though their negotiations could be interesting based on each player's injury history. The Patriots would probably like to lock them up before they hit free agency, but Chung and Vollmer will seriously increase their worth by getting through 2012 unscathed. As is typically the case, the key to getting an early contract completed will be reaching some middle ground.
7. One of the great offseason mysteries has to do with Edelman's position in 2012, particularly with such a deep crop of receivers on the roster. Because Edelman's value is in his versatility, I doubt he'll have one specific position, and that's fine. I also think he'll make the team because of that.
8. Gronkowski and Hernandez were the Patriots' two best players from the 2010 draft class over the course of the entire season, though Spikes' terrific run in the playoffs overshadowed his poor start to the year. Wide receiver Taylor Price was the only offensive player from the Patriots' 2010 class who didn't perform well for them in 2011, though that was also consistent with his rookie year.
9. The Patriots' 2010 draft picks who struggled at the start of 2011 were all on the defensive side — McCourty, Cunningham and Spikes. Deaderick also started the year on the physically unable to perform list before coming on strong later in the year, but that's unrelated to the other situations.
10. With all of that said, I don't believe it's a coincidence that the defensive players struggled when you consider the combination of an absence of offseason workouts (due to the lockout) and a change in defensive philosophy. That's why it's reasonable to expect a much stronger defensive start to the 2012 season.
11. As I pointed out last week, Spikes has been working out at Gillette with Mayo for a little while. That's the type of dedication the Patriots should love to see out of an emerging young player with serious potential, and I think it's related to the last point.
12. Mayo was complimentary of Spikes on Tuesday, saying, "He's played good football for us. He's a thumper. He does a lot of things. He takes coaching well. [He] just [needs] to continue to grow just like the rest of us."
13. Defensive tackle Kyle Love was the exception among the Patriots' second-year players who had slow starts on that side of the ball. Love, who went undrafted in 2010, was easily one of the team's most improved players last season.
14. It's a pretty nice success rate, particularly for a team that was loaded enough to get to the Super Bowl, that eight of the Patriots' nine draft picks from 2011 are still on the roster. The one missing piece was tight end Lee Smith, who would have started last season on the Patriots' practice squad if the Bills didn't claim him off waivers during final roster cuts.
15. The Patriots have 34 players under contract for 2013. Aside from the five players from the 2009 draft class, other notable players whose contracts expire after this season are wide receiver Wes Welker (franchise tag), cornerback Kyle Arrington, Branch, linebacker Dane Fletcher, offensive lineman Robert Gallery, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, quarterback Brian Hoyer, Light, cornerback Sterling Moore, wide receiver Donte' Stallworth, right guard Brian Waters and running back Danny Woodhead.
16. As mentioned earlier, the contracts for Chung and Vollmer might be tricky, and,one would obviously think the Patriots' current focus is geared toward Welker's deal. Aside from those three, the Patriots don't have any overly complicated contract situations as they look at the 2013 offseason. Of course, that could change if one of the aforementioned players has a big-time season in 2012.
17. Mayo shared his draft-day story Tuesday, noting he was too stressed out to watch it live, so he raked leaves in the backyard with his mother. "A good thing [I was drafted early], because I would have been raking a lot of leaves if I was taken later," Mayo said.
18. Mayo was taken earlier than many believed, so I asked him where he expected to get drafted. He said he remembered being told he'd be selected somewhere between picks eight and 22. I found that interesting, because the Patriots were originally slotted with the seventh pick. Maybe Mayo's memory was a bit foggy, which would make this a moot point, but if not, I'm guessing the Patriots weren't really on his radar heading into the draft.
19. The Broncos cut Andre Goodman on Friday. Goodman, if you remember, blew a coverage in Week 15 that allowed wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to break free down the left sideline and score his only touchdown of the 2011 season.
20. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio will meet with the media Thursday to discuss the draft. Even though Caserio won't exactly divulge the Patriots' draft plans, these meetings are always informative.
Photo via Facebook/Sebastian Vollmer
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