Flash-forward: 2009 AFC East draft review

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jun 21, 2012



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts Pigskin Patriot


While all four NFC East teams get a lot of coverage, the AFC East has been dominated by the New England Patriots since 2001. The Patriots have won nine of the last 11 division titles.
 
But in the 2009 NFL Draft, the whole division got in on the trade circuit and picked up multiple picks in the first two rounds. The AFC East combined to make 13 picks in the top 65 selections.
 
Now the question is, did they get enough value? One thing is for sure. The New York Jets only had three picks, but they made sure to sample a bit of the other drafts in the AFC East. A total of four players picked by Buffalo and Miami have already been on the Jets’ roster.
 
2009 Draft Reviews
Part I: NFC North
Part II: AFC North
Part III: NFC South
Part IV: AFC South
Part V: NFC East
 
Notes: Players listed in bold are still on the active roster of the team that drafted them. A player with his games played (GP) and games started (GS) listed in red has appeared in games for a team other than his draft team. “CarAV” refers to data from the Approximate Value system at Pro-Football-Reference.com. References to snap data credited to Pro Football Focus.
 

4. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Belichick’s draft manipulation more impressive than actual drafting

Each year the pundits praise Bill Belichick for his trades that seemingly get New England an extra pick in the first and second round each year. However, collecting draft picks becomes a useless exercise when they are not being put towards good use (good players).
 
New England started their trades by moving down three spots in the first round, gaining a fifth-round pick from Baltimore. But the big mistake came when New England traded those two picks to Green Bay for picks 41 (used on Darius Butler), 73 (traded to Jacksonville), and 83 (used on Brandon Tate).
 
We mentioned in the NFC North review that Clay Matthews was on the board, and Green Bay added the talented pass-rusher. New England has had no real pass rush to speak of the last few years.
 
Instead they end up with bad players like Butler and Tate; the latter being drafted one spot ahead of Mike Wallace. Then they traded picks 47, 124 and 199 to take Ron Brace at No. 40. That has not been a great success either.
 
With four picks in the 34-58 range, the Patriots end up with one potentially great starter, a decent starter, a situational player, and someone they already cut before last season. It does not add up to great value.
 

The Class

Rnd Pick Player Pos. College GP GS CarAV 2012 Team
2 34 Patrick Chung S Oregon 38 22 10 New England
2 40 Ron Brace DT BostonCol. 29 7 5 New England
2 41 Darius Butler CB Connecticut 42 14 8 Carolina
2 58 Sebastian Vollmer OT Houston 36 29 25 New England
3 83 Brandon Tate WR North Carolina 34 11 9 Cincinnati
3 97 Tyrone McKenzie LB South Florida 3 0 0 Minnesota
4 123 Rich Ohrnberger G Penn St. 5 0 0 None
5 170 George Bussey OT Louisville 0 0 0 None (AFL)
6 198 Jake Ingram LS Hawaii 25 0 0 Tennessee
6 207 Myron Pryor DT Kentucky 24 2 3 New England
7 232 Julian Edelman WR Kent St. 39 10 7 New England
7 234 Darryl Richard DT Georgia Tech 0 0 0 None
 
Best Pick: OT Sebastian Vollmer (2.58) - At 6’8, this monster right tackle from Germany is a perfect fit for New England’s pass-happy offense. His only full season came in 2010, which was the best offense the team has had besides the 2007 season. If he can stay healthy (only 29 starts), expect Vollmer to pile up Pro Bowl selections at right tackle for years to come.
 
Worst Pick: CB Darius Butler (2.41) - Ever since players like Ty Law and Asante Samuel moved on, the Patriots have been struggling at corner. Butler only made things worse. After losing his starting position early in 2010, he would only get one more start in New England before the team released him in final roster cuts in 2011. Butler played for Carolina last season and continued to be deficient at pass coverage.

The Others

S Patrick Chung (2.34) - As the first pick of New England’s draft -- acquired from Kansas City for the Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel trade -- Chung has just been okay in his career. After only playing 195 snaps as a rookie, he had a career-year in 2010 with 96 tackles, three interceptions and one pick six. He missed half of the 2011 season before returning late in the year. In the last two seasons, the New England defense has been porous against the pass, often relying on takeaways and red zone stops. Chung has not helped in pass coverage, giving up a 98.1 passer rating when targeted in 2011, and 99.0 in 2010.
 
DT Ron Brace (2.40) - Not that Brace is going to take Vince Wilfork’s job any day soon, but for a high pick, he has seen very little of the field in his career. He played 55 snaps in 2009 along all the different defensive line positions. That number increased to 285 in 2010, and mostly with Brace at left defensive end. Last season, Brace started the year on the PUP list, and was down to just 62 snaps in the eight games he played. Brace has 35 career tackles.
 
WR Brandon Tate (3.83) - Hello Bethel Johnson (Reincarnate). Recalling some past draft failures at the wide receiver position, the Patriots made another with the inconsistent receiver out of North Carolina. Once considered a high prospect, Tate’s senior season ended with a torn ACL and MCL injury. This hurt his draft value, but the Patriots did not strike a bargain. To make matters worse, Mike Wallace was on the board, and went to Pittsburgh with the very next pick. Even if Wallace is not your typical New England receiver, he would have been much more productive than Tate, who had 24 receptions for the team. His value as a return man has given him a job in Cincinnati.
 
LB Tyrone McKenzie (3.97) - As the draft’s first compensatory selection, McKenzie never played in the regular season for New England. He tore his ACL in his rookie camp. He was released from the team’s practice squad in 2010, and signed by Tampa Bay where he played in three games. McKenzie spent 2011 on Minnesota’s practice squad.
 
G Rich Ohrnberger (4.123) - He played a total of 56 offensive snaps at right guard for the Patriots in his first two seasons. Ohrnberger spent all of 2011 on injured reserve and was waived by the Patriots in February. He is a free agent.
 
OT George Bussey (5.170) - Spent his first two seasons on injured reserve before the team gave him an injury settlement. Bussey never played a game in the NFL and is now in the Arena Football League with the Tampa Bay Storm.
 
LS Jake Ingram (6.198) - Very common to see a long snapper stick with a team for a long time, but after 24 games in New England, Ingram was cut. He played one game for the Saints in 2010, has been in Jacksonville, and is now with Tennessee for the second time.
 
DT Myron Pryor (6.207) - If the Patriots knew they’d get Ron Brace-type production in the sixth round from Pryor, they would have taken a better player than Brace. Pryor moved all along the defensive line as a rookie, playing 284 snaps. He played 242 snaps in 2010, mostly at nose tackle, but struggled against the run. Pryor has been injured throughout his career, and only played the first two games of 2011 before going down with a shoulder injury.
 
WR Julian Edelman (7.232) - Look, Belichick has a Wes Welker cloning machine. Edelman was a college quarterback, and has been a slot receiver and return man for the Patriots. Any injury to Welker and Edelman can step in, though his receiving has really gone down the last two seasons, making just 11 receptions on 22 targets.
 
DT Darryl Richard (7.234) - Taking a third crack at the defensive tackle, Richard never played in a NFL regular season game, spending time on the practice squad (2009) and injured reserve (2010). He was waived before the 2011 season and is a free agent.
 

3. MIAMI DOLPHINS

Try and remember it for the secondary efforts and not the Wild Cat flirtation

In the 2008 season, the Miami Dolphins shocked the league with first-year coach Tony Sparano and newly acquired Chad Pennington turning the team around from 1-15 in 2007 to an 11-5 division winner.
 
Oh, they also debuted their “Wild Cat” offense against New England. While they did not use the Wild Cat as much as people think, the fact that it was so potent against the Patriots, and earned them a win that would eventually help them win the division, makes it worth mentioning.
 
However, the gimmick should not have been seen as anything more than that. Instead, Miami drank the Kool-Aid and drafted what seemed like a must-have piece for more Wild Cat plays. Pat White was an incredible athlete at quarterback in West Virginia, but it was clear he would not be a capable NFL passer. Still, he wanted to be a quarterback, and the Dolphins drafted him in the second round.
 
It was the third year in a row the Dolphins used a second-round pick on a quarterback (John Beck in 2007 and Chad Henne in 2008). At least those guys tried to play the position. White never could.
 
Even though the story of Miami’s draft should have been their concentrated effort to build a secondary with two cornerbacks in the first two rounds, it’s the stink of the Pat White pick that still stands out the most.

The Class

Rnd Pick Player Pos. College GP GS CarAV 2012 Team
1 25 Vontae Davis CB Illinois 44 36 16 Miami
2 44 Pat White QB West Virginia 13 0 1 None
2 61 Sean Smith CB Utah 47 40 16 Miami
3 87 Patrick Turner WR USC 22 1 1 NY Jets
4 108 Brian Hartline WR Ohio St. 44 23 13 Miami
5 161 John Nalbone TE Monmouth 2 0 0 Dallas
5 165 Chris Clemons S Clemson 40 16 8 Miami
6 181 Andrew Gardner OT Georgia Tech 2 0 0 Houston
7 214 J.D. Folsom LB Weber St. 2 0 0 None
 
Best Pick: CB Vontae Davis (1.25) - After starting Will Allen and Andre’ Goodman in 2008, the Dolphins wanted to get younger at cornerback. They first went with Davis late in the first round. His nine career interceptions rank second among all players in the draft.
 
Worst Pick: “QB” Pat White (2.44) - What else did you expect? White played just 52 snaps in 2009. He ran 21 times for 81 yards. He threw five passes, and they were all incomplete. He was also sacked one time. After a huge hit knocked him out of the Pittsburgh game in Week 17, we never saw White again in the NFL. He retired from the NFL, gave Minor League Baseball a try before retiring from that, and was finally cut before the United Football League’s 2011 season. Easily a candidate for worst pick of the draft.

The Others

CB Sean Smith (2.61) - For his first two seasons Smith’s play was right on par with teammate Davis’, but last season he regressed badly and had the next to worst grade in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus. At least he wasn’t Benny Sapp on this play.
 
WR Patrick Turner (3.87) - Turner (6’5) was a big target at USC, but that school has had trouble with their receivers turning pro as of late. He appeared in just two games for Miami, and never played an offensive snap. The Dolphins cut him in the 2010 preseason, and none other than the New York Jets stepped up to claim him. Turner has spent time on the Jets’ practice squad and active roster the last two years (219 total snaps played).
 
WR Brian Hartline (4.108) - Ohio State is another machine for producing NFL talent, but their wide receivers have also been hit-or-miss. Hartline has dealt with inconsistent quarterback play, but he has remained in the 506-615 receiving yards range in his career. He has five touchdown catches. Hartline does average 15.3 yards per reception.
 
TE John Nalbone (5.161) - Nalbone has been tossed around like a rag doll. We don’t mean on the field, though that’s hard to say. He only played 34 snaps in his two appearances with Miami. What we mean is the guy has been all over the league, including Minnesota, Denver, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Denver again, Seattle, and Dallas just signed him on Tuesday. By the time you read this, Nalbone may be in your city next.
 
S Chris Clemons (5.165) - If Davis and Smith were not enough, the Dolphins found a safety in the fifth round in Clemons. He has 16 starts with the team. He played 89 snaps as a rookie, moved to starting free safety in 2010 (889 snaps), but only played 21 snaps last season (injuries). He has an opportunity to start again this season.
 
OT Andrew Gardner (6.181) - Played in one game for Miami and was cut. After brief stops with Baltimore and Cincinnati, he was in Houston last season, and is still on their roster.
 
LB J.D. Folsom (7.214) - He played in two games on Miami’s special teams as a rookie. Folsom has since been with Chicago, Arizona and Tampa Bay. Currently a free agent.
 

2. BUFFALO BILLS

After an early bust, Buffalo circled the wagons well

When you make arguably the worst pick of the first round, it may be a sign your team did not come prepared to the draft. However, Buffalo rebounded from the Aaron Maybin disaster and added three straight quality starters to their team.
 
Let Maybin be another example of the buyer’s beware associated with those one-year breakout players that enter the draft. With just one really productive season at Penn State, Buffalo still spent the 11th overall pick on him and got almost nothing in return.
 
Worse, the Jets got to try him out in their defense for free.
 
Buffalo had the 28th pick as part of the trade of tackle Jason Peters to Philadelphia. The Bills would move up in the second round (No. 51) by trading away picks 75 and 110 to Dallas.
 
With four picks in the top 51, Buffalo batted .750, which is not bad. Still, Maybin should leave a bad taste in their mouth. If they wanted a pass rusher, they should have gone for Brian Orakpo (No. 13 to Washington).

The Class

Rnd Pick Player Pos. College GP GS CarAV 2012 Team
1 11 Aaron Maybin DE Penn St. 40 1 5 NY Jets
1 28 Eric Wood C Louisville 33 33 12 Buffalo
2 42 Jairus Byrd S Oregon 46 41 20 Buffalo
2 51 Andy Levitre G Oregon St. 48 48 16 Buffalo
4 121 Shawn Nelson TE Southern Miss 17 13 3 None
5 147 Nic Harris LB Oklahoma 30 6 3 None
6 183 CaryHarris S USC 6 1 1 None
7 220 Ellis Lankster CB West Virginia 17 0 2 NY Jets
 
Best Pick: S Jairus Byrd (2.42) - Immediately burst onto the scene with nine interceptions in 14 games as a rookie. For that he earned a Pro Bowl trip, and is the AFC East’s only drafted Pro Bowl player from this draft (so far). He leads the whole draft with 13 interceptions, and has 232 tackles. He has six forced fumbles in the last two seasons. Byrd’s interceptions have gone down, but he’s become a more complete safety and is one of the best young safeties in the game.
 
Worst Pick: DE Aaron Maybin (1.11) - The worst pick of the first round? Maybin played just 232 snaps as a rookie, and struggled the whole way. That number shrunk to 100 the following year, and after just 24 tackles and one start, Buffalo had enough. In August 2011, even before final cuts, Maybin was released. The Jets snatched him up. Maybin gave them 239 snaps and four forced fumbles as a situational pass rusher, which may be the role he has to play for any success. For Buffalo, it was all failure.

The Others

C Eric Wood (1.28) - Buffalo made Wood the second center taken in the first round for the first time since 1983. However, Wood started his career at right guard and did not make the switch to center until late in 2010. He was having the best season of his career last year until a torn ACL ended it after nine games. Wood has only played 33 of a possible 48 games in his career, so keep an eye on his health going forward.
 
G Andy Levitre (2.51) - Primarily a left guard, Levitre has been a good pass protector for the Bills. Unlike Wood, he has never missed a game (or start) in his career. Instant plug-and-play lineman, which is great for a high draft pick.
 
TE Shawn Nelson (4.121) - Nelson caught a touchdown against the Patriots in the 2009 season opener, but it would be the only score of his career. He had 20 receptions for 181 yards in Buffalo (557 snaps). He fell out of favor after starting 2010 with a four-game suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The Jets (of course) signed him last year, but released him three weeks later after a non-football related illness.
 
LB Nic Harris (5.147) - Played 176 snaps as a rookie with two starts, making 30 tackles on the year. He suffered an injury late in the season and failed a physical the following summer. Harris had a similar season in 2010 for Carolina, but is now a free agent.
 
S Cary Harris (6.183) - Harris started the season finale at free safety in 2009 (52 snaps). Buffalo released him during the 2010 season, and he has been with Minnesota, Cincinnati, and the Giants. He is a free agent.
 
CB Ellis Lankster (7.220) - After playing some special teams as a rookie, the Bills released him. He spent 2010 in the CFL. Last year the Jets signed him (no, really), and he is still with them.
 

1. NEW YORK JETS

Jets make Super-Sanchize trade to define draft

You have to respect a team for being aggressive to get their guys in the draft. The Jets were ready to start the Rex Ryan era by connecting him with a quarterback from USC. But to get Mark Sanchez, the Jets had to move up to the top five picks in the draft, which in 2009 was still a very costly trade and subsequent contract.
 
The Jets found their trading partner in Cleveland at No. 5, and the price was picks 17, 52, and three depth players (Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff and Abram Elam).
 
Now in perfect hindsight, the Jets may have been able to stay put, select Josh Freeman at 17 (exactly where Tampa Bay got him), and then get LeSean McCoy at 52 (was picked 53rd).
 
Instead, they got Sanchez and then made another trade, giving up a fourth and seventh to move up 11 spots to take running back Shonn Greene 65th overall. Sanchez and Freeman are both inconsistent, though some may feel Freeman has more upside. McCoy has been more impressive than Greene, who is getting more work each year.
 
The Jets gave themselves an opportunity to take the second best quarterback and best running back in the draft. They may have only ended up with the third best quarterback and second best running back.

The Class

Rnd Pick Player Pos. College GP GS CarAV 2012 Team
1 5 Mark Sanchez QB USC 47 47 23 NY Jets
3 65 Shonn Greene RB Iowa 45 17 15 NY Jets
6 193 Matt Slauson G Nebraska 35 32 12 NY Jets
 
With only three picks, there is really no need for a “best” and “worst” selection. Let’s just call them for what they are.
 
QB Mark Sanchez (1.5) - With Brett Favre’s one-and-done stint, the Jets needed a quarterback. Has Sanchez been the second best quarterback in the draft? That is a debate he must have with Josh Freeman.  For all the criticism, Sanchez has been able to increase his completion percentage and touchdown percentage each season. It is concerning that his yards per attempt have dropped each season. With Tim Tebow in town, 2012 will be a make-or-break year for Sanchez. He will either have a career season, or he will be watching Tebow run the offense from the bench.
 
RB Shonn Greene (3.65) - Serving as a backup to veterans like Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson, Greene has been a good back for the Jets. He shined as a rookie in the playoffs with back-to-back road games with over 125 yards rushing and a touchdown. Last year he had a career-high 253 carries for 1,054 yards.
 
G Matt Slauson (6.193) - Since the Jets had Alan Faneca in 2009, Slauson was able to take a year off. He moved up into the starting role in 2010, and has started all 32 games since. Slauson has not been great, but as a late-round pick, it is tough to say the Jets could have done any better here.
 

SUMMARY

 
Team NY Jets Buffalo Miami New England
Players 3 8 9 12
Still on team 3 3 4 5
Total GP 127 237 216 275
Total GS 96 143 116 95
Total CarAV 50 62 55 67
 
To explain the rankings, you have to look at what each team actually has to show for today, and how much they put into it.
 
  • New England still has an adequate safety, a very good right tackle, two often injured role players on the defensive line, and a backup receiver/return man.
  • Miami has two solid starting cornerbacks, a backup/possible starter at safety, and a No. 3 wide receiver.
  • Buffalo has a very good safety, and what should be a good duo for years to come at left guard and center on the offensive line.
  • The Jets only had three picks, but they did not waste any of them in getting their quarterback, (now) primary running back, and starting left guard from the sixth round.

Not that it should factor into how they drafted in 2009, but it looks better for the Jets that they were able to give players like Maybin and Turner a try without wasting any picks the way Miami and Buffalo did. The Jets also don’t have the egregious error of a Pat White, Darius Butler or Aaron Maybin.
 
Up next: the NFC West. Often criticized, this division has managed to win at least one playoff game in eight straight seasons (0-2 in the Super Bowl).
 
Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. He’s a Shady fan, but not a shady fan. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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