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Worst draft picks of Bill Belichick era, 2015 edition 04.29.15 at 8:27 pm ET
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Chad Jackson was a second-round pick out of Florida in 2006. (Paul Spinelli/Getty Images)

Chad Jackson was a second-round pick out of Florida in 2006. (Paul Spinelli/Getty Images)

We ran down the 20 best draft picks of the Bill Belichick era on Tuesday, and in the interest of equal time, here’s our look at the 12 worst picks since 2000.

Like our list of requirements for making the “best of” list, there are certain guidelines when it comes to measuring a truly bad pick. Obviously, production is the primary measuring stick, but unfulfilled promise also figures heavily. Frankly, if you’re a seventh-round selection who washes out, it’s no harm, no foul. As such, you won’t see anyone many late picks on this list. If someone taken in the first 100 overall selections goes bust, it’s a different matter altogether.

12. Kevin O’Connell (3rd round, 94th overall, 2008): The Patriots go after a quarterback every spring, and in 2008, O’Connell was their guy. He certainly looked the part, and considering his college career, appeared to be the type who might be able to succeed at the next level. But by his own admission, he simply was overwhelmed when he got to the NFL. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder spent only one year with the Patriots, playing in two regular-season games and going 4-for-6 for 23 yards. However, he was quickly supplanted by undrafted free agent Brian Hoyer, and ended up spending time with the Lions, Jets and Dolphins. He’s currently the quarterbacks coach with the Browns.

11. Laurence Maroney (1st round, 21st overall, 2006): In hindsight, maybe we were a little hard on old Kool-Aid the first time we put this list together back in 2013. (We had him at No. 3.) I mean, he should be here, but still, he did have some quality production while with the Patriots, including a two-year stretch where he had 1,580 rushing yards, a 4.4 yards per carry average and 12 touchdowns. Ultimately, however, the numbers are more representative of a mid-round pick, not a guy who was taken in the top 25.

10. Ron Brace (2nd round, 40th overall, 2009): The 6-foot-3, 330-pound Bay State native played four seasons with the Patriots, but was mostly relegated to rotational duty up front as he struggled to stay on the field with occasional health issues. He ended up playing 39 regular-season games with New England and registering 24 tackles, and never developed into the consistent presence the Patriots hoped he could become.

9. Taylor Price (3rd round, 90th overall, 2010): The Ohio product started from a negative position — because of a weird academic quirk, he wasn’t allowed to take part in New England’s OTAs until he graduated — so it appeared he was always trying to catch up throughout the summer. But for whatever reason, the 6-foot, 204-pound Price just never seemed to click with the quarterback, as Tom Brady was clearly lukewarm on him from the jump. A perennial breakout candidate for most of his two seasons in New England, he caught just three passes for 41 yards in four regular-season games. He was cut loose by the Patriots in 2011 and connected with Jacksonville.

8. David Thomas (3rd round, 86th overall, 2006): Coming out of Texas, the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder had an impressive pedigree, but he never seemed to mesh with the New England offense in his three seasons with the Patriots — he had 21 catches for 261 yards and a touchdown in 32 regular-season games in a New England uniform. He eventually won a ring as a backup tight end in New Orleans, and he caught a career-best 35 passes for 356 yards and a touchdown in 2009 with the Saints.

7. Jermaine Cunningham (2nd round, 53rd overall, 2010): The love affair between Belichick and Cunningham has been well-documented — Urban Meyer tried to steer Belichick to another one of the defensive players, but the Patriots coach kept coming back to Cunningham. In the end, it was not to be between Cunningham and the Patriots. The 6-foot-2, 248-pounder ended up sticking around Foxboro for three seasons and occasionally showed flashes of talent, but ended with 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 36 regular-season games with the Patriots.

6. Terrence Wheatley (2nd round, 62nd overall, 2008) and Jonathan Wilhite (4th round, 129th overall, 2008): These two were intertwined — both cornerbacks who were part of the same draft class, they both got off to good starts in New England, only to hit the wall shortly after and never recover. Wheatley lasted two seasons and 11 full games with the Patriots before getting the boot — he fell off the radar screen after suffering a wrist injury midway through the year. He struggled to see the field in 2009, and then was injured again in the preseason the following year, which ultimately led to his release during the season. Meanwhile, Wilhite got three years with New England, and had slightly better numbers (three picks, seven passes defensed in 39 games) before spending a fourth season with the Broncos.

5. Bethel Johnson (2nd round, 45th overall, 2003): When he was right, he was an electrifying presence — he returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns and averaged 15 yards a reception — but was so wildly inconsistent he ended up being given away after three seasons for defensive lineman Jonathan Sullivan, who was promptly cut by New England. He had 30 catches for 450 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver, and returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns while averaging 25.1 yards per chance with the Patriots.

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Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, Bethel, Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather
Adam Schefter on D&C: ‘New England is a team to watch’ at Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline 10.29.13 at 10:36 am ET
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning to discuss the NFL trade deadline, as well as Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather‘s comments towards Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

NFL teams have until 4 p.m. Tuesday to make a trade. Players such as Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, Titans receiver Kenny Britt and Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez have been rumored to be on the trading block.

“The first thing I would tell you is don’t get your hopes too high, because at this time of the year, this is one area where baseball has it on football, where there just isn’t a lot of action,” Schefter said. “I’ve been going back and forth with a couple of people this morning, and they’ve said to me, ‘Nothing newer on this front.’ Again, it’s 8:30 in the morning, and a lot can change by 4 o’clock Eastern, which is the time of the deadline, but football never produces a lot of trades.

“And keep in mind this year already, we have seen former first-round picks such as Trent RichardsonBryant McKinnieLevi BrownEugene Monroe already traded. Again, not household names, not highly productive players in most cases, but still a lot of trades up until this point, and so we may get a trade or two throughout the course of the day. It’s possible, but there’s nothing right now that you say, ‘Boy, this is one that we really have to chart.’ ”

The Patriots are no strangers to the trade deadline, as they acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from the Buccaneers on Nov. 1, 2012. The acquisition of Talib has so far turned out to be a spectacular move, as he has emerged as one of the top secondary players in the league this season.

With injuries to the Patriots defensive line and a group of rookies making up most of the receiving corps, many have wondered if the Pats will once again be buyers Tuesday.

“I think they’ve made some inquiries, but I don’t think anything has materialized … but they’ve done what every team should be doing,” Schefter said. “They’ve made a couple of calls to see who might and might not be available, and nothing has worked out so far. I think New England is a team to watch today. I’m not going to tell you they’re going to get anything done.

“Again, deals are difficult to get done at the trade deadline, but I think the Patriots would be interested in a defensive tackle if they could, I think if there was a wide receiver out there that made some sense … but they’ve made moves more that haven’t exactly worked out. I think they’re going to be careful.”

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Read More: adam schefter, Brandon Meriweather, nfl, Patriots
NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Texas S Kenny Vaccaro 03.18.13 at 2:03 pm ET
By   |  24 Comments will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.


Position: Safety

School: Texas

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 214 pounds

Achievements: 2012, 2011 All-Big 12 first team (coaches), 2012 Pro Football Weekly All-America first team, team captain

What he brings: The best safety in the 2013 draft is exactly what the Patriots need. A strong, athletic playmaker, he was asked to spend much of his time near the line of scrimmage, but he has the versatility to excel wherever teams need him to play. For the Patriots, that’€™s a safety who can come down and play in the box while also showing strong zone skills when asked to play a deep zone.

More importantly in the Patriots’€™ case, Vaccaro is a load in the defensive backfield who can deliver a blow to the ball-carrier — something many critics believe the Patriots have lacked in recent years — while retaining solid pass-coverage skills. Not a pure strong safety by trade, Vaccaro still fits the mold better than any current Patriot and excels in all other areas to make such a transition work.

Vaccaro’€™s man coverage skills and athleticism are reminiscent of former Patriot Brandon Meriweather, as his hitting ability. On the flip side, Vaccaro has displayed a tendency to be aggressive against the run and in pass coverage and has the potential to have his hand caught in the cookie jar too often against NFL offenses and engaged in an on-field fight in college. Again, qualities he shares with Meriweather.

The comparisons, though, aren’€™t perfect. Vaccaro is a superior prospect who, unlike the freelancing Miami product, was the quarterback of the Texas secondary during his time as a starter and has displayed strong leadership qualities as a team captain, something that Bill Belichick also views as a positive when making selections.

Although he’€™s athletic with solid range, Vaccaro’€™s ball skills aren’€™t elite, and his college numbers are evidence of that. While his 231 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 19 pass deflections over four seasons are indicative of an elite college safety, his five career picks are not. Keep in mind, though, defensive stats aren’€™t the best measuring stick for defensive performance, as Vaccaro’€™s draft stock indicates. They are, however, a factor.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1 (likely via a trade to move up)

Notes: In the past, there was a possibility that a versatile safety like Vaccaro could slip down toward the end of the first round. However, NFL teams have placed great value in larger defensive backs to take on some of the larger physical freaks that offenses are unleashing these days, particularly the tight ends. Last year’€™s selection of Alabama’€™s Mark Barron at No. 7 overall by Tampa Bay was evidence was this trend. If the Patriots are to have a shot at the Texas safety, they’€™ll likely have to make a move.

Vaccaro has an unorthodox combination of a solid reputation as a locker room leader with some character questions. As referenced earlier, Vaccaro punched an opposing player during the 2012 Alamo Bowl, although he was not ejected. He also was arrested after a fight with a fellow student in 2009 and for failing to comply with a police officer while waiting for pizza last May. These concerns will all be addressed during draft process interviews, although it’€™s unlikely to have a significant impact on his draft stock.

Related articles: SB Nation: A tribute to Texas Longhorns DB Kenny Vaccaro

Akron Beacon Journal: A look at possible Browns target Kenny Vaccaro

SportsDay: Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro: Lackluster effort ‘causing a cancer’ on Horns defense

SB Nation: Kenny Vaccaro throws punches, isn’t ejected from Alamo Bowl

Video: Here’s a package of Vaccaro highlights from the 2012 season.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, 2013 Potential Patriots, Brandon Meriweather, Kenny Vaccaro
Ex-Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather suffers season-ending injury 11.19.12 at 6:08 pm ET
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Former Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, a two-time Pro Bowler, suffered a season-ending tear of the ACL in his right knee in his first and only game of the 2012 season for the Washington Redskins. Meriweather, who signed with Washington as a free agent this spring, had missed all of the Redskins season until Sunday due to a pair of left knee ligament sprains suffered in training camp. He reinjured the knee twice — including once in warmups before he was to be activated in Week 4 — before finally getting on the field in Washington’s 31-6 win over the Eagles on Sunday. Meriweather was a force, with an interception and seven tackles, but he blew out his knee without contact early in the third quarter.

Per the AP story:

“I want to start off by saying I’m sorry to all the redskins fan. Y’all are the best,” Meriweather posted on Twitter shortly after receiving the diagnosis. “But this was a bad season for me.”

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Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Washington Redskins,
Five thoughts on Day 3 of NFL free agency and how it has impacted the Patriots 03.15.12 at 4:01 pm ET
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Here are five thoughts on Day 3 of NFL free agency and how it has impacted the Patriots to this point:

1. Danny Amendola, a slot receiver who recently found a niche with the Rams, has suddenly become a hot name on the free agent market. Looked at by some as an eventual heir to Wes Welker — the 5-foot-11, 188-pound Amendola is also a Texas Tech guy who was an undrafted free agent, and struggled before finding a home — we asked our pal Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus about the comparisons between Amendola and Welker. He said they share a lot in common:

‘€œThe year to look at is 2010, when Amendola had 85 receptions from 114 targets. Like Welker, he worked almost exclusively in the slot and underneath,’€ Monson wrote. ‘€œ102 of those targets were from the slot, and Sam Bradford was able to rely on Amendola’€™s quickness and smarts in between zones to move the chains and keep the offense going.

‘€œEssentially he was Welker-lite at the time, and I think he sparked a trend in the league of teams trying to find their own version of Welker. Amendola is a very similar type of player, and he may even have slightly better hands. But I think he’€™s a little less impressive an athlete. Welker has quicks that nobody can stick with if he’€™s given long enough to make a move. Amendola relies more on exploiting holes in zones and being in the right spot, but he can be covered with top players. But in terms of price and age, he’€™s a natural heir apparent to Welker.’€

2. We’€™ve written and talked about this already, but the fact that the safety market is one of the weakest it’€™s been in years (both in free agency and in the draft) was driven home when Brandon Meriweather ended up signing with the Redskins on Thursday after taking a couple of visits. While he was never a viable option to return to New England, it takes another available name off the board in what is a rapidly deteriorating group of available bodies. If the Patriots are still looking to find a safety in free agency, there’€™s LaRon Landry and his giant arms. (Landry will apparently visit New England — is he going to be allowed to bring those biceps on the plane, or will they make him drive to Foxboro?) We have also speculated about the idea of the Patriots going after someone like Jim Leonhard, a veteran who has been banged up the last few seasons but is still regarded as a well-respected presence across the NFL.

3. One of the safeties the Patriots have also kicked the tires on is Steve Gregory, an intriguing prospect who has some positional versatility. We’€™re finding out more and more about him — he was a corner and a wide receiver at Syracuse, and caught 38 balls for 420 yards as a junior (included in those numbers is a three-catch, 53-yard contest against Boston College). It doesn’€™t mean that he will be asked to flip to the offensive side of the ball if he signs with the Patriots, but that’€™s the sort of positional versatility they like in Foxboro. In addition, as Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston has already noted, he was part of a Syracuse team that also had Matt Patricia as an offensive grad assistant — the same Matt Patricia who is now the Patriots’€™ de facto defensive coordinator.
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Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, Aaron Schobel, Brandon Meriweather, Danny Amendola
Patrick Chung brings a sense of stability back to Patriots secondary 01.19.12 at 7:37 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’€™s no coincidence that since safety Patrick Chung returned to the starting lineup, the Patriots defense has strung together seven of its most consistent quarters of the season.

Chung, who was sidelined for seven games with a foot injury he suffered in a Nov. 6 loss to the Giants, made his way back for the regular-season finale against the Bills on Jan. 1. And since the end of the first quarter of the win over Buffalo through the divisional playoffs last week against Denver, the New England defense has yielded one touchdown and 10 total points. Against the Broncos, the Patriots allowed 252 net yards, their lowest total allowed on the season.

During a year in which New England discarded veteran safeties like Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders, when he’€™s been healthy, the 5-foot-11, 212-pound Chung has been a steady, stabilizing presence in the secondary, providing support for the Patriots’€™ back line. For the season, the 24-year-old Chung was sixth on the team with 67 tackles (39 solo), to go along with one sack, two quarterback hits, one interception and four passes defensed.

‘€œPatrick brings a good level of experience. He’€™s been through a lot in terms of all our calls and adjustments,’€ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ‘€œPatrick is a smart guy. He understands concepts, he’€™s well prepared and he had a good level of experience. He’€™s been out there in all situations: first down, second down, third down, fourth down. He takes that experience to all those situations and he’€™s got good confidence.’€

‘€œIt means a lot [to get him back],’€ linebacker Jerod Mayo said of Chung’€™s return. ‘€œWe had a lot of different guys back there, and any time you can get consistency anywhere on the defensive side of the football, you’€™ll have a better defense. So it’€™s good to get him back, it’€™s good to get [Brandon] Spikes back and hopefully we continue to improve.’€

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Brandon Spikes, Devin McCourty
Devin McCourty talks about all the change in the Patriots secondary 11.03.11 at 8:34 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Almost overnight, the 24-year-old Devin McCourty — with just 23 NFL starts under his belt — has become the senior cornerback in the Patriots’ system. No current member of the Patriots secondary has more starts under his belt in New England than the Rutgers product.

The Patriots have had several shifting parts at corner over the last year, with the departures of Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler and the additions of Antuwan Molden and Phillip Adams. And while Kyle Arrington and Pat Chung have played more games as a pro, it’s McCourty who has the most experience as a starter of any defensive back in the New England system.

But it’s not like McCourty sits around pining for the days when he was part of a group that included Bodden and Butler, as well as safeties Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders, both of whom were released before the start of the season.

“I mean, I still talk to those guys so I know where they are,” he said Thursday when asked about his former teammates. “I think our focus right now is just getting better and at times we’€™re making strides in that and at times we’€™re falling a little short. I think our goal is to keep getting better and be more consistent.”

After all the moves, McCourty said the defensive backs that remain have learned to manage all the change that’s taken place.

“You just keep playing,” he said. “You have to really value those reps when you’€™re out there on the practice field. When we’€™re in the meeting rooms, we’€™re communicating with guys and that’€™s where you build that trust and communication on the field — you build it in meeting rooms and walkthroughs. We really just emphasize communicating in the walkthroughs and meetings.”

The Patriots’ appeared to struggle in pass defense Sunday against the Steelers, yielding 365 yards to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. New England is last in the league against the pass, allowing an average of 323.1 yards per game. But for his part, McCourty remains optimistic about the rest of the season.

“I think our outlook is really that we’€™re going to get better,” he said. “We really don’€™t worry about what everybody else says. We’€™re just trying to get better and we’€™re trying to do it as soon as possible. When we go out there today we’€™re going to have that urgency at practice to get better. [We’€™re] trying to make sure it keeps coming over on Sundays, not just for a week, not for two weeks but that we can be consistent stringing each game together.”

Read More: Antuwan Molden, Ben Roethlisberger, Brandon Meriweather, Darius Butler



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