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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
Former Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham arrested 01.06.15 at 9:42 am ET
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Current Jets and former Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham has been accused of spreading sexual images and illegally transporting a handgun in his Audi.

Per, Cunningham was arrested Dec. 29 at his Lafayette Avenue apartment in Summit, New Jersey. While at his home, police searched his car and found a .380 handgun in the glove compartment, according to Mark Spivey, spokesman for the Union County Prosecutor’€™s office. Cunningham was also charged with third-degree invasion of privacy under a state law that prohibits the disclosure of sexual images of a person without the individual’s consent. He was also charged with destruction of clothing.

The spokesman didn’t have more details of the charges.

The linebacker was drafted by the Patriots in the second-round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Florida. He was cut before the 2013 season and signed with the 49ers in Oct. of 2013, before being released later in the month. He signed with the Jets on Nov. 20, 2013, and appeared in two games last season, but was forced to miss this season after tearing his Achilles in training camp. He will be a free agent in March.

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Inside Man: Chandler Jones bringing pressure from defensive tackle spot 09.16.13 at 1:17 pm ET
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Since Mike Wright left the game in 2011 because of concussion issues, the Patriots have lacked a steady pass-rushing presence on the interior of their defensive line. But the sight of Chandler Jones working part-time on the interior for the first two games of the 2013 season may offer some hope that New England may have found — at least on an occasional basis — someone on the interior who can get after the passer.

Over the last year-plus, the Patriots have utilized several possibilities along the inside in hopes of finding someone who could push the pocket and get after the quarterback. From Albert Haynesworth to Jonathan Fanene to Jermaine Cunningham, no one has been able to consistently pick up the role of interior pass rusher in New England.

But on nearly 20 occasions last Thursday against the Jets, the Patriots were able to move Jones from defensive end to defensive tackle. (That’s on the heels of doing the same thing in the regular-season opener against the Bills.) And on almost every occasion, New England was able to see positive results from the move — Jones was able to consistently create havoc for the offensive lines, which struggled to match up with him, and he frequently got into the backfield after the quarterback, coming away with a pair of sacks on Geno Smith.

It was clear the longer, leaner Jones presented a unique challenge for the interior linemen of Buffalo and New York, who were more used to seeing stouter, more physical play from the likes of Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Joe Vellano.

“I think anytime you move those defensive ends inside, they obviously are a little bit smaller physically,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, “but the quickness and the length they have over most traditional defensive tackles can cause those inside guys ‘€“ guards and centers ‘€“ some problems in protection just because they’€™re not used to seeing that type of player inside.”

‘€œObviously when he’€™s inside, those guards just start sweating, because it’€™s not easy for a tackle to block Chandler. Then, you put him on a guard who’€™s not used to somebody who can move and has those ‘€˜Go-Go Gadget’€™ arms from about five feet away,’€ defensive end Rob Ninkovich said on WEEI Monday.

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Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, chandler jones, Jermaine Cunningham
Report: Patriots cut defensive end Jermaine Cunningham 08.31.13 at 10:39 am ET
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The Patriots have released defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, according to Pro Football Talk. The Florida product, who was a second-round pick of New England in 2010, had 59 tackles and 3.5 sacks with the Patriots in three seasons. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder, who was suspended for PEDs for four games in 2012, has his best year with New England last season when he had 2.5 sacks and 24 tackles (16 solo) in 12 games (three starts).

The release of Cunningham brings his journey with Bill Belichick to an apparent end. In a conversation with WEEI in 2011, former Florida coach Urban Meyer recounted the tale of Belichick and Cunningham — it appears that the New England coach fell for Cunningham as a collegian.

‘€œThat started his sophomore year,’€ Meyer said of Belichick’€™s interest in Cunningham. ‘€œCoach Belichick would always come down and watch film and I’€™d sometimes sit in there and he would keep asking about [Jermaine]: ‘€˜Who’€™s this guy? Who’€™s this guy? Who’€™s this guy?’€™ And you had Derrick Harvey, you had Jarvis Moss, Carlos Dunlap, and then Jermaine was kind of the next guy, but he would always say ‘€˜Who is that guy? I love that guy.’€™

‘€œBill Belichick’€™s the one who saw a lot in him.’€

With the Patriots deciding to release Cunningham and defensive end Marcus Benard (who was cut on Friday), youngsters Jake Bequette, Mike Buchanan and Justin Francis appear to be the favorites when it comes to finding backups to starters Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.

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Patriots practice report: No Rob Gronkowski visible 08.27.13 at 2:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — A day after being spotted doing agility drills on the lower practice field, Rob Gronkowski was not spotted anywhere on the grass complex Tuesday afternoon as the team worked out in full pads for a second straight day.

The Patriots continued their preparation for the Giants this Thursday night at Gillette in the final preseason game before the season opener Sept. 8 in Buffalo.

Gronkowski is on the PUP list and there were no firm indications one way or another from Bill Belichick Tuesday as to whether he will be removed from the list by 6 p.m. Saturday. If he is not, he will be forced to miss the first six games of the season.

For a second straight day, DE Jermaine Cunningham and WR Mark Harrison were seen on the lower grass fields with training staff before practice began. Cunningham was in full pads and expected to take part in practice. DL Armond Armstead was not seen on the lower practice field.

Harrison and Armstead, both on the non-football injury reserve list, were not in uniform and a decision on both needs to be made by 6 p.m. Saturday when the roster is set at 53 players.

Read More: Jermaine Cunningham, Mark Harrison, New England Patriots, nfl
Danny Amendola returns to Patriots practice and a good sign for Rob Gronkowski 08.26.13 at 2:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Danny Amendola and Jermaine Cunningham returned to Patriots practice in full pads on Monday outside Gillette Stadium.

Amendola missed all of last week, including the preseason loss in Detroit due to an unspecified injury while Cunningham has been out for the last several practices.

The return of Amendola to full pads practice is a good sign that he will be ready to play in this Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants at Gillette Stadium and should be a full-go for the season opener on Sept. 8 in Buffalo.

Amendola was struck in the back of the helmet in the first half of the team’s win over the Buccaneers on Aug. 16 but returned to the game. Several reports indicated that was not the reason for Amendola being held out of practice and the game last week.

On the lower practice field, Rob Gronkowski worked alone on several agility drills with cones in shorts with trainers while WR Mark Harrison and DL Armond Armstead (both on Reserve/NFI) also worked with trainers in shorts and sweats.

The fact that Gronkowski was running and working on agility drills was not news since he’s been doing that for a couple of weeks in training camp. The fact that he was spotted working aggressively in the open by media may be an indication that they are at least thinking of activating him off the PUP by Saturday’s deadline so that he does not have to sit out the first six weeks of the season.

As is the case with the PUP list for Gronkowski, if Harrison and Armstead begin the season on the non-football injury list, they will not be eligible to play in the first six weeks of the season.

DB Alfonzo Dennard and Cunningham were in full pads and also working with training staff on the lower field before practice began.

After Monday’s full pads practice, the team will practice again on Tuesday, hold a walkthrough Wednesday and then play the Giants on Thursday.

Read More: 2013 training camp, Danny Amendola, Gronk, Jermaine Cunningham
Patriots practice Monday: Danny Amendola misses his first practice 08.19.13 at 2:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — After catching six passes for 71 yards and a 26-yard touchdown grab on Friday night against Tampa Bay, wide receiver Danny Amendola was not spotted at the start of Patriots full pads practice on Monday outside Gillette Stadium.

The team is not required to announce practice reports until the season begins so there will be no official word from the Patriots if injury was the reason for the absence.

The injury-plagued Amendola is in his first season with the Patriots. He has played in just 12 of 32 games in the past two seasons, including nine starts.

Last October, Amendola suffered a dislocated clavicle. The clavicle popped in and came millimeters from puncturing his trachea and aorta, which could have killed him. Rams’ medical staff called around the league for information but no teams had ever had players suffering a similar injury.

Amendola was anesthetized before popping the clavicle back into place. He was able to recover after just three weeks and recorded 11 catches for 102 yards in a tie with the San Francisco 49ers.

Other Patriots not spotted at the beginning of practice were DL Armond Armstead, DE Jermaine Cunningham, WR Mark Harrison, CB Brandon Jones and TE Rob Gronkowski.

Returning to the practice field Monday was corner back Ras-I Dowling after missing practice time last week and missing his second preseason game on Friday.

In a rookie hazing tradition, the grass at the far end of the practice field was soaked with a water hose to prepare for the annual slip-and-slide, when veterans spray the rookies as they run through and slide on the ground.

The Patriots will practice again on Tuesday before a walk-through Wednesday, after which the team leaves for Detroit and their third preseason game Thursday night against the Lions.

Read More: 2013 training camp, Danny Amendola, Jermaine Cunningham, New England Patriots



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