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Patriots fans had a lot of questions leading up to New England’s first round pick in this year’s draft. But, after trading down multiple spots, fans had even more questions after the team made its first pick.
Sure, a select few draft nerds had heard the name. But even fewer expected the Patriots to pick him in the first round. He’s a cornerback, which the patriots had stocked up on in recent drafts. He comes from Rutgers, a fine program, but not a defense to be confused with Florida or Texas. And, finally, he was initially projected by many to go in the second round, if he was lucky.
As a player, Devin McCourty is a 5’11” defensive back who weighs in at a respectable 193 lbs and had one of the fastest 40-yard dash times among cornerbacks in the draft. His 4.42 time at the combine was faster than early first-round picks Joe Haden and Earl Thomas. He only had six career interceptions at Rutgers, but is justified as a solid defender with his 231 career tackles, including an impressively high 74 tackles in 2009.
Any speculation that McCourty will contribute both on defense and as a kick returner is doubtful, as he averaged a mediocre 25 yards per kick return in his career, and only returned one for a touchdown in his four years at the school.
He has been a staple on the Rutgers defense since his rookie season and is known as a hustle player for his contributions on special teams. He was probably most famous because he played alongside his twin brother Jason McCourty for his first three seasons with the Scarlet Knights, until the Tennessee Titans drafted him last year and the two were split up for the first time in their football lives.
All in all, the Patriots are getting a tough, athletic cornerback who is known as a humble team player who works hard on special teams. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Julian Edelman, Pat Chung, or even Tully Banta-Cain. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised that Belichick wanted him.
Many draft fanatics, myself included, who saw the letters “CB” next to the name of the player picked by New England in the first round were left scratching their heads. Leigh Bodden is likely to start next year, and Darius Butler showed promise in the time he was given last year. Not to mention, the Patriots are bringing in McCourty as another DB to fight for the second starting spot with other cornerbacks like Shawn Springs, Jonathan Wilhite, and Terrence Wheatley.
We wanted to see the Patriots get a dynamic tight end to fill the holes after Belichick gave up on Ben Watson. We wanted to see them bring in a running back who can make us stop wishing Lawrence Maroney will finally stay healthy and produce. We would have been happy with a linebacker who can help boost the defense’s embarrassing 31 sack total in 2009, or, at the very least, a playmaking wide receiver who can do what Chad Jackson failed to do and be ready to fill in for Randy Moss when he makes his graceful exit from football. Considering who was available at the time of the 22nd overall pick, this leads to the next big question.
The guy has been controversial since before he even got drafted, has been known to clash with coaches, and can make some of the most mind-blowing athletic plays look like a joke. Who would be better as a mentor for a young Dez Bryant than a veteran Randy Moss?
Bryant was on the board when that Patriots’ 22nd overall pick came up. But Jermaine Gresham, who has been called the next Antonio Gates, sack specialist Jason Pierre-Paul, and every-down-back Ryan Matthews had already been taken. So we got excited, watching clips of Bryant’s awe-inspiring highlights at Oklahoma State, hoping the Patriots would make news in this year’s draft.
But we should have seen it coming. Instead of selecting a potentially dangerous locker-room presence, Belichick did what we all should have expected him to do, and traded for more draft picks to eventually balance out the whole team.
All questions considered, the face value of the Patriots 2010 draft is misleading. Most of us want to be disappointed with the Patriots adding a ninth cornerback with their first round pick when they only had two tight ends and three defensive ends. But it seems like tricky Bill Belichick knew something that we didn’t. After trading down in the first round and taking McCourty, the Patriots added two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who should have gone in the first round if it weren’t for certain injuries and drug tests. They also added a former defensive end/outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, an unknown talent at wide receiver in Taylor Price, and a notorious teammate and leader in linebacker Brandon Spikes (the former captain of the Florida Gators’ defense).
Of course, these questions will only be answered once we can see how McCourty and the rest of the draft class can perform on the field. But, looking at the draft as a whole and not just as the result of a first round pick, the Patriots may have left New York this spring answering most of their own questions, and not worrying about ours.