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It’s been a year and five games since the 2010 draft and while it’s still too early to judge how successful a draft class is in such a short time, so far the Patriots class of ’10 looks terrific.
While many of the players from that draft haven’t accomplished much as of now, the trio of Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Devin McCourty have all exceeded expectations thus far.
But the nature of NFL fans is to second guess and consider the “what if’s?” This week Bill Belichick has provided us with an intriguing “what if?” possibility.
“We definitely did our work on Bryant,” Belichick said when asked about the 2010 draft.
The Patriots could’ve drafted Bryant with the 24th pick of the draft, but instead chose to trade down three spots with Dallas, who selected Bryant, and drafted McCourty with the 27th pick.
Now Bryant comes to Foxboro this week expected to match up against the player he was selected instead of.
Belichick had nothing but positive things to say about Bryant this week:
“I think the things that we see: he’s a big receiver, a strong guy, hard to match up on outside, hard guy to tackle after the catch. He’s got, like a lot of these receivers, it seems like we see one every week that have outstanding size or they’re very strong, they have great reach and even if you have them covered, you really don’t have them covered because of their length and their ability to either body-up the defender or just out-jump them or out-reach them for the ball. He’s definitely in that category and a hard guy to tackle when he gets the ball in his hands.”
Belichick rarely bad mouths other teams players, especially the week before he plays them so it’s natural that he left out the character issues that plagued Bryant in both college and in the pros.
Because Bryant had been working out with Deion Sanders and failed to disclose this, violating NCAA bylaw, he was suspended for his final season at Oklahoma State. Though Belicheck would never admit it, it could have been this question of character that kept the Patriots from grabbing him at the 24th spot.
The Patriots have no regrets about their decision to pass on Bryant. As Patriots director of personnel Nick Caserio said:
“In the end, we make a decision that we feel is the best for our team. I’m sure Dallas is happy with the pick they made and I would say we’re thrilled with the player we have in our program, so I think it’s worked out for both teams.”
But just for a second let’s think about what would’ve happened if the Patriots had selected Dez Bryant. Heading into the 2010 season the Pats were coming off a disappointing season where they were bounced out of the playoffs in the wild card.
Though Randy Moss was still playing at a high level, the Patriots realized he was getting up there in age and Wes Welker was coming off a knee injury. The playoff game against Baltimore, where the Pats were without Welker, exposed the Patriots lack of depth at receiver and so in the draft they pick Bryant at 24.
Bryant was the No. 3 receiver to start out in Dallas, and in New England he would’ve been the same. But as he did in Dallas, he would have shown enough flashes to warrant the Patriots trade of Moss in Week 4 after he started acting up.
As a rookie Bryant would have his ups and downs, maybe enough so that the Patriots would’ve still ended up trading for Deion Branch midway through the season. But Bryant’s ultimate contribution would’ve come playoff time.
Rex Ryan has said before that he was terrified of Randy Moss, and in the playoffs Ryan was able to take advantage of the Patriots lack of a deep threat by blitzing and playing tight coverage on short passes.
While I can’t say for sure whether the Pats would’ve won for sure with Dez Bryant, it certainly would’ve helped. And one thing I can say with almost 100 percent certainty is that they Patriots would not have had to go out and trade for a clearly declining Chad Ochocinco — who currently has 136 yards and 0 touchdowns through five games this year.
Still, no one will ever know what Dez Bryant would’ve done if he played for the Patriots, we can only judge based on how he has done on his current team.
What Bryant and McCourty have done so far is a small fraction of there respective careers. And it won’t be for another 10 years or so before we can really determine who was the better pick.