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On average, there are about 251-255 of the finest college football players that get drafted every April. Less than half of those players ever impact an NFL organization.
Coming off a draft where the New England Patriots selected four talented skill position players, many thought that Bill Belichick and Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli hit a “home run” with yet another draft class.
However, four years later, the 2006 draft is considered one of the worst Patriots’ draft classes in team history.
In 2004, the Patriots held the 21st pick in the draft with RB being a prominent need. As the draft approached many draft “experts” had Oregon State product Steven Jackson dropping to New England. Although Jackson did fall, a week before the draft the Patriots traded their second round pick for disgruntled Cincinnati Bengal RB Corey Dillon. All Dillon did was propel the Patriots to Super Bowl victories in both 2004 and 2005. Dillon rushed for 2,368 yards and 24 touchdowns during those two seasons.
Heading into the 2006 campaign, with Dillon aging, the Patriots looked for a RB that could spell Dillon with success. The Patriots went on to add Minnesota RB Laurence Maroney to the mix. At Minnesota, Maroney ran for 2,812 yards and 22 touchdowns in just two seasons as the primary back.
In the beginning, the relationship between Dillon and Maroney was to the Patriots benefit, as it showed on the field. The two totaled 1,557 yards on the ground with 19 touchdowns. But, as the season progressed, Dillon appeared to be sour over Maroney and eventually left the team and retired after the 2006 season.
Moving forward, to the naked-eye Maroney was going to be a solid back for years to come. Unfortunately injuries and his soft running-style have quickly transformed his once positive label to that of a BUST.
Maroney has yet to play in a full 16-game season and has managed only one season where he ran for more than 800 yards. This past season, Maroney posted a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry average along with coughing up the football on four occasions.
Heading into his fifth season with the Patriots, this could very well be the make or break year for “Lo-Mo.”
In a draft class that had very few top-graded receivers, Chad Jackson saw himself rated neck-and-neck with Ohio State’s Santonio Holmes as the No. 1 receiver prospect in the 2006 draft. Coming from the much publicized Hoover High School in Hoover, Ala., Jackson was rated as high as the second top WR prospect in the Nation according to Rivals. After signing his letter of intent for the University of Florida, Jackson didn’t see the field much during his freshman and sophomore years. But, during Jackson’s junior and final year at Florida, he shined.
The 20-year-old caught 88 passes for 900 yards in Urban Meyer’s unique-style offense. Jackson’s success paired with the weak WR class prompted him to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft.
After recording jaw-dropping numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, such as a 4.32 40-yard dash and 38.5-inch vertical leap, Jackson saw his draft stock climb, but still some teams were cautious. Jackson only produced one year at the college level and there were some rumors that he didn’t have the intelligence to understand an NFL team’s playbook.
In April the Patriots, who were dealing with the Deion Branch situation, traded up 16 spots in the second round to grab the falling Jackson. The Patriots counterpart on the trade, the Green Bay Packers, slid down and drafted Western Michigan WR Greg Jennings.
After “wowing” everyone who was watching in mini-camps, Jackson pulled his hamstring and missed the training camp and pre-season. It would be valuable time to a rookie receiver who was expected to push for a starting job. Jackson finished the 2006 season catching 13 passes, three of which were for touchdowns.
Matters only worsened for Jackson in the 2006 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, as he tore his ACL on the kickoff specialist team. During that off-season the Patriots added Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth with hopes of eliminating their problem at WR.
Placed on the Physically Unable to Performance list, Jackson saw yet another off-season go to waste.
Jackson eventually got released before signing with the Denver Broncos for the 2008 season. Jackson only recorded one catch on the season. Jackson then sat out of the 2009 season but has been signed to the Buffalo Bills, where some think he has the chance to redeem himself.
Either way, Jackson may go down as one of the biggest busts in Patriots history.
David Thomas had a solid career for the Texas Longhorns capped off by a great performance in the 2006 Rose Bowl, where he recorded 10 receptions.
Although not the fastest or most athletic player, Thomas was more than serviceable. Thomas’ intelligence and route-running on the field was evident week in and week out, however inconsistent blocking left Thomas to be had during the middle of the draft.
With 2004 first round pick Ben Watson on the roster and showing potential, the Patriots drafted Thomas in the third round. New England also drafted H-Back Garrett Mills a round later. At the time, the pick was a little surprising considering the fact that the Patriots now had two young TEs that did the same thing – caught the ball. Both Watson and Thomas struggled with blocking but to their credit, later on in their careers they improved in that department.
Thomas played sparingly in his rookie season with the Patriots but he did show some flashes. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thomas recorded five receptions for 83 yards including an acrobatic touchdown grab
The next couple of seasons didn’t get any better for Thomas, as he struggled to stay healthy. Thomas played in just two games in 2007 because of a lingering foot injury. The Patriots finally gave up on the former Longhorn following the 2008 season, trading him for a seventh round pick to the New Orleans Saints.
Ironically enough, Thomas enjoyed success with New Orleans as he was a big reason why the Saints won their first Super Bowl in team history. Thomas caught 35 passes for 356 yards and was particularly huge in a game against the Dallas Cowboys, as he finished with eight receptions.
Thomas joins a list of Patriots TE’s since 2002 that have been disappointments during their time in Foxboro. A list that includes, Daniel Graham (2002), Ben Watson (2004) and Mills (2006). In the 2010 draft the Patriots continued their TE drafting ways adding Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.