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The 2006 Patriots Draft Class: The Team’s Worst Ever? Part II

Gostkowski heads 2006 Draft class (Photo by Boston Herald)

(Part I | Part II | Part III)

Day two of the NFL Draft, associated with the old format, highlighted the best player from this draft class for the Patriots — a kicker. In this installment, we’ll explore an interesting situation that transpired with the Minnesota Vikings, a HUGE waste of talent, and perhaps the best kicker in Patriots history?

Garrett Mills

  • Round: 4
  • Pick: 106
  • College: Tulsa
  • Position: TE/H-Back

Garrett Mills might be the most popular fourth round draft choice in NFL history or hasn’t produced at all in the NFL. To the casual NFL fan, he is just that. A “no-name” player who did “nothing” in the league. But to the die-hard football fan, the knowledge goes deeper than just the name.

If you polled all 31 head coaches in the NFL today around 20 of them would say they disliked Patriots coach Bill Belichick. If you polled those same coaches and asked how many hate Belichick, there would be at least one.

This 6’1,” 235-pound undersized TE from Tulsa, Okl., has single-handley caused a hatred between Belichick and Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress.

The Patriots released Mills after just one year on the roster with the hopes to sign him back on their practice squad. To do so a player must clear waivers. Childress and the Vikings ignored a plea from Belichick that they don’t sign Mills and signed the Tulsa product. With Childress breaking a “coaching code” Belichick went out that same week and signed David Herron, a player the Vikings were trying to put on their practice squad.

Sadly, all this back-and-forth game between the two was as much publicity Mills received. As a player Mills hasn’t done much of anything, despite a prolific college career at Tulsa, where Mills recorded 87 receptions for 1,235 yards, the most ever for a division 1 TE.

At the time of this selection, the Patriots were thought to use Mills as a FB, H-Back role, but that didn’t work out — like almost every other pick in the 2006 draft.

TEs taken after Mills (that have made an impact)

  • Owen Daniels – Houston Texans; Pick 98

Stephen Gostkowski

  • Round: 4
  • Pick: 118
  • College: Memphis
  • Position: K

Stephen Gostkowski proved to be the Patriots best player from this draft class. Although drafting a kicker is never a stylish selection, Belichick and co. pulled the trigger, making Gostkowski the highest kicker drafted in 2006.

Since joining the team in 2006, Gotskowski had to live in the shadow of former Patriot Adam Vinatieri. Everyone knows about the huge kicks Vinatieri made for New England, especially during the 2001 playoff campaign. Everyone also knows that the Patriots won’t pay more than they believe a player is forth, so because of this Vinatieri signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

Meanwhile as some fans were still saddened by the departure of Vinatieri, Gostkowski continued to kick the ball well.

In his rookie season, Gostkowski hit 77 percent of his field goals attempted — including a 52-yarder against the Chicago Bears. In 2007, the number improved to 88 percent and then 90 percent in 2008. After connecting on 84 percent of his kicks in 2009, Gostkowski has quickly become one of the best kickers in the NFL today.

Perhaps Gostkowski’s strongest point comes in his kickoff game. Gostkowski ranks in the top five of touchbacks and yards, which is of huge help for the defense.

The Patriots placed a second round tender on Gostkowski before signing him to one year, $1.76 million dollar deal in April.

At just 26 years old, Gostkowski has the highest kicking percentage, 85.6 percent, in Patriots history. But that’s not all, in 2008 Gostkowski led the NFL with 148 points, which was the most by any Patriots player since Gino Cappelletti recorded 155 in 1984.

Heading into his fifth season in New England, Gostkowski has made some Patriots fans forget about ole’ No. 4.

Ks taken after Gostkowski (that have made an impact)

  • N/A

Ryan O’Callaghan

  • Round: 5
  • Pick: 136
  • College: California
  • Position: OT

When the Patriots drafted the 6’7” 330-pound OT from California people were excited, for obvious reasons. It’s rare to find a tackle with that size at this point in the draft. Usually teams jump all over these mammoth-type creations early because they think they can turn him into a player (ala Al Davis). But in this case, Ryan O’Callaghan was a HUGE disappointment. Literally.

During his rookie season, there was promise around the California kid. He showed terrific technique and was vying for playing time at RT.

O’Callaghan was a force in college, paving the way for the likes of J.J Arrington, Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. It looked like the Patriots found a steal. O’Callaghan started six games in 2006 and looked like he had the build to be a starting tackle in the NFL.

In 2007, O’Callaghan saw playing time increase in double tight-end offensive sets, but many were surprised that he didn’t surpass the incumbent Nick Kaczur at the RT spot. This would become a regular disappointment. With the play of Kaczur slowing, many looked for O’Callaghan to step up and fill the void, however O’Callaghan was going in the wrong direction. Oddly enough, he regressed almost bi-weekly in 2007 and in 2008 was placed on injured-reserve.

The end of O’Callaghan in New England came before the 2009 season, where he was outplayed by fellow-mammoth, rookie Sebastian Vollmer.  O’Callaghan is now currently on the Kansas City Chiefs.

OTs taken after O’Callaghan (that have made an impact)

  • Brad Butler – Buffalo Bills; Pick 143 (converted to OG)
  • Charlie Johnson – Indianapolis Colts; Pick 199
(in our final installation we’ll look at Jeremy Mincy, Dan Stevenson, Le Kevin Smith and Willie Andrews)

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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