Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exercises in Draft Pick Retention, Part Two: Patriots and Packers

Yesterday I examined the Baltimore Ravens and how many of their draft picks the team chose to re-sign, through the 2010 draft. As we reviewed, the picks the Ravens kept for many years were usually their first-round picks, with a few in other rounds that have become mainstays of the franchise.

A similar pattern develops when you look at the Patriots. Ever since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, here's how it has gone.

First-round picks who played at least six years with New England are Richard Seymour (2001, eight years, 12 total), Ty Warren (2003, eight, 10), Vince Wilfork (2004, 11, released this offseason and signed with Texans),  Logan Mankins (2005, nine, 10 and still with Tampa Bay), and Jerod Mayo (2008, seven, still active). Add picks from other rounds, and, of course, you start with Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick in 2000.

Other players taken in later rounds, who played at least six years with New England, are Patrick Pass (2000, 7th round, seven years), Matt Light (2001, 2nd, 11), Jarvis Green (2002, 4th, eight), Dan Koppen (2003, 5th, nine, 11 total NFL seasons), Asante Samuel (2003, 4th, six, 11), Ben Watson (2004, 1st, six 11, still active), Stephen Gostkowski (2006, 4th, nine, still active), Matt Slater (2008, 5th, seven, still active), Sebastian Vollmer (2009, 2nd, six, still active), and Julian Edelman (2009, 7th, six, still active).

Then there are two draft picks who bear a unique distinction: They played at least six years for New England, but had two separate stints with the team. Deion Branch, a 2002 second-round pick, played 11 total seasons, his first four and his final three with the Patriots. Tully Banta-Cain, a 2003 seventh-round pick, played four years with the Pats, then left for San Francisco for two years, then came back to New England for two more years.

And then we come to other draft picks who are still with the team. Patrick Chung, a 2009 second rounder, played four years for the Pats, then signed with the Eagles, but came back to New England after Philly released him, and the Pats have extended him. The Pats have retained two 2010 picks, first rounder Devin McCourty and second rounder Rob Gronkowski.

So out of 101 draft selections from 2000 to 2010, that makes 21 long-time contributors or players still with the team, representing 21% of its selections. That's a better percentage, but it's still not a massive amount of retention.

What about draft picks who moved on and had long careers? In order of years in the NFL: Daniel Graham (2002, 1st round, five years with team, 11 total), Matt Cassel (2005, 7th, four, 10, still active), Eugene Wilson (2003, 2nd, five, eight), and Brandon Meriweather (2007, 1st, four, eight, still active). Wow, what a short list that was!

Now, if you add other recent Patriots draft picks, who stayed for at least three years and are still active, you have three: Rich Ohrnberger (2009, 4th, three, six), Brandon Spikes (2010, 2nd, four, five), and Brandon Deaderick (2010, 7th, three, five). If you want, you can add two players who were with the Pats just two years, but have managed six seasons in the NFL and seemed to have found their niche. Both were 2009 picks: second rounder Darius Butler and third rounder Brandon Tate.

Finally, there are two Patriots draft picks who never took a snap for the team, but have stuck around in the NFL for many seasons. Jeremy Mincey, a 2006 sixth-round pick, has played six seasons and is still active. So is Ted Larsen, a 2010 sixth-round pick with five NFL seasons. All of this accounts for 11 players, representing 11 percent of New England's draft picks. Again, it seems like the Patriots make the right call when to keep a draft pick around, and when to let him depart. Graham is the only one you might make a case for retaining, and you might make a case for Meriweather if you can tolerate his propensity for dirty hits.

Then we come to the Packers, for whom Ted Thompson has been general manager since 2005. He enters his 11th season, but he's following a similar pattern. Let's start with those first-round picks with at least six years of service to the Packers: Aaron Rodgers in 2005 (10 years, still with the team), A.J. Hawk (2006, nine, released and signed with Cincy), B.J. Raji (2009, six, currently a free agent), and Clay Matthews (2009, six, still with team).

Then come the draft picks with at least six years with Green Bay who were not first rounders: Nick Collins (2005, 2nd round, seven years), Brady Poppinga (2005, 4th, six, eight total in NFL), Mike Montgomery (2005, 7th, six), Greg Jennings (2006, 2nd, seven, nine, recently cut by Vikings), James Jones (2007, 3rd, seven, eight, currently with Raiders), Desmond Bishop (2009, 6th, six, eight), Mason Crosby (2007, 6th, eight), Jordy Nelson, (2008, 2nd, seven, still with team), Josh Sitton (2008, 4th, seven, still with team), T.J. Lang (2009, 4th, six, still with team), and Brad Jones (2009, 7th, six, still with team).

Then you can add four players from the 2010 draft class who are still with the team: first rounder Bryan Bulaga (who just re-signed this offseason), third rounder Morgan Burnett, fourth rounder Andrew Quarless, and sixth rounder James Starks. Throw in one draft pick with two separate stints with the Packers -- 2008 seventh-round pick Matt Flynn, with two stints totaling six of his eight seasons -- and that accounts for 21 of the 57 picks from 2005 to 2010, which is 37 percent. On one hand, it's a better percentage, but on the other hand, it's not as long as Newsome and Belichick have been at it. And it is true that the Packers have re-signed more of their draft picks from 2009 and 2010 (four each), but only time will tell if this trend continues.

As for draft picks who didn't stay at least six years and had long NFL careers, you have a pair of 2006 draft picks: second rounder Daryn Colledge (five years with team, nine years total, still active) and fourth rounder Will Blackmon (four with team, eight total). That's a whopping two draft picks not retained who had long NFL careers, and it's hard to argue either one should have been retained.

There are two draft picks who were with Green Bay at least three years who are still in the NFL: 2009 sixth-round picks Jairus Wynn (three with GB, six total) and 2010 seventh-round pick C.J. Wilson (four with GB, five total). And one draft pick never took a snap for Green Bay and is still active: 2007 seventh-round pick Clark Harris, who has played eight years in the NFL. So that makes five draft picks who didn't stay with Green Bay for many years after being drafted, and are either still active or had at least eight years in the league. Again, Green Bay has made good decisions about which draft picks to keep beyond the rookie deals.

In the final part, I will examine how these teams have thus far approached their 2011 draft picks, what may be expected for their 2012 draft picks, and how this applies to the model Denver is pursuing at this point.

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