Today's Great Patriots Debate had several different working titles before we settled on the word "disappointing."
If we simply went with "worst" pick, we'd be robbed of discussing all the what-if scenarios presented by players who suffered injuries during their pro careers and never panned out.
If we went with "biggest whiff," we'd run into the same issue. Hard to fault anyone for what happened to Robert Edwards (except maybe the NFL for holding a flag football game in the sand during Pro Bowl week) or to point fingers at anyone for Ras-I Dowling's inability to stay healthy (though he entered the league with some health concerns).
If we stick with biggest disappointments, we can lump together every high-end pick that didn't pan out — for whatever reason. Were they injured prior to their pro careers and stayed that way? Injured after the fact, providing the Patriots with nary a highlight? Could they simply... not play?
Let's pose the question to you before laying out some of the options: If you were to peg one player, who would you choose as the most disappointing draft pick in franchise history?
Your answer will depend largely on when you were born. If you're old enough to remember the Patriots taking receiver Tom Reynolds with the No. 49 overall pick in 1972 and then saw him get just eight touches as a rookie before moving on to the Bears, that might rank right up there for you. Same could be said for 1974 second-rounder Steve Corbett, who played just 14 games after going No. 30 overall (four picks ahead of Patriots Hall of Famer Steve Nelson).
There was no shortage of draft-day letdowns in the 1980s, either. Running back Vagas Ferguson went No. 25 overall in 1980 and scored just five times in essentially two seasons. Running back Robert Weathers did less than that as the No. 40 overall choice — taken one spot before Hall of Famer Andre Tippett — two years later. Receiver Darryal Wilson (second-rounder, 1983), nose tackle Mike Ruth (second, 1986) and Reggie Dupard (first, 1986) certainly didn't help the Patriots build up any foundation upon which to construct a contender. Hart Lee Dykes, an explosive athlete taken with the No. 16 overall pick in 1989, suffered a series of injuries (including an eye injury in a fight outside a club in 1990) that eventually cost him his career.
Then came the Pete Carroll era with drafts headed up by Bobby Grier. Corner Chris Canty has an argument as one of the worst picks in franchise history, providing very little after being made the No. 29 overall selection in 1997. He was gone by 1999 and out of the league by the end of the 2000 season.
The team struck gold in the first round with Edwards in 1998 until he was injured, then it missed on a pair of second-rounders in the same class: receiver Tony Simmons and tight end Rod Rutledge. Andy Katzenmoyer (No. 28 overall) was part of a two-pronged first-round for New England the following year — Damien Woody went No. 17 — but he suffered a neck injury and walked away from the game in 2001. What looked like a player who might help redefine the linebacker position for the Patriots ended up playing just 24 career games.
Bill Belichick, like any longtime personnel chief, has certainly had misses in the draft over the course of his two decades in Foxboro. The second round has been where he's taken his biggest swings, hitting on the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Sebastian Vollmer. But he's also gotten little-to-no production from second-rounders like Bethel Johnson (2003), Terrence Wheatley (2008), Dowling (2011), Aaron Dobson (2013), Jordan Richards (2015) or Cyrus Jones (2016), who suffered a torn ACL before the start of his sophomore season. Arguably the worst of the bunch was one of Belichick's highest second-round choices, wide receiver Chad Jackson (No. 36 overall, 2006).
The first round has seen Belichick get at the very least solid returns out of almost every pick, with the exception of Dominique Easley. Like many of Belichick's second-round dice-rolls, the No. 29 choice in 2014 pick was a gamble. Easley came into the NFL with a history of significant knee injuries and could not stay healthy during his time in New England. He was released less than two years after he was drafted.
If I had to narrow it down — based on what was expected of the players at the time they were selected and what they ended up contributing — I'd say Canty, Katzenmoyer, Jackson and Easley all deserve to be considered right near the top of this list. And that's not even considering which players were drafted after those guys.
Jason Taylor, the Barber twins and Sam Madison came after Canty; five-time Pro Bowler Al Wilson and Joey Porter were taken after Katzenmoyer; Greg Jennings, Andrew Whitworth and Maurice Jones-Drew followed Jackson; Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams, Stephon Tuitt, DeMarcus Lawrence and Kyle Van Noy were selected after Easley.
But again, my choices might be different than yours because of when I was born. Can't help it. Be sure to make the case for your biggest disappointment on our Facebook page or in our Twitter poll that can be found @philaperry.
Great Patriots Debate of the day:— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) July 17, 2019
Who was the most disappointing draft pick in team history?
Expecting the write-in candidates to be...plentiful. We welcome ‘em.
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