Re-Grading The Patriots' 2011 NFL Draft: A Mixed Bag

The 2016 NFL Draft is just a couple months away, giving us ample time to survey the draft landscape for the New England Patriots and learn from successes and failures past. Today, we're here to re-grade a 2011 NFL Draft class that ran the gamut from wild success to head-shaking bust.

Early Rounds

OT Nate Solder (1st round, 17th overall) Grade: A
CB Ras-I Dowling (2nd round, 33rd overall) Grade: F
RB Shane Vereen (2nd round, 56th overall) Grade: B

Solder has emerged as the backbone of the Patriots' offensive line, and his season-ending biceps injury this past October isn't going to change that for 2016 and beyond. Dowling, on the other hand, was one of the biggest draft busts of the Bill Belichick era. He had all the length and speed to be a starting outside cornerback for the team, but season-ending injuries in 2011 and 2012 ultimately brought his time with the team to an abrupt halt. More Patriots draft coverage inside the Chat Sports iPhone and Android apps!

As for Vereen, he established himself as a PPR Fantasy Football darling in New England -- morphing into one of the most durable and effective receiving backs in the game. Dion Lewis is now occupying his role after Vereen moved on to the Giants last offseason, but he was a key weapon for the offense when he was around. 

Middle Rounds

RB Stevan Ridley (3rd round, 73rd overall) Grade: B-/C+
QB Ryan Mallett (3rd round, 74th overall) Grade: C-
OT Marcus Cannon (5th round, 138th overall) Grade: C
TE Lee Smith (5th round, 159th overall) Grade: F

Ridley's story with New England didn't have a happy ending, with an MCL and ACL tear leading to him ultimately being replaced. There's also his well-documented fumble problem, although he did rush for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 -- enough to push his grade up to the B-/C+ line. Mallett has tried his hand at being a legitimate starting QB elsewhere, but the talent he flashed evolving as a backup with the Pats hasn't fully materialized.

Cannon has been versatile and has appeared in an average of 13 games per season since 2011, but he struggled mightily when called upon for extra duty in 2014 and 2015 and currently amounts to a backup tackle with a $4.75 million cap hit. Lee Smith? He was cut after training camp in 2011, landing on the Bills before the Pats could get him on the practice squad.

Late Rounds

DE Markell Carter (6th round, 194th overall) Grade: F
DB Malcolm Williams (7th round, 219th overall) Grade: F

Both Carter and Williams bounced on and off the roster as late-round developmental projects, but neither panned out. Carter now plays for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Williams last played for the Nebraska Danger of the Indoor Football League. Get the skinny on the Patriots' draft exploits inside the Chat Sports iPhone and Android apps!


1st Round, 28th overall Sent To New Orleans Saints (RB Mark Ingram) for 2nd Round, 56th Overall (RB Shane Vereen) and 2012 1st Round Selection (DE Chandler Jones [After Packaged With 3rd Round Pick]) Grade: A+

Mark Ingram has yet to fully live up to his Heisman billing, perplexing and angering many fantasy football fans each year. On the other side, New England picked up a versatile weapon in Vereen and the biggest impact player on the defense in Jones.

2nd Round, 60th Overall Sent to Houston Texans (CB Brandon Harris) for 3rd Round, 73rd Overall (Stevan Ridley), and 5th Round, 138th Overall (Marcus Cannon) Grade: A

Harris washed out in Houston and lost his 2015 season with the Tennessee Titans due to an ACL tear. In exchange, New England got 2,000 combined rushing yards from Ridley in 2012-13 and a serviceable backup in Cannon. Not a blowaway, but it's an easy A.

3rd Round, 92nd Overall (OL Joe Barksdale), and 4th Round, 125th Overall (RB Taiwan Jones), Sent to Oakland Raiders for 2012 Second-Round Pick (Tavon Wilson) Grade: C

Wilson has been a fantastic special teams player for New England. However, Joe Barksdale is the star of this exchange -- ultimately functioning as the lone bright spot for San Diego this year on a beleaguered offensive line. As for Jones, he's been a versatile player for Oakland and will move back to RB to good after a few years playing defense/special teams.

Overall Grade: B

There are some notable duds here, but Nate Solder, the 2012 selection which brought Chandler Jones into the fray and a handful of solid complementary pieces shines a good light on this draft. Also, any time you can come out on the good end of two multi-pick trades in a draft, you're doing something right.

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Related Topics: Ryan Mallett, Nate Solder, Chandler Jones, Taiwan Jones, Patriots News, Shane Vereen