So did the Patriots consider taking Michael Oher with the 23rd overall pick — the Patriots’ assigned first-round slot in April — in the 2009 draft?
Bill Belichick says the Patriots, in fact, did. But the other consideration (trading down) won out … Here’s how the coach says it happened:
“He was one of the players that was still there on the board, and certainly a guy that we were considering, but at the same time we felt like this was a player that there were going to be other teams looking for,” Belichick said. “We all know how tackles go, and (Jason and Andre) Smith went high and (Eugene) Monroe went high, and he was one of the ones that was a Top 10 guy, Top 15 guy, and now we’re down there and we hit 20 and he’s still on the board.
“You could just feel that there was gonna be somebody coming up to get him, the teams at bottom of the first round like Baltimore was, or at the top of the draft that didn’t get that guy in the first round, that would come up from 34 or 35 or 36. Baltimore, we felt like it was a good fit there. We weren’t going back too far, but we were picking up something, felt like it was a fair trade.”
This highlights one of the fascinating facets of the NFL Draft. There were considered to be four elite tackles in the draft, and three of them went in the first eight picks. So as Oher slipped, the value of each pick grew.
Now, I’m not gonna go nuts with this “value” stuff. If Oher becomes Anthony Munoz (one Ravens official suggested to me that the rookie is already at a Pro Bowl-level), then it’d be almost impossible for the Patriots windfall in the trade to outpoint what Baltimore got. But New England still has a chance to make out OK in this one, even if they traded down a second time out of the slot where Green Bay Pro Bowler Clay Matthews was taken.
Basically, for Oher, the Patriots wound up with four picks … a second-rounder (Darius Butler), a third-rounder (Brandon Tate) and a seventh-rounder (Julian Edelman), plus a 2010 second-rounder, which will be either 42nd or 44th overall. So they took two guys who have started games, plus an injury risk (Tate had the torn ACL when he was drafted) that hasn’t paid off yet.
One thing that mitigates the damage of letting Oher go to Baltimore: In between the Butler and Tate picks, in their assigned second-round slot at 58th overall, the Patriots got Sebastian Vollmer.
And while Oher’s clearly been the best rookie tackle in the league this year, you could make a strong argument that the Big German is No. 2. He’s got the athleticism and size like Oher, plus the rare ability to switch from one side to another.
“They’ve actually done it,” said Belichick, of Oher and Vollmer. “It’s another thing to say, ‘Well, Jake Long played left tackle for Miami, and yeah, he could do the same thing at right tackle.’ And maybe he could. But he just hasn’t done it. He’s played left tackle both years down there, whereas, Oher started out on the right, he plays on the left in their unbalanced line package, which is significant.
“Then, in our game, he moved over to left when (Jared) Gaither got hurt, and (Marshal) Yanda came in, then stayed in there for several weeks and moved back over to the right side. Same thing with Vollmer, played on the left side for Matt (Light) and played on right side for Nick (Kaczur), has played both.
“It’s not only unusual for those guys to have that skill, but then for it to actually happen, and be pretty good, that’s pretty unusual. It really is. I doubt that either Baltimore or us went into the year saying, ‘We’re gonna need this guy to play both tackles.’ You’re kinda hoping he can play one, and hoping that you’re not gonna have to move him. But both teams have had to do it, both guys have done a good job.”
And maybe that’s why, while Baltimore cleared loved Oher, the Ravens also liked Vollmer.
“For a rookie to come in and start, play
really well, and then go to the other side and play really well, (Oher)
really made a seamless transition from the right side to the left side,” Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh said.
“I think it says a lot about obviously his talent. But more than that, I
think it talks to his work ethic because its double the reps if you
think about it footwork wise, also understanding the mental part of it.
He’s really a smart guy and he really works hard at it.
“We really liked Sebastian coming out. He was really
high on our draft board and then we ended up getting Michael. So
that kind of pre-empted that and the Patriots drafted him pretty high.
He’s a very smart guy, a very hard worker. He’s huge.”
And so, it seems, are the ramifications of all that happened between these two teams in April.