The Trial of Aaron Hernandez’ Draft Pick: Was The 113th Pick Worth the Price

I figured someone had to tackle this issue with a certain rigor that might finally prove a point. The Pats have been getting slammed recently by hindsight-ing critics, fans, and most notably GM’s of several less successful football franchises that have come out of the woodwork to say that the Patriots never should have taken the Gator TE. It sounds pretty smart in retrospect. Clearly given that Hernandez will probably never play football again his value takes a nosedive. My goal here, however, is simply to provide the hard facts of Hernandez’ short career and juxtapose it with what else came and went out of that 2010 fourth round.

It’s important to note that this isn’t putting his lucrative contract extension under the microscope (and most certainly not Hernandez the human being either…yeesh). The issue at hand is his draft pick, which GM’s like the Bengal’s owner Mike Brown, recently former Colts GM Bill Polian and Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland had claimed they had figured out all along. Here is my breakdown of the 2010 fourth round and who came out of it with what. Please take a look at the data and reach your own conclusions, but from what is in front of me I think it’s obvious that the Pats got markedly more out of Hernandez even in a short period of time than the vast majority of teams managed with their 4th round pick.

Note: If I’ve discounted the real life value of a player on your team please leave a comment making a case and I’ll possibly re-adjust. Or just call me an idiot.

QUICK REFERENCES

Fourth Round Indisputable Winners:
Bengals – Geno Atkins
Buccaneers – Mike Williams
Ravens – Dennis Pitta
Vikings – Everson Griffen *1 year solid production
Bears – Corey Wootton *1 year solid production

Tight Ends Drafted
113. Aaron Hernandez 1,956 Yards 18 TDs
114. Dennis Pitta 1,075 Yards 10 TDs
118. Garrett Graham 287 Yards 3 TDs
125. Clay Harbor 421 Yards 4 TDs

Players No Longer With Team That Drafted Them: 14 of 32 (6 no longer in the NFL)

Average Draft Grade for 31 picks not including Hernandez: D+
*Using my own grading > numerical values divided by 31. I think I was plenty fair though.

2010 NFL DRAFT ROUND 4 – PLAYERS DRAFTED

99. Mardy Gilyard – St Louis Rams
Synopsis: Waived by the Rams after playing 11 games and not doing anything despite a decent draft buzz. Caught 2 passes for 15 yards for the Jets in 2012. Nobody caught much of anything for the Jets last year, but failed to contend on a weak WR roster.
Grade: F

100. Everson Griffen – Minnesota Vikings
Synopsis: Struggled as a rookie. Arrested twice in a week in 2011 including being tazered for grabbing a cop’s crotch. Three seasons later finally started to actually perform with 8 sacks. It’s worth noting that the Patriots were on the phone with Griffen 11 picks prior when Carolina offered them a 2011 2nd rounder (Ras-I Dowling at 33).
Grade: B-

101. Mike Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Synopsis: Solid wide receiver that has performed consistently and emerged as a top target for Josh Freeman and it certainly isn’t because Freeman is blowing people’s doors off. Beyond Hernandez and Geno Atkins, Williams was undoubtably the top player taken in the round.
Grade: A

102. Darryl Sharpton – Houston Texans
Synopsis: Backup linebacker with fewer tackles to show for his entire career than Jerod Mayo managed when he missed 3 games in 2009.
Grade: D

103. Perry Riley – Washington Redskins
Synopsis: Placeholder starting inside linebacker opposite London Fletcher, but at least he’s still a starter… for now.
Grade: C

104. Alterraun Verner – Tennessee Titans
Synopsis: Serviceable #2 corner with modest production that would maybe be a nickel corner on a better team
Grade: B-

105. Trevard Lindley – Philadelphia Eagles
Synopsis: Played 11 games in 2010 with 1 INT. Cut by the Eagles the following year, and twice again after that.
Grade: F

106. Bruce Campbell – Oakland Raiders
Synopsis: Originally slotted as a top 10 pick the Raiders selected him to play LT. Eventually moved him to RT and then traded him for Mike Goodson. He’s currently listed as the backup LT for the Carolina Panthers
Grade: C-

107. Marcus Easley – Buffalo Bills
Synopsis: Put on IR with a heart condition (how’d they miss they miss that?). Didn’t play in a game until 2012 and handled 2 kickoff returns.
Grade: D-

108. Jacoby Ford – Oakland Raiders
Synopsis: The Raiders drafted a guy with modest statistical production in college who ran a 4.28. Huuuge surprise. Ford was a solid kick returner who looked like a promising slot receiver but terrible QB play held him back. He missed all of 2012 with a lisfranc injury and only played 8 games in 2011. he could still emerge as a decent football player.
Grade: C+

109. Corey Wootton – Chicago Bears
Synopsis: Wootton was scouted by the Patriots before the draft. The Bears had trouble keeping him on the field for 2 years getting only 13 games out of him in his first 2 seasons with 1 sack in a reserve role. He started to break out last year with 7 sacks and will start opposite Julius Peppers this season.
Grade: B

110. Darrell Stuckey – San Diego Chargers
Synopsis: Stuckey is a depth player with zero career interceptions and just a blank space under the “Professional Career” section of his Wikipedia article. He’s the backup to Eric Weddle and isn’t very good.
Grade: D+

111. Walter Thurmond – Seattle Seahawks
Synopsis: The former injury prone Oregon Duck played 22 games over 3 years with the Seahawks. He missed most of 2011 with a broken fibula, and almost all of 2012 with a hamstring injury. The Hawks spent a 5th round pick on LSU’s Tharold Simon who will most likely knock Thurmond off the depth chart.
Grade: F

112. Joe McKnight – New York Jets
Synopsis: Where do you even start with McKnight? Do you start with the fact that his draft status bought him a roster spot that forced the team to dump Danny Woodhead? The fact that he was a giant headache for the coaching staff and his teammates early in his career? The fact that whenever the Jets are on the verge of just dumping him he’ll pull a great game out of his ass before fading back into uselessness? Or the fact that when Shonne Greene was injured McKnight still couldn’t get anything going on the ground?
Grade: D

113. Aaron Hernandez – New England Patriots
Synopsis: In 3 seasons as a Patriot played in 38 games with 1956 yards and 18 TDs. He was a part of the starting offense immediately, and after some public ass chewing from Brady became one of the most dominant tight ends in the league… before being arrested for murder in 2013.
Grade: B- *Consensus grade reached by Patskrieg Facebook followers.

114. Dennis Pitta – Baltimore Ravens
Synopsis: Ozzie Newsome gets a lot of credit for being a draft genius despite owning just as many busts as everyone else. But to give credit where it’s due he got it right with Pitta: 1,075 yards in 3 seasons with 10 TDs and was instrumental in winning the 2012 AFCCG by kicking Steve Gregory’s ass up and down the field.
Grade: A

115. Phillip Dillard – New York Giants
Synopsis: Probably one of Jerry Reese’s more regrettable picks. Made 4 tackles in 7 games with the Giants in 2010, and was waived the following season. Has bounced around between the Panthers practice squad, the Chargers practice squad and the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks.
Grade: F

116. Thaddeus Gibson – Pittsburgh Steelers
Synopsis: The Steelers surprised a lot of folks by cutting Gibson halfway through his rookie season. They were stacked at linebacker at the time and just didn’t need him. He played 2 games with the 49ers before being cut again. The Steelers took another look at him a year later and still didn’t like what they saw. He was last spotted on the Titans practice squad.
Grade: F

117. Joe Hawley – Atlanta Falcons
Synopsis: I was dreading getting a utility offensive lineman here. I can honestly say I have no idea if Hawley ever started for the Falcons. He’s listed as the backup center behind 2nd year player Peter Konz so I’m assuming anything he’s accomplished hasn’t been long term.
Grade: C-

118. Garrett Graham – Houston Texans
Synopsis: Diet Owen Daniels. Graham is a career backup who I can’t possibly think too highly of considering he has no real statistical production even with all the time start TE Owen Daniels has missed over the last few years. At his current pace it would take him 20.4 seasons to match the production of Aaron Hernandez. He’s still on the roster though.
Grade: D+

119. A.J. Edds – Miami Dolphins
Synopsis: Edds actually had pretty good tape from Iowa so it wasn’t a shocker that he got drafted here. Edds missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. The Dolphins actually kept him through final cuts the next year and had him on the 53 man roster for exactly 1 day. He spent some time with the Patriots and Colts in 2011 and disappeared for 2012. The Patriots opted to kick the tires on him this year so the dream isn’t dead yet. Still…
Grade: F

120. Geno Atkins – Cincinnati Bengals
Synopsis: For as good as the Bengals are at finding mid round gems you’d think they would be a better football team. He was quiet statistically at Georgia, but when I saw him move at the Combine I was begging the Pats to draft him. He would be named to the Pro Bowl in his second season when Vince Wilfork withdrew from the roster. In 2012 he’d finish the season with 12.5 sacks and is a franchise player in the making.
Grade: A+

121. Keenan Clayton – Philadelphia Eagles
Synopsis: The Eagles had back to back picks in the 4th round. Neither one of them are still on the roster. The first of the pair was Keenan Clayton who had 43 tackles in 2 years as an Eagle before being dumped, and picked up by the Raiders to resume his non-factor status totaling 5 tackles in 15 games.
Grade: F

122. Mike Kafka – Philadelphia Eagles
Synopsis: Kafka really didn’t suck. He just never got a chance and sat behind bums like Kevin Kolb and Vince Young. He was released by the Eagles at the end of last season and was briefly involved with the Patriots. He’s now the Jaguar’s #3 QB and could easily be a #2 on a worse… wait are there worse teams than the Jaguars? Still the Eagles never got anything out of him.
Grade: D

123. Al Woods – New Orleans Saints
Synopsis: Woods was the 2nd player drafted in the 2010 fourth round to never make the roster of the team he was drafted by. The Saints cut him in September, the Steelers signed him but never played him (interestingly enough giving him a roster spot over their own 4th rounder), and the Bucs signed him after the Steelers cut him. He played 2 games in Seattle the following year, and came back to Pittsburgh in 2012 to play in 12 games and record 3 tackles. A non factor for 3 teams in 3 years.
Grade: F

124. Eric Norwood – Carolina Panthers
Synopsis: Norwood was hidden on a thin and dismal Panthers roster for 2 years. He was released and wound up in the UFL until the league fell apart. With no NFL teams calling he moved on to the Arena Football League with the San Jose Sabrecats who traded him to the Pittsburgh Power in 2013.
Grade: F

125. Clay Harbor – Philadelphia Eagles
Synopsis: The 4th TE taken in the round, and the 3rd most productive. With 421 yards and 4 TDs career he hasn’t done much to oust a mediocre Brent Celek from his roster spot. At his current pace it would take him 13.9 years in the NFL to match the production of Aaron Hernandez. The Eagles really loaded up in this round, which tells you why they’ve been the way they’ve been ever since. At best Harbor is a guy you take a look at once a year when you’re stuck in your girlfriend’s 18 team fantasy league looking for a bye week TE.
Grade: C

126. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah – Dallas Cowboys
Synopsis: This gentleman, I don’t feel like spelling his name twice, had some buzz about him coming out of college and actually earned the starting kick returner job in his rookie season. He had some success but went on IR later in the year. The Cowboys unsuccessfully tried to convert him into a WR the next year and ended up cutting him. Jacksonville picked him up and promoted him off their practice squad, but somehow figured they were all set on kick returns. He was last seen on the Raiders practice squad.
Grade: D

127. E.J. Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Synopsis: At one point the Seahawks started building a great defense. They sure as hell didn’t do it in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. Wilson had 1 tackle in 2 games as a Seahawk and was let go during his rookie season. The Bucs picked him up a year later but he ruptured his achilles in a preseason game and hasn’t played football since.
Grade: F

128. Jason Fox – Detroit Lions
Synopsis: Jason Fox almost broke the U of Miami school record for most starts in a career. He has started zero games for the Lions.
Grade: D

129. Jacques McClendon – Indianapolis Colts
Synopsis:Polian claims he had no qualms about missing out on Hernandez despite the fact that most of his picks from this draft were total busts. McClendon was a physical freak that a lot of folks thought would make a push to be a starter. He played 4 games as a reserve in Indy and was cut. He spent time on the Lions, Steelers the Falcons practice squad. Polian left town soon after as well.
Grade: F

130. O’Brien Schofield – Arizona Cardinals
Synopsis: This Downtown Abbey character has had modest production, but has out-produced the majority of the LB’s in taken in this round. He had 4 sacks in 2012 before being placed on IR after 9 games. I’m grading low because he’s still a work in progress.
Grade: C+

131. Roddrick Muckelroy – Cincinnati Bengals
Synopsis: In the spirit of not winning them all, after finding a future Pro Bowler in the same round, the Bengals whiffed on this compensatory 2nd 4th rounder. The former Texas Longhorns leader in tackles managed 11 in 2 years as a Bengal. He ruptured his achilles in training camp his 2nd year, and the next season was cut to make room for UDFA Vontaze Burfict.
Grade: F

CLOSING THOUGHTS:
Does comparing Hernandez to the rest of the 4th round mean a lot? Yes, and no. There is the rest of the draft class to consider. The intangibles of a potential ethical stain left on the franchise. The chain reaction possibilities of other TE’s the Patriots would have considered had they not had success with Hernandez. It could go on forever. But the next time you hear a GM chime in that they knew all along that Hernandez was a sociopath maybe take a look at what they put on paper, and what they put on tape and ask yourself who really has it figured out.

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