Julian Edelman was quick to point out that he "had a long way to go" when asked about his impressive debut last night when he suited up for the New England Patriots who took the field in Philadelphia last night to battle the Eagles.
So let me tow the humble Patriot line and say "there is a long way to go" before we can meaningfully say that the Patriots have struck gold in the 2009 draft.
OK, that said, let me now tell you what I really think. Bill Belichick is excellence in action. It is very interesting to watch his decision making in the rear view mirror. Since he took the helm for Mr. Kraft we've seen an artist orchestrate an epic concert.
He definitely sees the forest through the trees. He is the best football mind of our generation. Like a world chess champion, he can see 20 moves ahead of where the board currently sits. He can evaluate all the variables, in all their complexity, large and small, put them in a blender and come out with the perfect elixir.
This years draft class laced up for the first time last night, and its hard to be anything but impressed by the debut performances of the talent brought in this season. His ever changing draft philosophy this year was focused on moving out of the first round, and getting many value picks to fill out a deep and experienced team with athleticism.
Looking back to previous years drafts, its easy to point to the late round gems he mined, like Tom Terrific (6th round), David Givens (7th round), Dan Koppen (5th round), Asante Samuel (4th round), Matt Cassel (6th round), Stephen Neal (undrafted wrestler), Mike Wright (7th round).
History also shows he picks as good as any in the early rounds. Here a just a few of his successes: Richard Seymour (1st round), Logan Mankins (1st round), Ty Warren (1st round), Vince Wilfork (1st round), Kevin Faulk (early round), Deion Branch (2nd round), Steven Gostkowski (mid rounder), Jerod Mayo (1st round).
Free agency, off season trades, and reclamation projects have also been areas where he stands above his peers: Wes Welker (trade for 2nd rounder), Randy Moss (trade for 4th rounder), Corey Dillon (FA), Rodney Harrison (FA), Adalius Thomas (FA), Mike Vrabel (trade for middle rounder).
These examples are far from the complete list of outstanding moves he's orchestrated. There have been, of course, some that didn't work out, like drafting Steve Stachelski early, who never even made it to camp.
I'm predicting a couple of years from now, when we look back at this years draft class, I'll be even more complementary towards Bill's abilities to evaluate, assemble, and coach players than I am now.
Julian Edelman was extremely effective last night, likely fooling many casual fans into thinking Wes Welker had changed his number to 11. This 7th round quarterback was unstoppable from the slot as a receiver. He also had a 75 yard punt return for a touchdown. And oh, by the way, he had several special team tackles on multiple coverage teams and threw several effective blocks.
This 7th rounder will be a force in his rookie year and into the future.
Ron Brace, a second rounder this year, held his ground at the defensive tackle spot and looks like he will be a solid role player this year, and future starter.
Patrick Chung was very active, made a lot of solid tackles, blocked a field goal attempt, and was a special teams standout last night. He too will get significant time this year and clearly looks like he will excel at this level.
Darius Butler took a few lumps, but for a corner's first time in the big leagues, he held his own and showed the athleticism that it takes to become an outstanding cornerback.
Like Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer's early selection was a 'head scratcher' to many so-called draft experts. There is a long way to go before we will know if he will be an all-pro caliber talent like Mankins, but based on what I saw last night I could see him being a ten year starter and perennial pro-bowler.
Others in the class who got some playing time (Tyrone McKenzie and Brandon Tate did not play due to injury) looked solid and looked physically like they belonged on the field and could compete at this level.
Later round DT Myron Pryror got a lot of time and made some physical, stand out plays, including a sack of Mcnab.
So although there is a long way to go, it looks like a banner year for the Patriots organization. Many talking heads will be, over the years, pointing out each week when they talk about the production of Julian Edelman, questioning how no one drafted him until the 7th round. They will be marveling at how the Patriots were able to get Burgess for a bargain price from Oakland. They will looking back at 'top ten' draft classes for teams and be talking about the 2009 Patriots draft.