- 2015, Danny Shelton is drafted with the 12th overall pick. In Cleveland, meaning by league rule, the laws of physics and the ancient prophecies, the pick doesn't work out and he's a bust.
- 2018, he tries to resurrect his career in the NFL's Island of Misfit Toys, New England. He does next to nothing, with 21 combined tackles, 10 solo, and hits free agency. He gets no takers and comes back to Foxboro.
- 2019, he triples his production, with 61 combined and 30 solo tackles, anchoring the middle of the best defense in football. And cashes in.
It's a Circle of Life thing. And why I've been saying for years that if I was a player agent, I'd send all my clients to New England for one year (or two if need be), over-inflate their value from the superior coaching and make bank. Who knows if I'll be saying that in the post-#Braxit era. But it's still working.
In my power ranking of potential free agents leaving, I had Shelton as the sixth biggest priority:
I actually thought Shelton was as good as gone last offseason before surprising us as a late re-sign in mid-May. And to me he made a significant upgrade from year to year, with a bigger role in their defensive tackle rotation. As a 2-gapper, particularly at the nose tackle spot, for much of the season he made it possible for the best defense in the league to play a 6-man front and keep an extra safety on the field. Pro Football Focus has him graded as the 39th overall interior defender, but in their top 20 as a pass rusher. Granted, no one on that line covered themselves in glory on that final drive of the regular season against Miami and then getting run over by Derrick Henry in the playoffs. So he'd better be a bargain. But I'll feel better about 2019 Shelton returning than I did 2018 Shelton.
Well, he turned out not to be a bargain. Not at two years and $8 million. He leaves a 345 lb. hole in the front wall of a defense that Derrick Henry Kool Aid Manned even with Shelton there. Yet another hole that's going to have to be plugged between now and the end of camp, with the leading candidate right now Byron Cowart, the 6-3, 300 pounder they took out of Maryland in the fifth round last year.
And with Matt Patricia getting Duron Harmon and Shelton today and Jamie Collins earlier in the week, that brings his total of former Pats to 15. Which is why "Detroit Patriots" is trending on Twitter as the hits just keep coming. The good news is the Patriots are running out of players and coaches for him to take.