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New Story Says Patriots Chose Ras-I Dowling Over Richard Sherman In 2011 NFL Draft

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Next week's NFL Draft will change the lives of hundreds of football players while also changing the direction of all 32 NFL teams in ways big and small. Each and every, the decisions made by teams to take players and pass on others creates an unquantifiable game of "what if?" with an infinite number of scenarios.

Case in point: A new story about Richard Sherman that revealed a rather fascinating debate that the Patriots apparently had during the 2011 draft.

In an excellent feature story about Sherman by Dominique Foxworth on The Undefeated, Sherman revealed that his agent told him that the Patriots were considering drafting him in the second round.

As you know, the Patriots did not draft Richard Sherman. Instead, they drafted ... Ras-I Dowling.

From the story:

Day 2 came in the same room with fewer people, but more optimism. Sherman expected to get drafted in the second or third rounds. His agent had told him that the New England Patriots were deciding between him and Ras-I Dowling, a cornerback from Virginia. With the first pick of the second round, the Patriots selected Dowling.

Even though the Patriots won three Super Bowls in the decade that has followed, that one still has to sting.

Dowling was a productive cornerback at Virginia, but injuries prevented him from establish any semblance of an NFL career. He played just 12 total games -- only nine for the Patriots, recording 11 total tackles and one pass defense. The Patriots released him in 2013. He spent time on the Jets' practice squad in 2013 and played in three games for the Raiders in 2014. He finally spent time on the Panthers' practice squad in 2015 but never made the active roster.

Sherman -- who ended up staying on the board until the fifth round, when Seattle finally selected him -- has had a slightly more successful career. He's played in 139 games thus far (starting 133 of them), recording 484 tackles, 36 interceptions, five forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, a pair of sacks, and three pick-sixes. He's played in three Super Bowls, winning one of them, while earning three First Team All-Pro selections, two Second Team All-Pro selections, five Pro Bowl selections. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2010s, he was part of a legendary defensive backfield in Seattle, and his career will likely lead to enshrinement in Canton one day.

Obviously, every team in the NFL passed on Sherman multiple times back in that 2011 draft, and 23 cornerbacks were drafted before he was. So the Patriots are far from alone in missing on that one, and they certainly could have drafted Sherman with one of their later picks, too, if they really wanted him. Yet that new detail that had the Patriots debating Dowling vs. Sherman certainly has to sting, all these years later.

And it serves as just the latest case of "what if?" that the draft naturally inspires every single year.


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