Which of these players was drafted at a premium?
In my mind, the answer is “both of them”.
One of the meatier passages in War Room comes in chapter 14, where Bill Belichick discusses the thought processes behind his selection of Sebastian Vollmer in 2009:
“Sebastian Vollmer is a good example”, he says of the Patriots’ starting right tackle, one of the team’s four second-rounders in ’09. “There’s no way he was really a second-round pick. Based on film or really based on the player he was at the end of the ’08 season. You know, East-West game and all that. We knew there would be an undertow of Vollmer. And it was just a question of, ‘When’s this guy going to go?’
“He should have been a fourth or fifth-round pick, by the film, by his performance. But you saw him as an ascending player and he had rare size, and there were a lot of things that you had to fix and all that. But it was clear the league liked him. Now, the question is always, “How much do they like him and where are they willing to buy?’ I’m sure for some teams it was the fourth round. For some teams it was the third round. But we just said, ‘Look we really want this guy. This is too high to pick him, but if we wait we might not get him, so we’re going to step up and take him.’
“And sometimes when you do that you’re right and sometimes when you do that you’re wrong and everybody looks at you like, ‘Damn, you could have had him in the fourth.’
The Patriots aren’t the only team that practices the overdraft or the premium draft. If the Eagles really like someone, they tend to take them a round ahead of where he is commonly valued. Odd that teams that maintain plenty of draft picks practice this. Offhand, I can recall the Eagles doing this for Derrick Burgess (generally viewed as a fourth rounder). The Steelers have done this as well; they drafted Casey Hampton a full round above his common valuation.
In the 2012 draft class, players who appear to be attracting premium attention (we’re a day before the draft, mind you) are Ryan Tannehill (late first by talent, thought to be going to Miami at #8), Stephon Gilmore (drafted #3 in a mock draft by Greg Cosell), Fletcher Cox (mid first talent, seen as high as #5 in respectable mocks), Kevin Zeitner (mid second round talent, often in mocks with Pittsburgh in the first round), Chandler Jones (appearing in the first in some mocks), and Mark Barron (some people claim he’s the #7 now, often ranked as a mid first rounder).
If you feel you need the player, sometimes you have to just go out and get him.