Here’s our annual check-in on New England’s draft status this century. While many sites break down team drafts by year, we take a closer look at how the Patriots have done in each round. The basic verdict? Great early, solid late, with some ups and downs in-between. About what you’d hope for as a fan.
Judging players as either successes or not with no in-between might start some arguments. Keeping it simple seemed key: more “did they get a first down?” than “is this a catch?” So, if a player contributed and/or remains on the roster, he has shown success.
We like this method because trying to weigh picks by round could get messy. For example, safety Tavon Wilson (2011) has remained on the team as a special-teamer and occasional sub package defender – not exactly satisfying what fans look for in a second-round pick. On the other hand, Julian Edelman (2009) has become one of the most prolific receivers and punt returners in franchise history – an absolute jackpot for a seventh-rounder. The level of success through an entire roster tends to even itself out over the years.
As of right now, Coach Belichick has six picks in the 2015 draft, including the second, third, fourth, sixth, and seventh (two). They could also get a potential third-round compensatory pick from letting free agent Darrelle Revis walk, as well as two sixth-round picks for Vince Wilfork, and Shane Vereen. (Tip of the cap, so to speak, to Over The Cap’s website.)
The Patriots lost their first-round pick this year because when footballs get exposed to cold, wet weather, their air pressure decreases. So, sure, fine. That’s cool.
On to the rounds!
First Round –
2000: None (pick went to NYJ for BB)
2001: Richard Seymour, DL, Georgia
2002: Dan Graham, TE, Colorado
2003: Ty Warren, DL, Texas A&M
2004: Vince Wilfork, DL, Miami; Benjamin Watson, TE, Georgia
2005: Logan Mankins, OL, Fresno State
2006: Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota
2007: Brandon Meriweather, DB, Miami
2008: Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee
2009: (No Pick – traded down)
2010: Devin McCourty, DB, Rutgers
2011: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
2012: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse; Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
2013: (No Pick – traded down)
2014: Dominique Easley, DL, Florida
2015: Malcom Brown, DL, Texas
Total Picks: 15
Successful Picks: 13 (sans Maroney, Meriweather)
Most Successful Pick: Seymour
Every first-round pick has started in Foxboro. Maroney rushed for 1,580 yards in his first two years in the league, but injuries and an increased tendency to hesitate at the line made him expendable. Meriweather had 12 interceptions in his four years in New England and is currently playing on his fourth team (Giants). Not bad in either case, but each failed to live up to the lofty expectations of Bill’s Chosen.
Looks like they have another long-term starter in Brown, who began to excel by the midway point of his rookie season. If Easley can stay healthy, New England’s got a solid D-line combo for years to come.
This is why the lost first-rounder over amateur PSI measurements infuriates fans. The Pats had an 87 percent chance of drafting a multi-season starter taken away from them.
Second Round –
2000: Adrian Klemm, OT, Hawaii
2001: Matt Light, OT, Purdue
2002: Deion Branch, WR, Louisville
2003: Eugene Wilson, DB, Illinois; Bethel Johnson, WR, Texas A&M
2004: Marquise Hill, DE, LSU
2005: (No pick)
2006: Chad Jackson, WR, Florida
2007: (No pick – traded for Wes Welker)
2008: Terrence Wheatley, DB, Colorado
2009: Patrick Chung, DB, Oregon; Ron Brace, DT, BC; Darius Butler, DB, UConn; Sebastian Vollmer, OT, Houston
2010: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona; Jermaine Cunningham, DE, Florida; Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida.
2011: Ras-I Dowling, DB, Virginia; Shane Vereen, RB, California
2012: Tavon Wilson, DB, Illinois
2013: Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Miss; Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
2014: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
2015: Jordan Richards, DB, Stanford
Total Picks: 22
Successful Picks: 12 (Light, Branch, E. Wilson, Vollmer, Gronkowski, Spikes, Vereen, T. Wilson, Collins, Garoppolo, Chung, Richards)
Most Successful Pick: Gronkowski (ed. note: this has been changed from an earlier draft that had Collins, as we considered the value outlined below. But, player-for-player, it’s Gronk.)
This year marks Gronk’s first at the top, replacing Light’s long run as best second-rounder. The Collins pick is worth noting as Belichick and Co. traded down from the first round for the linebacker, Logan Ryan in the third, and a seventh to trade for LeGarrette Blount. Value, people.
The Patriots tend to take risks here, sometimes looking past college injuries, which gets them a mixed bag (Dowling, Wheatley, Gronk). They also look at lesser-known players, like the aforementioned Wilson, plus Vollmer and Richardson. Collins was a super-athletic defensive end from a winless Southern Miss squad; Chad Jackson was a first-round-rated, super-athletic receiver out of Florida. Sometimes highly-touted doesn’t translate. (And I loved that Jackson pick.)
Speaking of receivers, we’re letting go of Aaron Dobson. As a rookie he played in 12 games and caught 37 passes. In the past two years he played in 12 games and caught 16 passes. The oft-injured pass-catcher’s time in Foxboro could be over. But before we hear the ol’ Belichick can’t draft receivers rant, let’s 1) remember the awesome double-dip of Deion Branch and David Givens in 2002 and Edelman in 2009, and 2) agree that gaining the trust of a demanding, obsessive, future Hall-of-Fame quarterback isn’t all that simple.
We said as much in our final preseason report back in 2011, invoking the Pats Free Agent JG Scale. You either pick up the system quickly (Jabar Gaffney) or not at all (Joey Galloway). Interesting to see where any incoming rookie receivers may fit.
Third Round –
2000: J. R. Redmond, RB, Arizona State
2001: Brock Williams, DB, Notre Dame
2002: (No pick)
2003: (No pick)
2004: Guss Scott, DB, Florida
2005: Ellis Hobbs III, CB, Iowa State; Nick Kaczur, OL, Toledo
2006: David Thomas, TE, Texas
2007: (No pick)
2008: Shawn Crable, OLB, Michigan; Kevin O’Connell, QB, San Diego State
2009: Brandon Tate, WR, North Carolina; Tyrone McKenzie, LB, South Florida
2010: Taylor Price, WR, Ohio
2011: Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU; Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
2012: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
2013: Logan Ryan, DB, Rutgers; Duron Harmon, DB, Rutgers
2014: (No pick)
2015: Geneo Grissom, DL, Oklahoma
Total Picks: 17
Successful Picks: 7 (Hobbs, Kaczur, Ridley, Mallett, Ryan, Harmon, Grissom)
Most Successful Pick: Ryan
Ryan and Harmon put a little shine on this sneaker of a round, while the potential of Grissom intrigues us. Maybe potential is what the New England draft gurus go for here: Bequette, Crable, and McKenzie were all athletic, productive college defenders who needed some polish. Tate had a major injury in college but actually showed something in New England, catching 24 passes for three TDs his second year. In hindsight, keeping him over Chad Ochocinco in 2011 would have made that offense more productive.
The Third Round begins the Inexact Science middle of the draft, where players often contribute in the short term but get replaced by better fits.
Fourth Round –
2000: Greg Robinson-Randall, OT, Michigan State
2001: Kenyatta Jones, OT, South Florida; Jabari Holloway, TE, Notre Dame
2002: Rohan Davey, QB, LSU; Jarvis Green, DE, LSU
2003: Dan Klecko, DL, Temple; Asante Samuel, CB, Central Florida
2004: Dexter Reid, DB, North Carolina; Cedric Cobbs, RB, Arkansas
2005: James Sanders, DB, Fresno State
2006: Garrett Mills, FB, Tulsa; Stephen Gostkowski, K, Memphis
2007: Kareem Brown, DL, Miami
2008: Jonathan Wilhite, DB, Auburn
2009: Rich Ohrnberger, OL, Penn State
2010: The Tight End Who Shan’t Be Named, Florida
2011: (No Pick)
2012: (No Pick)
2013: Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
2014: Bryan Stork, OL, Florida State; James White, RB, Wisconsin; Cameron Fleming, OL, Stanford
2015: Trey Flowers, DL, Arkansas; Tré Jackson, OL, Florida State; Shaq Mason, OL, Georgia Tech
Total Picks: 23
Successful Picks: 10 (Green, Samuel, Sanders, Gostkowski, Stork, White, Fleming, Flowers, Jackson, Mason)
Most Successful Pick: Stork
Gostkowski took Samuel’s place last year, but we’re going with Stork now. Worth an argument, but Stork’s potential to play center and help the O-line mesh in the foreseeable future makes him our number one choice. (Plus, Gostkowski missed that extra point.)
Shh. Quiet in the back row.
Anyway, all six fourth-round players drafted in the past two years remain with the team. They include three starting offensive linemen and a solid third-down back. Flowers had a strong preseason and, if healthy this year, could contribute in a pass-rushing rotation. Call this round the answer to “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” as New England finds itself on a roll here recently.
Wait, do I hear Janet Jackson?
Fifth Round –
2000: Dave Stachelski, TE, Boise State; Jeff Marriott, DT, Missouri
2001: Hakim Akbar, DB, Washington
2002: (No pick)
2003: Dan Koppen, OL, Boston College
2004: P. K. Sam, WR, Florida State
2005: Ryan Claridge, OLB, UNLV
2006: Ryan O’Callaghan, OL, California
2007: Clint Oldenburg, OL, Colorado State
2008: Matthew Slater, WR, UCLA
2009: George Bussey, OL, Louisville
2010: Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan
2011: Marcus Cannon, OL, TCU; Lee Smith, TE, Marshall
2012: (No pick)
2013: (No pick)
2014: (No pick)
2015: Joe Cardona, LS, Navy
Total Picks: 14
Successful Picks: 5 (Koppen, Slater, Mesko, Cannon, Cardona)
Most Successful Pick: Koppen
For years, we named Round Five “Koppen or Bust.” Now, with Slater, Mesko and Cardona, we can rename it “The Special Teams Round.” Almost seemed like Belichick gave up on the round for three years after getting some success with Mesko and Cannon, but he couldn’t resist getting a Navy Guy into the ranks (a good thing, as the long-snapper position is solidified for as long as Cardona can stay in Foxboro).
No 2016 fifth-round selection as of this writing, as the Pats traded it to Houston for receiver Keshawn Martin. For 24 receptions and two touchdowns, probably worth it.
Sixth Round –
2000: Antwan Harris, CB, Virginia; Tom Brady, QB, Michigan; David Nugent, DT, Purdue.
2001: Arther Love, TE, South Carolina State; Leonard Myers, DB, Miami
2002: (No pick)
2003: Kliff Kingsbury, QB, Texas Tech
2004: (No pick)
2005: (No pick)
2006: Jeremy Mincey, OLB, Florida; Dan Stevenson, OL, Notre Dame; LeKevin Smith, DL, Nebraska
2007: Justin Rogers, OLB, SMU; Justise Hairston, RB, Central Connecticut; Corey Hilliard, OL, Oklahoma State
2008: Bo Ruud, OLB, Nebraska
2009: Jake Ingram, LS, Hawaii; Myron Pryor, DT, Kentucky
2010: Ted Larsen, C, NC State
2011: Markell Carter, DE, Central Arkansas
2012: Nate Ebner, DB, Ohio State
2013: (No Pick)
2014: John Halapio, OL, Florida; Zach Moore, DE, Concordia
2015: Matthew Wells, LB, Mississippi State; A. J. Derby, TE, Arkansas
Total Picks: 22
Successful Picks: 4 (Brady, Pryor, Ebner, Derby)
Most Successful Pick: That QB (not Kingsbury, the other one)
Ah, the Brady Round. Bill Belichick could spend the rest of his career in Foxboro trading sixth-round picks for Dunkin’ Coolattas, yet we would still argue that this remains New England’s greatest draft round. (Excuse me while I go watch “The Brady 6” again.)
Ebner has settled in nicely as a core special teamer. Derby got hurt last year but showed some potential as a pass-catching complement to Gronk. Other than that, this comes up statistically as the least successful round, which proves that stats don’t always tell the whole story. Call it a strong dose of quality over quantity.
It’s also an odd little dead zone before the relative success of seventh-rounders and undrafted rookies, as we see below.
Seventh Round –
2000: Casey Tisdale, OLB, New Mexico; Patrick Pass, RB, Georgia
2001: Owen Pochman, K, BYU; T. J. Turner, LB, Michigan State
2002: Antwoine Womack, RB, Virginia; David Givens, WR, Notre Dame
2003: Spencer Nead, TE, BYU; Tully Banta-Cain, LB, California; Ethan Kelley, NT, Baylor
2004: Christian Morton, CB, Florida State
2005: Matt Cassel, QB, Southern California; Andy Stokes, TE, William Penn
2006: Willie Andrews, DB, Baylor
2007: Oscar Lua, LB, Southern California; Mike Elgin, OL, Iowa
2008: (No pick)
2009: Julian Edelman, WR, Kent State; Darryl Richardson, DT, Georgia Tech
2010: Thomas Welch, OT, Vanderbilt; Brandon Deaderick, DL, Alabama; Kade Weston, DL, Georgia; Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State
2011: Malcolm Williams, CB, TCU
2012: Alfonso Dennard, DB, Nebraska; Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern
2013: Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois; Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers
2014: Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan
2015: Darryl Roberts, DB, Marshall
Total Picks: 28 (Yeesh.)
Successful Picks: 8 (Pass, Givens, Banta-Cain, Cassel, Edelman, Deaderick, Dennard, Roberts)
Most Successful Pick: Edelman
Edelman remains the prize – call him the World Wonder of the Seventh.
Worth noting the whopping 28 picks in 16 years. Why not? They’re low-risk picks with potential, where almost one in three makes the grade. Even players not rated as successes can contribute for a season or two (Beauharnais, Richardson, Andrews, Buchanan). Looking forward to seeing Roberts in action, as he started the 2015 preseason vs. Green Bay (five tackles) but was placed on IR with a hurt wrist September 1.
A loosely-related, quirky detail: Givens in 2002. Edelman in 2009. Looks like it’s time for Belichick to satisfy the Seven-Year Itch for a prolific seventh-round receiver.
The Patriots consistently find undrafted free agents to contribute each season. In 2015, Georgia center David Andrews stepped in and helped the team to 11-0. In 2014, Malcolm Buter did something or other that seemed important. Overall, the percentage hasn’t been high: last season was atypical in that New England hosted seven and signed two (29 percent). Usually they bring in 12 to 17 and sign one or two.
Some past UDFAs who contributed: Stephen Neal, OL; Tom Ashworth, OL; Eric Alexander, LB; Randall Gay, DB; Wesley Britt, OL; Antwain Spann, CB; Kyle Eckel, RB; Santonio Thomas, DL: Mike Wright, DL; Corey Mays, LB; Pierre Woods, OLB; BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB; Vince Redd, OLB, Tyson Devree, TE; Gary Guyton, LB; Brian Hoyer, QB; Ray Ventrone, DB.
Some UDFAs on the roster now: Ryan Allen, P, Louisiana Tech; Brandon Bolden, RB, Ole Miss; Josh Kline, OL, Kent State; Joe Vellano, DL, Maryland; Malcolm Butler, CB, West Alabama; David Andrews, OL, Georgia; Brandon King, DB, Auburn; Chris Harper, WR, Cal.
With a few solid picks, maybe a surprise UDFA or two, and good health, the 2016 Patriots could continue their impressive run.
Chris Warner seeks validation on Twitter @cwarn89