Hey there, Patriots fans. Feel like you’ve gotten a bit behind in draft research? This may, in part, result from your having lives outside of football, but also because you’ve been floating through the daydream ending of New England’s 17-2 championship season.
Well, we here at BSMW want to help. Starting with the first installment of our “That Guy” draft series posted after the Senior Bowl earlier this month, and now with our annual Round-By-Round Review, you can impress your friends with the SparkNotes version of the 2017 Patriots draft.
Speaking of SparkNotes, I finally figured out that Santiago was destroyed but never defeated. Only took me about 35 years.
In terms of our rankings, I’ve tried to keep the parameters simple: if a young player remains with the team, he remains a success. If he’s cut, he didn’t work out. I don’t go overboard factoring in expectations: for this, 2012 second-rounder Tavon Wilson sets an example. He didn’t start on a regular basis, but he contributed on special teams, played out his four-year contract, and went to Detroit. Not a stellar pick, but one with value. On the other hand, late-round picks who exceeded expectations (2009 seventh-rounder Julian Edelman, 2000 sixth-rounder What’s-His-Name-With-The-Five-Trophies), don’t earn extra credit, so this method seems to balance out overall, percentage-wise.
With New England faring well recently in later rounds, an interesting trend should emerge. The better the Patriots do, the less room they will have for rookies. Last year, Kamu Grugier-Hill exemplified this. The linebacker fit two of New England’s “That Guy” draft categories: Small School Defender (Eastern Illinois) and Special Teams Guy. However, because the Pats already had a core group of special teams players, Grugier-Hill didn’t make the final 53. The Eagles scooped him off the waiver wire in September and featured him as a special-teamer in 2016 (he was credited with eight tackles). So, even though I won’t deem Grugier-Hill a successful pick, it’s important to highlight how even solid selections fail to make the cut on more talented rosters.
As of this writing, Coach Bill Belichick has six picks in the 2017 draft, accounting for all seven rounds except the sixth (part of the Kyle Van Noy trade to Detroit). For a more complete rundown of various trades and mind-numbing NFL penalties, you can read Rich Hill’s projected draft picks column on PatsPulpit.com. Intriguing to see if – given the mix of young talent on the roster and unrestricted free agents possibly leaving – New England uses all six picks.
Day One (Round One) of the NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. on April 27 (Thursday); Day Two (Rounds Two and Three) at 7 p.m. April 28, and Day Three (Rounds Four through Seven) on Saturday, April 29, at noon.
And round and round we go…
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
2016: (No pick – Taken away by the NFL because science doesn’t exist)
Total Picks: 15
Successful Picks: 12 (Seymour, Graham, Warren, Wilfork, Watson, Mankins, Mayo, McCourty, Solder, Jones, Hightower, Brown)
Most Successful Pick: Seymour
Despite what I wrote above about not necessarily giving certain picks greater weight than others, I tend to hold the first round to a higher standard. Every first-round pick has started in Foxboro (though Easley had only three starts). Maroney rushed for 1,580 yards in his first two years in the league, but injuries limited him. Meriweather had 12 interceptions in four seasons with New England and remains in the league. I don’t consider either one a bust; however, in light of the red jackets many of these first-rounders have and will receive, they failed to live up to Patriots First Round status.
Jones makes the “nice” list for two reasons: he contributed at a high level through most of his contract, and his trade to Arizona returned more value to the Patriots (draft picks for starting left guard Joe Thuney and receiver Malcolm Mitchell). Call it a win-win.
Belichick has the 32nd pick this year. Curious if he’ll move it. (Is anyone making a documentary of their draft room this April? Because, considering where this franchise is right now, I would find that fascinating.)
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
2016: Cyrus Jones, DB, Alabama
Total Picks: 23
Successful Picks: 13 (Light, Branch, E. Wilson, Vollmer, Gronkowski, Spikes, Vereen, T. Wilson, Collins, Garoppolo, Chung, Richards, Jones)
Most Successful Pick: Gronkowski
Sure, things didn’t end all that well with Collins, but drafting a college defensive end from a winless Southern Mississippi squad and helping him become one of the most productive linebackers in the NFL deserves credit. As with the aforementioned Tavon Wilson, the Patriots often take chances in this area of the draft on players with lesser perceived value (Richards belongs on that list, as does Vollmer) or with injury histories (Gronk, Dowling, Wheatley). This makes for an up-and-down round, especially when compared to the previous one.
Here’s a reminder for when New England takes someone in Round Two who a) ranks as a Day Three pick or b) plays a seemingly unnecessary position (Hello, Garoppolo!): the chances the Pats will find the right player are better than the chance Matthew Slater will correctly call a coin toss. And we know what happened in overtime.
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
2016: Joe Thuney, OL, N. C. State; Jacoby Brissett, QB, N. C. State; Vincent Valentine, DL, Nebraska
Total Picks: 20
Successful Picks: 10 (Hobbs, Kaczur, Ridley, Mallett, Ryan, Harmon, Grissom, Thuney, Brissett, Valentine)
Most Successful Pick: Ryan
New England has gone six-for-six in this round since 2013, giving the Third a major boost from 29 percent to 50. That double-dip of Rutgers defensive backs set the Pats on the right path: five of those selected have started games, while the lone exception (Grissom) has made his mark as a core special teams player. Very strong work by Pats’ brass of late.
This round seems to jumpstart the hit-or-miss nature of the draft, as we delve into a class of players who tend to have certain amounts of athleticism or football intelligence, but not necessarily copious amounts of both. If you told me you thought Harmon would end up contributing more than you thought, say, Crable would have, then you either have a great eye for overall talent, or you are a pathological liar. I mean, for God’s sake, Crable jumped over a guy.
A nice update here on Crable from September, 2013. The man had an impressive rise out of a difficult childhood and, after trying out for the NFL, he returned to Ohio to work with families in need.
Okay, back to football: Let’s watch that Valentine goal-line tackle for loss in the AFC title game vs. Pittsburgh one more time, shall we?
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
2016: Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia
Total Picks: 24
Successful Picks: 11 (Green, Samuel, Sanders, Gostkowski, Stork, White, Fleming, Flowers, Jackson, Mason, Mitchell)
Most Successful Pick: Samuel
Trying to avoid getting blinded by the Super Bowl afterglow here, I’m going back to Samuel as the best pick from this round instead of White, Flowers, or Mitchell. Gostkowski headed this list two years ago, with Stork following up last year because, and I quote myself, “Stork’s potential to play center and help the O-line mesh in the foreseeable future makes him our number one choice.” Whoops. Still, I’m keeping Stork on the successful list because he started on a Super Bowl-winning team and got replaced by someone better (perfectly acceptable for a fourth-rounder).
Like the previous round, lots of correct choices lately: six of seven fourth-round players drafted since 2014 remain with the team, including the aforementioned trio of major SB contributors (a quartet if you include starting right guard Mason). Here’s a fun snippet from last year’s column: “Flowers had a strong preseason and, if healthy (in 2016), could contribute in a pass-rushing rotation.” Could contribute, I said.
My gosh, I am adorable. In any case, White’s championship performance, Flowers’ and Mason’s strong sophomore seasons, and Mitchell’s breakthrough as a rookie pass-catcher help change the perception of this middle round. The percentage of productive picks has almost doubled from the pre-2014 rate of 24 (four of 17). Great value for the middle of the draft.
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
2016: (No pick)
Total Picks: 14
Successful Picks: 5 (Koppen, Slater, Mesko, Cannon, Cardona)
Most Successful Pick: Koppen
Slater, Mesko and Cardona have helped create the perception of the Fifth as the Special Teams Round. Cannon’s impressive turnaround this season at right tackle halted the trend of iffy offensive linemen (O’Callaghan, Oldenburg, Bussey). Belichick went on a streak of trading the fifth pick in recent years (including the 2016 selection for receiver Keshawn Martin). I suppose we should keep our eyes out for another special teamer or backup-offensive-lineman-to-be-developed this year.
Did anyone else like Lee Smith as much as I did? No? Well guess what: he’s still in the league!
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
2016: Kamu Grugier-Hill, OLB, Eastern Illinois; Elandon Roberts, ILB, Houston; Ted Karras, OL, Illinois
Total Picks: 25
Successful Picks: 5 (Brady, Pryor, Ebner, Roberts, Karras)
Most Successful Pick: The Quarterback Not Named Kingsbury
Go ahead and watch “The Brady Six” again. I’ll wait.
See? That was fun, watching the Patriots pick a sixth-round quarterback out of Michigan, even though they had their franchise guy in Drew Bledsoe, who the following off-season signed the largest contract in NFL history. Always remember those facts the next time you hear anyone insist “the Patriots missed on Brady, too.” I’ll defer to Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post, who on February 10 compiled a list of Boston media reactions regarding the Brady pick at the time.
Quality over quantity, I suppose. Ebner continued his work as a key special teams guy. Though I first viewed Roberts as a special teamer, the linebacker came on strong on defense this year, taking some reps for the traded Jamie Collins to net 45 tackles as a rookie.
But seriously, who cares? The Patriots could draft Donny from Dunkin‘ every year and still: Brady, man. Come on.
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 Richard, 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
2016: Devin Lucien, WR, Arizona State
Total Picks: 29 (Wowza.)
Successful Picks: 8 (Pass, Givens, Banta-Cain, Cassel, Edelman, Deaderick, Dennard, Lucien)
Most Successful Pick: Edelman
Will Lucien join the stable of seventh-round reliable pass-catchers that includes Pass, Givens, and Edelman? Could be fun to watch – as is his 2015 ASU highlight reel. (Some caution here as it’s NSFW; although, in his defense, he is ’bout his paper like a mothereffer scratch ‘n’ win.)
While fewer than one in three seventh-rounders makes the cut, we should point out short-time contributors who got left off the list, like pass rusher Buchanan (nine tackles in 15 games as a rookie) and cornerback Andrews (24 tackles in two seasons). With 29 seventh-round selections in 17 drafts (54 picks combined in the sixth and seventh), we see consistent attempts to add depth at the back end of Day Three. Exactly what this area of the draft is for.
Some of the Patriots’ notable undrafted free agents (also called rookie free agents, or RFAs) include starting center David Andrews and second-team All-Pro corner Malcolm Buter. After the draft, please keep an eye out for our annual “Who’s The FA? UDFA!” series. (Last year’s is linked here.)
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; Chris Harper, WR; Josh Kline, OL.
Some UDFAs on the roster now: Butler, CB, West Alabama; Andrews, OL, Georgia; Ryan Allen, P, Louisiana Tech; Brandon Bolden, RB, Ole Miss; Brandon King, DB, Auburn; D. J. Foster, RB, Arizona State; Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn; Woodrow Hamilton, DL, Ole Miss.
Maybe I should end 2017’s column with the same line I used to wrap up last year’s: “With a few solid picks, maybe a surprise UDFA or two, and good health, the 2016 Patriots could continue their impressive run.”
I mean … sure. Let’s keep it vague: With a strong rookie class, the wise coaching of Bill Belichick, the insatiable desire of Tom Brady, and the relentless pursuit of excellence by an entire organization, 2017 could be a year of specialness for Foxboro folks.
Chris Warner watched his alma mater’s hoops team lose by 20 this weekend, yet in light of the Super Bowl he never really thought they were out of it. You can reach him via email at email@example.com or through Twitter @cwarn89.