Well I, for one, can think of no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by running our annual Round-By-Round Draft Review. Much like the origins of the holiday itself (St. Valentine was apparently two different guys), it’s difficult to nail down the more vague aspects of how well New England has selected players – especially if we limit ourselves to an all-too-narrow focus on each year’s haul.
We tend to judge a team’s drafting ability annually – usually as the choices are being made, which seems nuts given the time it takes for certain rookies to develop. Trey Flowers, a fourth-round pick in 2015, sat out most of his rookie year with an injury. He’s now one of New England’s best pass rushers. Derek Wise, a third-round pick last year, got injured in the preseason. Hard to rate him one year later when we haven’t seen him against regular-season competition.
The annual grading system also gets problematic when we consider that some years have better talent available than others. The 2007 draft shows a strong example of this. The Patriots selected nine players, with only first-round safety Brandon Meriweather making the active roster. New England couldn’t trade out of those picks because teams did not want to forego future selections for the meager 2007 crop. Therefore, instead of dealing with the inconsistency of each years’ player options, we started to look at rounds, which has given us a better idea of how the Patriots front office has fared over the past 18 drafts.
Due to New England making the playoffs every year, their fans tend to get started on the selection process later than most. Well, dear readers, we are here to help. We posted the first installment of our “That Guy” draft series after the Senior Bowl earlier this month, and look to post another after the NFL Combine the week of February 27 to March 5.
In terms of ratings, I’ve tried to keep it simple: those who stay with the team and play out their contracts are considered successes, while those who get cut do not. I don’t go overboard factoring in expectations: for this, 2015 second-rounder Jordan Richards sets an example. Picked high for what he has contributed – and the Super Bowl highlighted what I call his Happy Hour Defense (aka No Cover) – he’s still remained a consistent special-teamer and sometime defensive contributor who has stayed on the team. If we look at that sense of “pick worthiness” from the opposite perspective, we see some late-rounders who exceeded expectations (2009 seventh-round WR/PR Julian Edelman, 2000 sixth-round QB Who Refuses To Fall Off The Proverbial Cliff) who don’t earn extra credit. This method seems to balance out overall, percentage-wise.
As of this writing, Coach Bill Belichick has five picks in the 2018 draft, including two in the second round (the extra via the Jimmy Garoppolo trade to San Francisco), and one each in the first, third, and sixth. A couple of compensatory picks could also factor in, one for cornerback Logan Ryan (who went to the Titans), and one for tight end Martellus Bennett (who had a fling with Green Bay). Day One (Round One) of the NFL Draft begins the night of April 26 (Thursday), with Day Two (Rounds Two and Three) on Friday, and Day Three (Rounds Four through Seven) beginning at noon ET on Saturday.
Okay, then. Let’s review.
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
2016: (No pick – Taken away because the NFL failed their science exam)
2017: (No pick – traded to New Orleans for Brandin Cooks)
Total Picks: 15
Successful Picks: 12 (Seymour, Graham, Warren, Wilfork, Watson, Mankins, Mayo, McCourty, Solder, Jones, Hightower, Brown)
Most Successful Pick: Seymour
New England does well with their earliest shots, as every first-round pick has started in Foxboro (even Easley had three starts). For the first round, I’m going against what I said above about rating the quality of player contributions by marking Maroney and Meriweather as non-successes. You can’t call them outright failures: Maroney started as a rookie and rushed for 1,580 yards in his first two years in the league. Meriweather had 12 interceptions in four seasons with New England and stuck around for five more years in the NFL. Neither one’s a bust; they just failed to live up to the lofty status of Patriots first-rounders.
Jones 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). All eyes are on the first-round selection this year, as it will be the first time since 2015 that New England makes a call this early. (Note: that previous line is left over from last year’s column. You never know with Ol’ Trader Bill.)
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
2016: Cyrus Jones, DB, Alabama
2017: (No pick)
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
Big drop off in this round compared to New England’s success in the first. The Patriots tend to take some chances in Round Two, which can come up short (as with the oft-injured Dowling) or pay off, big time (as with the oft-injured Gronkowski). They also took a chance on Collins, an athletic pass-rusher from winless Southern Mississippi. He did some very good things, until he didn’t, and then he got traded. Still a success in my book. Cyrus Jones has been more disappointing than a delicious-looking ice cream sundae turning out to be rum raisin. But he’s still on the roster and – if he can get in some kind of Freaky Friday situation where he switches bodies with the confident, young 2015 Alabama punt returner – all will be well. (And, of course, this paragraph has jinxed him.) Oh, Jimmy G.? Jimmy G. was a good pick. If not for Tom Brady’s refusal to age normally, Jimmy G. would be a great pick.
If I have any reservations about the Patriots’ draft tendencies in this area, it’s their willingness to trade out of the first round into the second and/or trade down within the second for more picks (hence, the difference of 23 Round Twos to 15 Round Ones since 2000). Like every other team, when New England picks higher, they tend to do better. Interesting to see what they do with two selections here this spring.
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
2016: Joe Thuney, OL, N. C. State; Jacoby Brissett, QB, N. C. State; Vincent Valentine, DL, Nebraska
2017: Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State; Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
Total Picks: 22
Successful Picks: 12 (Hobbs, Kaczur, Ridley, Mallett, Ryan, Harmon, Grissom, Thuney, Brissett, Valentine, Rivers, Garcia)
Most Successful Pick: Ryan
I suppose I should mention Valentine, given the day and all. Happy Your Day, Vincent! Be mine, Valentine!
Yup. That went well.
New England has had a solid run here since 2013, boosting this round above 50 percent. Ryan played out his contract and, along with Harmon, took on a pivotal role in securing Super Bowls. (For the record, I gave both Rutgers DB picks a lukewarm reception – check under the “Fair” description in this 2013 post-draft analysis with Bruce Allen, Chad Finn, Chris Price, and Mike Reiss). If Thuney remains a starting guard for the next several years, he may take over the Most Successful mantle. I’m calling Brissett a success because he served his purpose for two seasons as a backup quarterback, got traded, and proved he could play at the NFL level.
The draft is unpredictable by nature, but by Round Three, we begin to get greater fluctuations – an acknowledgement of New England’s recent positives here. Now I’ll post the annual link to Crable jumping over a guy. Such potential. He carried hopes as high as his vertical.
Garcia, like his rookie teammate Rivers, failed to make it on the playing field last season. Could be fun to watch them develop this year, though word has it that Garcia lost about 40 pounds and is still a long ways from contributing. If Rivers can offer anything resembling a pass rush, he’ll stay on the “success” list.
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
2016: Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia
2017: Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
Total Picks: 25
Successful Picks: 12 (Green, Samuel, Sanders, Gostkowski, Stork, White, Fleming, Flowers, Jackson, Mason, Mitchell, Wise)
Most Successful Pick: Samuel
Samuel remains the most successful selection, though White, Flowers, and Mason have all contributed mightily to the team’s recent run of success. Fleming played well at right tackle this year, with Wise coming in and helping alleviate a sudden dearth of talent at defensive end. Recent solid work at this halfway point of the draft has bolstered New England’s depth, helping them maintain a high level of competitiveness. Since 2014, the Patriots have held onto six of eight fourth-rounders (75 percent); even former Patriot O-lineman Stork wrapped up his rookie season as a championship-winning center.
We have seen consistency for the past three rounds, with the Patriots going about 50-50. Will New England end up with a compensatory pick in Round Four? Will they trade down to this area of the draft in search of some more roster contributors? Interesting to watch how they play it, especially considering their recent hot streak early on Day Three.
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
2016: (No pick)
2017: (No pick)
Total Picks: 14
Successful Picks: 5 (Koppen, Slater, Mesko, Cannon, Cardona)
Most Successful Pick: Koppen
Man, it’s hilarious to keep track of all the picks from the 2000 draft up to this point, knowing who’s coming up. Anyway, as can be expected, another dip here, in the round I used to call “Koppen or Bust.” A couple of more recent success stories to speak of, though: After Cannon’s shaky first couple of years in the league, the big tackle turned things around in 2016 and became a key element in that team’s championship run. Meanwhile, Slater, Mesko and Cardona have led us to nickname this the Special Teams Round. No picks in the fifth as the draft approaches, but if New England ends up with a selection here, it’s easy to envision a backup O-lineman or a small, speedy linebacker to further impact kicking squads.
Kind of a blah round, an assessment that Belichick has seemed to agree with recently, given the frequency with which he has traded out of it for players and/or other picks.
Just a personal note: I always liked the Ryan O’Callaghan pick and am happy for him in his post-NFL life.
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
2016: Kamu Grugier-Hill, OLB, Eastern Illinois; Elandon Roberts, ILB, Houston; Ted Karras, OL, Illinois
2017: Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA
Total Picks: 26
Successful Picks: 5 (Brady, Pryor, Ebner, Roberts, Karras)
Most Successful Pick: The Seventh Quarterback Chosen In The 2000 Draft
Another significant dip in percentage, as the sixth round shows the lowest return overall. It’s almost as if nothing could possibly make this round worthwhile. I mean, what kind of pick would the Patriots have had to make here in order to redeem themselves for a lousy 19 percent success rate? Antwan Harris, maybe? David Nugent, perhaps? Hmmm…
Welcome to The Brady Round, folks. Even if New England had drafted no one but pine-riders and game-day inactives since 2000, their middle sixth-round pick that year set the franchise on its current course and will forever make Round Six one of the Foxboro faithful’s perennial favorites. Some positives here, too, over the past couple of years, with Roberts a consistent contributor at linebacker and Karras a solid backup on the O-line. Grugier-Hill doesn’t make the cut, but his success in Philadelphia (22 tackles last season) puts him in the relatively rare “strong draft selection/poor roster move” category.
You know, we kind of forgot about Ebner after November, when he got hurt running for a first down on a fake punt vs. Miami, but I wonder if he could have made a difference on special teams in the playoffs. (We tend to end up wondering these things when our teams don’t win their final game.) Anyway, as with Round Five, look for a special teamer, backup O-lineman, or even a backup tight end in this spot. Or maybe a history-making quarterback I’m just kidding thatwillneverhappenagain.
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 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
2017: (No pick)
Total Picks: 29 (aka a whole lotta picks)
Successful Picks: 7 (Pass, Givens, Banta-Cain, Cassel, Edelman, Deaderick, Dennard)
Most Successful Pick: Edelman
Interesting uptick here in both percentage and overall number. The Patriots have drafted more players in the seventh than any other round, showing a willingness to take chances on these last-minute picks. Yes, the chances of making the team as a seventh-rounder are less than randomly picking the right Beatle (or slightly more if you include Stuart Sutcliffe), but this round has provided some short-time contributors who got left off the list. These include pass rusher Buchanan (nine tackles in 15 games as a rookie) and cornerback Andrews (24 tackles in two seasons). There’s some talent here: Roberts landed on the Jets, while Lucien kicked around Foxboro for over a year (in the 2017 preseason, he caught nine passes for 136 yards and a TD in four games) before making it to Tampa Bay’s roster.
New England has no 2018 seventh-round pick as of this writing, lessening the team’s shot at Edelman, Part II. But, as with most years, there should be a crop of undrafted free agents to pick from this spring.
Oh, undrafted free agents, you say?
It’s fair to point out that, without roster depth from rookie free agents, New England would have a less-decorated run over the past 18 years. Georgia center David Andrews, for example, signed in 2015 and became an anchor for the team’s O-line. From our annual “Who’s The FA? UDFA!” series, you can take another look at last year’s undrafted rookies who spent time on New England’s roster, including tight end Jacob Hollister out of Wyoming and defensive lineman Adam Butler from Vanderbilt.
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; Hollister; Andrews; Cole Croston, OL, Iowa; Harvey Langi, OLB, BYU; Malcolm Butler, CB, West Alabama; Ryan Allen, P, Louisiana Tech; Brandon Bolden, RB, Ole Miss; Brandon King, DB, Auburn; Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn.
So, how many make the roster this year? One would think, with a core group of personnel who have made it to three out of four Super Bowls, that there wouldn’t be much room for a non-draftee. Still, they tend to keep showing up in Foxboro.
We’ll try to run this piece again as we get closer to the draft. Before that, again, please keep an eye out for our next “That Guy” column after the NFL Combine wraps up March 5. See you then.
Chris Warner watches freestyle skiing and can’t help but worry about those young people’s knees. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Twitter @cwarn89.