Let's face it, New England Patriots fans are spoiled, plain and simple. Having hoisted the Lombardi Trophy four times in the last 14 years is nothing to shrug at. It doesn't hurt that they have arguably the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady who always seems to stand calm, cool, and collected in the pocket when the whole country is watching.
We shouldn't forget to mention the guy who seems to always wear a hooded sweatshirt no matter what mother nature brings to the football field, Bill Belichick. Belichick has had his greatest success while serving as head coach of the Patriots compared to his former roles with the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. Belichick has a knack for getting the most out of his players. Fans shouldn't forget wide receiver Troy Brown lining up at cornerback or drafting a little known quarterback out of Kent State and having him switch to wide receiver in Julian Edelman.
The draft, in any sport, is an inexact science. As a person making decisions that is costing an organization millions of dollars and a lot of jobs at stake, the pressure to land a franchise player can be overwhelming to say the least. How else can you explain a guy like Tom Brady lasting to the 199th overall pick?
Having said all of this, the fact remains that sometimes even a mastermind like Belichick can make mistakes. Below you will find some players that Belichick has missed out on in the past 15 NFL Drafts. In some years, he made the right move by drafting cornerstone players that assisted them in winning Super Bowls. Other years, however, he made some moves that he would like to forget. Please note that in the years 2000, 2009, and 2013 the Patriots did not have a first round pick. It is also necessary to include the years 1999 and 1998 to make the list at 15, even though Belichick was not responsible for those draft picks.
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15 1998 - Randy Moss, Alan Faneca
Do I really need to explain this one? Randy Moss will go down as one of the top five receivers to ever play on the gridiron. Moss was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the 21st overall pick in the draft. Moss eventually landed with the Patriots in a 2007 draft day trade with the Oakland Raiders for a 4th round pick in the same draft. Moss eclipsed Jerry Rice's record of most touchdown receptions in a season in 2007 with Tom Brady by catching 23.
Instead of Moss, the Patriots went ahead and drafted Georgia Bulldog running back Robert Edwards with the 18th overall pick. Edwards had a strong rookie season by rushing for 9 touchdowns but flamed out of the NFL in four seasons due to a freak injury in the 1999 Rookie Beach Bowl, when he attempted to make a catch and came down awkwardly on his knee. The injury forced him to cut his career short as he retired in 2002 with the Miami Dolphins.
With their second pick in the first, the Patriots drafted cornerback Tebucky Jones out of Syracuse with the 22nd pick. Jones won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2002 with the Patriots. He played a lot of snaps for the Patriots, participating in at least 11 games throughout his 1998-2002 tenure in Foxboro. Instead, they should've selected Alan Faneca who was a big component to the Pittsburgh Steelers' smashmouth style of play. The intimidating offensive lineman was drafted by the Steelers with the 26th overall pick out of LSU. Faneca was a nine-time Pro Bowler as well as being named to the First-Team All-Pro six times.
14 1999 - Antoine Winfield, Mike Peterson
The longtime Minnesota Viking was a reliable and intelligent defender that gave opposing receivers and offensive coordinators headaches. Winfield was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 23rd overall pick and finished his career with a total of 27 interceptions. The Patriots also had serious interest in adding Winfield to their secondary in 2013 and were close to signing him. The Patriots went ahead and drafted Damien Woodey, who is now an analyst at ESPN. Woodey was a decent starter for the Patriots and has two Super Bowl rings. However, he did not have the same impact as Winfield on the field.
With their second first rounder in 1999, the Patriots went with linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer at 28th overall, who wasn't a very good pick. He last two years with the Pats and didn't sign on with anyone else when they let him go. Instead, they could've had Mike Peterson, who went eight picks later to the Colts in the early second. He was a steady linebacker wherever he went, recording over 1,000 tackles during his 14 year career.
13 2001 - Richard Seymour
You can't argue with Belichick's decision in drafting the defensive lineman back in 2001. Seymour was drafted out of Georgia and was an instrumental part in New England's first three championships. He sometimes would take on two offensive lineman so players like Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and Roosevelt Colvin could get after the quarterback. In eight seasons with the Patriots, Seymour had a combined total of 39 sacks, giving them a great value with the 6th overall pick.
12 2002 - Ed Reed
There is probably no defensive player that Belichick respected more than Ed Reed. This was evidenced by a portion of NFL Network's "A Football Life" where viewers see Belichick and Brady gameplanning an offensive attack based solely on Reed's whereabouts as a ball-hawking safety. In a career that was spent primarily with the Baltimore Ravens, Reed retired with a career total of 64 interceptions and is a lock to be enshrined in Canton when eligible. Instead, the Patriots drafted tight end Daniel Graham with the 21st overall pick while Reed was a steal for Baltimore at 24. Graham was a decent tight end but nowhere near the level of Reed's play.
11 2003 - Troy Polamalu
Similar to Reed, Troy Polamalu was a difference maker at safety for the Steel Curtain. Polamalu was an effective run stopper while also, like Reed, being a ball-hawk. Polamalu was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers out of USC with the 16th overall pick and, like Reed, he's a lock for the Hall of Fame.
With their pick, the Pats chose defensive end Ty Warren out of Texas A&M. Warren turned out to be a decent player but not someone who was worth the 13th overall pick in the draft. Could you imagine a Patriots secondary with Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, and Rodney Harrison? I know, it's frightening.
10 2004 - Vince Wilfork, Karlos Dansby
With their first pick in this draft, the Pats hit a home run when selecting Vince Wilfork with the 21st overall pick. He was a huge piece of their defence for the last decade and won two Super Bowls with team. So, we won't even begin to question this pick.
However, they could've done better with their second first rounder. The Patriots drafted Georgia tight end Ben Watson with the 32nd overall pick. The biggest problem with Watson was inconsistency, as he was always primed for a breakout season but could never put it together. Karlos Dansby was, and continues to be, an impactful linebacker who delivers crushing blows to running backs and receivers who dare come across the middle on a drag or slant route. Dansby was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with the first pick in the second round (33rd overall), one pick after Watkins. Dansby, who now suits up for the Cleveland Browns, has 41 sacks and 16 interceptions so far in his career, making him a better pick for the Pats.
9 2005 - Logan Mankins
When you have a once-in-a-generation quarterback like Tom Brady, it is imperative that you protect him. The Patriots solved this problem by drafting guard Mankins out of Fresno State with the 32nd overall pick. Mankins was versatile as an offensive lineman, playing multiple positions, something that Belichick seems to place a tremendous amount of value on. Mankins was named First Team All Pro in 2010 and is a six time Pro Bowler, making him a terrific value as the last pick of the first round.
8 2006 - Nick Mangold
It is tough when you miss out on a great player in the draft. What makes it even worse, however, is when they go to your division rival. Mangold has been a staple for the New York Jets and is a leader in the locker room. Sorry Geno, Mangold was busy practicing while you were getting socked. Mangold is a six time Pro Bowler and a two time First Team All Pro. The Patriots drafted running back Laurence Maroney out of Minnesota 21st overall. Maroney's running style complimented Corey Dillon's nicely. However, injuries and indecisiveness on which running holes to hit ultimately derailed Maroney's career.
7 2007 - Greg Olsen
Even though the Patriots wound up with a pretty good tight end named Rob Gronkowski (we won't mention the other one), Olsen has had a productive career and has become Cam Newton's favorite target, especially in the red zone. Olsen was drafted by the Chicago Bears out of Miami with the 31st overall pick and has had 42 touchdown receptions so far in his eight season career, but will be sure to add on to those numbers, especially with Kelvin Benjamin sidelined.
The Patriots drafted hard-hitting safety Brandon Meriweather, also out of Miami, with the 24th pick. The problem with Meriweather was that he was a risk-taker on defense and always tried to make the big hit rather than focus on his coverage responsibilities, spending only four seasons with the team before moving on to a few different teams.
6 2008 - Aqib Talib
Even though he was acquired by the Patriots in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the trade deadline in 2012, it would have been nice to have him for a longer period of time and without giving up any resources. Talib has 27 interceptions in his seven years of playing.
The Patriots, with the 10th overall pick, a rare position for them, chose Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo. Even though Mayo won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 and has led the team in tackles multiple times, injures have plagued his career and Talib would've been the better pick.
5 2010 - Devin McCourty
The Patriots hit on McCourty in 2010. The cornerback out of Rutgers, who eventually transitioned into a safety, has been a tremendous player on and off the field for the Patriots, with 17 interceptions in five seasons for the Patriots. He was a highly coveted free agent this offseason and the Patriots refused to let him go by signing him to a five-year, $47.5 million dollar contract, showing just how valuable he really is to their organization.
4 2011 - Muhammad Wilkerson
Once again, the Jets got the better of the Patriots, though they can't seem to be able to do the same on the field. Muhammad Wilkerson has been a force on the Jets defensive line causing havoc for opposing offenses after they drafted him 30th overall, with 24.5 sacks in four seasons. The Patriots drafted offensive tackle Nate Solder out of Colorado, with the 17th overall selection. Solder has been solid for the Patriots but has not had the type of impact that Wilkerson has had on the Jets.
3 2012 - Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower
It is very rare that Bill Belichick trades up in a draft, especially in the first round. So, to trade up twice is almost unfathomable. That is exactly what he did in selecting Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower out of Syracuse and Alabama with the 21st and 25th picks respectively. Luckily, both picks have been incredible for the Pats giving them a formidable defense. Jones burst onto the scene in 2013 with 11.5 sacks, while Hightower had the best year of his young career last season as he was an instrumental part in them winning the Super Bowl.
2 2014 - Jordan Matthews
Jordan Matthews came onto the scene nicely for the Philadelphia Eagles last year. With Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, and Odell Beckham Jr., getting most of the attention, Matthews has made a similar impact, but for a much lower price as a second round selection. Then again, when you are Jerry Rice's cousin and you train with him in the offseason, you have to be pretty good, right? Matthews had an impressive rookie season with eight touchdown receptions and 872 receiving yards.
With their pick, the Patriots took a big risk and drafted Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley with the 29th overall pick. Easley tore both of his ACL's while at Florida, which caused him to drop in the draft. It is still too early to make a depiction on who will win the war over time, but Matthews has sure won the battle thus far.
1 2015: Malcom Brown
With none of these players having participated in a meaningful game yet, it is obviously way too early to make a decision. Howver, there is no denying that Malcom Brown was a force at Texas. Brown was named a finalist for both the Bronko Nagurski and Outland Trophies, awards given to the best defensive player and best interior defensive lineman in the country respectively.
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