Pre-Draft hype is all about the prediction game. A guessing game. An inexact science. The Mock Draft. Who will the Patriots pick at 29? Will they keep the pick or trade out? Will it be a tight end, a defensive lineman or a safety? Who are the middle and late round players to watch? All of this information, and perhaps misinformation, is gobbled up like a Thanksgiving turkey between the Super Bowl and Day 1 of the NFL Draft, which kicks off tonight.
Trying to figure out what Bill Belichick will do is like blindly throwing darts from goal line to goal line and hoping to land in the bullseye. He likes it that way. Heck, when working at Patriots Football Weekly and participating in the 2005 pre-Draft Patriots.com radio program, PFW in Progress, I once confidently declared, "I don't know what they will do, but I know they won't draft a guard. You can always find a guard."
A while later, the commissioner walked to the podium and said something like, "With the 32nd pick in the 2005 Draft, the New England Patriots select offensive lineman Logan Mankins, Fresno State." A guard.
So let's breakdown Belichick's Drafts – this being his 15th in New England.
Here is a position-by-position look at his total picks:
Running backs: 9
Wide receivers: 12
Tight ends: 11
Offensive line: 19
Total offense: 62
Defensive line: 19
Defensive Back: 26
Total defense: 62
Punter/Kicker/Long snapper: 4
Here is a breakdown of Belichick's first-round picks by position.
Running backs: 1
Wide receivers: 0
Tight ends: 2
Offensive line: 2
Total offense: 5
Defensive line: 4
Total defense: 8
No pick: 3
Here is a closer look at the first round picks, only three of which have been in the top half of the first round.
2000 – No pick
2001 – Richard Seymour, DL, Georgia (6th overall) – Played 8 seasons in New England and won 3 Super Bowls. Played in 111 games with 105 starts. 227 tackles, 39 sacks, 2 interceptions, 6 fumble recoveries and 29 passes defensed. 5 Pro Bowls,
2002 – Daniel Graham, TE, Colorado (21st overall) – Played 5 seasons in New England and won 2 Super Bowls. Played in in 63 games with 49 starts. 120 receptions for 1,393 yards and 17 touchdowns.
2003 – Ty Warren, DL, Texas A&M (13th overall) – Played 8 seasons in New England and won 2 Super Bowls. Played in 106 games with 92 starts. 255 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries and 7 passes defensed.
2004 – Vince Wilfork, DL, Miami (21st overall) – Active. Has played 10 seasons in New England and won one Super Bowl. Has played in 142 games with 132 starts. 336 tackles, 16 sacks, 2 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries and 21 passes defensed. 5 Pro Bowls.
2004 – Benjamin Watson, TE, Georgia (32nd overall) – Played 6 seasons in New England and won one Super Bowl. Played in 71 games with 41 starts. 167 receptions for 2,102 yards and 20 touchdowns.
2005 – Logan Mankins, G, Fresno State (32nd overall) – Active. Has played 9 seasons in New England with 130 games played and 130 starts. 6 Pro Bowls.
This year, the New England Patriots hold the 29th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. The organization has selected 22 players in the first round over the past 21 years. Re-live the picks in this photo gallery.
2006** – Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota (21st overall) – Played 4 season in New England. Played in 45 games with 14 starts. Rushed 582 times for 2,430 yards and 21 touchdowns. Caught 40 passes for 409 yards and 1 touchdown. Returned 41 kickoffs for 1,062 yards.
2007 – Brandon Meriweather, S, Miami (24th overall) – Played 4 seasons in New England. Played in 64 games with 40 starts. 175 tackles, 2 sacks, 12 interceptions for 213 yards and 1 touchdown, 5 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 27 passes defensed. 2 Pro Bowls.
2008 – Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee (10th overall) – Active. Has played 6 seasons in New England. Has played in 81 games with 79 starts. 463 tackles, 9 sacks, 3 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries and 18 passes defensed. 2 Pro Bowls.
2009 – No pick
2010 – Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers (27th overall) – Active. Has played 4 seasons in New England. Has played in 61 games with 61 starts. 244 tackles, 1 sack, 15 interceptions for 201 yards, 6 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery and 50 passes defensed. 1 Pro Bowl.
2011 – Nate Solder, T, Colorado (17th overall) – Active. Has played 3 seasons in New England. Has played in 47 games with 44 starts.
2012 – Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse (21st overall) – Active. Has played 2 seasons in New England. Has played in 30 games with 29 starts. 66 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 5 passes defensed.
2012 – Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama (25th overall) – Active. Has played 2 seasons in New England. Has played in 30 games with 27 starts. 108 tackles. 2 fumble recoveries, 7 passes defensed.
2013 – No pick
Summary – The Patriots have fared consistently well in the first round under Belichick despite rarely drafting in the top half of the round. Six of his first round picks have played in a combined 21 Pro Bowls. His best picks were Seymour, Wilfork, Mankins and Mayo. His worst picks were Maroney and Meriweather.
The second round
Belichick's second round picks have been less consistent. He has hit with the likes of Matt Light (2001, 3 Pro Bowls), Deion Branch (2002, Super Bowl MVP), Sebastian Vollmer (2009), Rob Gronkowski (2010, 2 Pro Bowls), Shane Vereen (2011) and perhaps Jamie Collins (2013). He has also had his share of second round misses, including Chad Jackson, Terrence Wheatley, Ron Brace, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling, Jermaine Cunningham and Marquise Hill. None of that latter group lasted more than three seasons and collectively made 31 starts with Cunningham making 14 of those.
The third round
This round has featured more misses than hits. Running back Stevan Ridley (2011) might be the best of the group. But Jake Bequette, Taylor Price Tyrone McKenzie, Shawn Crable, Kevin O'Connell, Guss Scott and Brock Williams combined to play in 21 games with 2 starts. Other third rounders that made an impact but were not standout performers include Nick Kaczur, Ellis Hobbs and J.R. Redmond.
The fourth round
One would expect more misses than hits in examining the mid to late rounds. Belichick's best fourth round selections include Jarvis Green (2002), Asante Samuel (2003) and Stephen Gostkowski (2006). But then there is the likes of Jabari Holloway, Kenyatta Jones, Cedric Cobbs, Dexter Reid, Garrett Mills, Kareem Brown and Jonathan Wilhite that hardly make up a Who's Who of Patriots alumni. Aaron Hernandez also was a fourth round pick.
The rest of the Draft
The Patriots have actually fared well in the later rounds of the Draft when it becomes harder to mine gems. Consider these players drafted in rounds five through seven that made an impact over multiple seasons: Tom Brady (2000, 6th round, 199th), Patrick Pass (2000, 7th round, 239th), David Givens (2002, 7th round, 253rd), Dan Koppen (2003, 5th round, 164th), Tully Banta-Cain (2003, 7th round, 239th), Matt Cassel (2005, 7th round, 230th), Matthew Slater (2008, 5th round, 153rd, 3 Pro Bowls), Julian Edelman (2009, 7th round, 232nd), Zoltan Mesko (2010, 5th round, 150th), Brandon Deadrick (2010, 7th round, 247th), Marcus Cannon (2011, 5th round, 138th), Nate Ebner (2012, 6th round, 197th) and Alfonzo Dennard (2012, 7th round, 224th)
The Patriots have drafted seven quarterbacks times since Belichick's arrival. The most notable was obviously 2000 sixth-round pick Tom Brady (199th overall). The others were Rohan Davey (2002, 4th round, 117th overall), Kliff Kingsbury (2003, 6th round, 201st overall), Matt Cassel (2005, 7th round, 230th overall), Kevin O'Connell (2008, 3rd round, 94th overall), Zac Robinson (2010, 7th round, 250th overall) and Ryan Mallett (2011, 3rd round, 74th overall). The only quarterback in that group other than Brady to start an NFL game is Matt Cassel, who has played in 87 games with 68 starts through 2013 with New England, Kansas City and Minnesota.
Belichick's Drafts by school
Since 2000, the Patriots have drafted players from 71 different colleges and universities. They have drafted multiple players from 29 different schools. Here are those 29:
Notre Dame: 5
Texas Christian: 3
Boston College: 2
Fresno State: 2
Michigan State: 2
North Carolina: 2
Oklahoma State: 2
Southern Cal: 2
South Florida: 2
Texas A&M: 2