Some of the best seasons the Patriots have had in the last 15 seasons, have come in part from second year players making huge leaps from their rookie seasons… in conjunction with rookies coming in and making an immediate impact
Example A would be 2001 – where Brady in his second season along with Seymour and Light in their rookie seasons transformed forever the destiny of the Patriots. I think its safe to say that they literally had more impact on the 2001 season than any other 3 Patriots players… and that no-one anticipated the size and scope of their impact in June.
Example B would be 2003 – where Branch, Givens, Graham, and Green all played significant roles in their second seasons, and rookies Warren, Wilson, Samuel, and Koppen had immediate impacts… these two drafts helped propel them to consecutive Championships.
Another example… how Gronk and Hernandez in their second seasons helped change how the NFL viewed TEs as they were integral to the Patriots reaching the 2011 Super Bowl. In addition to them, there was Spikes and McCourty in their second season… it was perhaps their lack of impact rookies from the 2011 draft (Ras Dowling, Shane Vereen were no-shows that season) other than Solder, that was part of the reason why they fell just short…
For certain, the Patriots have never captured the crown without having significant success in both that year’s draft as well as the previous… and in fact, arguably their worst season came on the heels of successive drafts now considered poor ones, in 2009 the team never looked more lost, or more destined to fade away into mediocrity.
So here we are in 2014… we can fortunately say the foundation is there, the pillars are as solid as ever… Brady, Wilfork, Mayo, McCourty, Mankins, Solder, Gronk… when healthy, they are the best there is at the positions they play.
Added into the mix are top FA acquisitions Revis and Browner two players that would vault any Secondary they were added to into immediate top 10 consideration.
But will those second year players… Dobson, Boyce, Thompkins, Collins, Ryan, and Harmon make that second year leap?
Will rookies Easley, Stork, Fleming, Halapio, Moore, White, Houston, or any of the other UFAs come in and make an impact?
My feeling is, they have the potential to be of greater impact than the 2002/2003 class, we’re talking a potential of 8 or more starters of the next 3 or 4 seasons coming out of these two drafts… that type of success, combined with some favorable health this season, would almost by default lead the Patriots to one of their best seasons of all time.