If the NFL's investigative and disciplinary processes were fair and consistent, the New England Patriots would have a first round draft pick next week. Alas, it isn't – and the Patriots will (likely) have to wait until day two to make their initial selection.
New England is scheduled to have four selections on the second day of the draft: two apiece in the second (#60 and #61) and third rounds (#91 and compensatory #96). Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the team has made a combined 39 selections in those two rounds; 22 in the second and 17 in the third.
Let's take a look at the Patriots' 22 second rounders selected under Belichick and try to categorize them to better find out who the hits and who the misses were.
All-Time Great Selection
TE Rob Gronkowski (2010, #42)
Rob Gronkowski is so good deserves his own category – as a tight end and as a second-round draft pick. When the Patriots took the Arizona standout, little did they and the rest of the league know that he would turn into a) arguably the most athletically gifted player his position has ever seen and b) one of the best draft picks of all time.
OT Matt Light (2001, #48), WR Deion Branch (2002, #65), OT Sebastian Vollmer (#58), LB Jamie Collins (2013, #52)
The Patriots have drafted valuable pieces of all their championship teams in the second rounds. Three-time Super Bowl-winner Matt Light protected Tom Brady's blindside from 2001 until 2011, while one-time champion Sebastian Vollmer took care of Brady's front ever since 2009. Both have been among the best players New England has ever lined-up at their respective positions.
Deion Branch, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX, won two Lombardi Trophies with the Patriots and turned into one of Brady's all-time favorite wide receivers, catching 384 passes and 32 touchdowns during two separate stints in New England. Jamie Collins, on the other hand, was an integral member of the 2014 squad that won Super Bowl XLIX and has become one of the best and most athletic linebackers in the NFL.
FS Eugene Wilson (2003, #36), SS Patrick Chung (2009, #34), RB Shane Vereen (2011, #56)
Eugene Wilson helped the Patriots win three AFC Championships and two Super Bowls as a starting safety and was a quality counterpart to Rodney Harrison. After spending the first, relatively mediocre four years of his career in Foxboro, Patrick Chung left the team for one season to play with the Philadelphia Eagles. He returned in 2014 and has since become one of the best strong safeties in the league.
Shane Vereen was never one of the best players at his position but his performance in Super Bowl XLIX – 15 touches for 77 yards – was one of the best individual performances a Patriots offensive skill position player has ever had on the game's grandest stage.
LB Brandon Spikes (2010, #62), SS Tavon Wilson (2012, #48)
Brandon Spikes and Tavon Wilson both spent four seasons with the Patriots. While they did not live up to their draft status, they were solid additions to the team's defense (Spikes) and special teams (Wilson). Wilson, however, will always have to live with the "over-drafted"-level.
OT Adrian Klemm (2000, #46), WR Bethel Johnson (2003, #45), CB Terrence Wheatley (2008, #62), DT Ron Brace (2009, #40), CB Darius Butler (2009, #49), LB Jermaine Cunningham (2010, #53), WR Aaron Dobson (2013, #59)
Neither of the players listed above was able to help the team in any particular way. While they have all been part-time starters of offense, defense or special teams, their overall contributions did not live up to the draft investment the Patriots have made in them.
The most intriguing name on this list might be wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who has had a promising rookie year but was unable to make a jump the following two seasons. 2016 is his last chance to justify his second-round selection – and maybe rise from the underwhelming to the unspectacular.
WR Chad Jackson (2006, #36), CB Ras-I Dowling (2011, #33)
Chad Jackson and Ras-I Dowling are two of the worst draft picks of Belichick's tenure as head coach of the Patriots. New England traded up to acquire Jackson, who caught only 13 passes in two seasons for the team, while the team held the valuable first pick of the second day in 2011. After being unable to trade the selection, the Patriots drafted Dowling, who appeared in only nine games before getting released prior to the 2013 season.
Jury Still Out Selections
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (2014, #62), SS Jordan Richards (2015, #64)
Jimmy Garoppolo has looked good in limited action but luckily was never called upon to start in place of Tom Brady. However, the team apparently likes what he bring to the table – otherwise, they would not have carried only two quarterbacks on the active roster the last two years. Due to limited playing time and an uncertain future, it is not possible to properly categorize the quarterback yet.
Just like Garoppolo, Jordan Richards has also looked good as a part-time player on defense and special teams. One season is not enough to call his selection a success or failure, though.
The Patriots' 22nd second round pick was defensive lineman Marquise Hill (2004, #63). He saw limited playing time in his first three seasons before drowning in May 2007. He was only 24 years old.
Overall, the second round has seen some hits and some misses; players that have become cornerstones of the team and players that have quickly fallen out of grace. Hopefully, the Patriots will add to the former group next week.