Inside the Pylon (ITP) wrote a very interesting article about the Patriots usage of 5th round picks and how the team just doesn’t use them that often. The Patriots have now moved their 5th round pick in six straight drafts after trading away the team’s 2017 5th round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Barkevious Mingo. That’s a super interesting fact.
Starting in 2012, the Patriots have flipped their 5th round pick for WR Chad Johnson, DT Albert Haynesworth, DT Isaac Sopoaga, LB Jonathan Casillas, WR Keshawn Martin, and now Mingo. Sopoaga, Casillas, and Martin came with a 6th round pick, so the Patriots were effectively trading down in the draft.
The Patriots only 5th round pick of the past five drafts has been LS Mean Joe Cardona, with a pick that was acquired after trading down from 96th overall in the 2015 draft. Prior to Cardona, the last 5th round picks were OT Marcus Cannon and TE Lee Smith from the 2011 draft.
So why have the Patriots been so active in trading away their 5th round pick?
ITP notes that head coach Bill Belichick to acquire two different types of players: gambles and band-aids.
Johnson, Haynesworth, and Mingo fall in the “gamble” category as players that experienced either a decline in production or had unrealized potential; these trades all happened prior to the season. Sopoaga, Casillas, and Martin were “band-aids” and added in attempt to mitigate injuries on the roster; these trades happened mid-year.
Both of these categories of players make sense, especially for the asking price.
Based on expected contributions by draft position, players selected in the back-half of the 5th round- when the Patriots usually pick- offer little more value than a 6th or 7th round pick. The number of 5th round picks over the decade that have played more than 20 games (179 players), and fewer than 20 games (180 players) is roughly the same.
The most notable 5th round picks the Patriots have made over the past decade have been special teamers Matthew Slater, Zoltan Mesko, and Cardona, and then Marcus Cannon. The Patriots also used a 5th round pick on long time center Dan Koppen back in 2003.
Koppen and Slater have really been the only consistent 5th round contributors under head coach Bill Belichick. The return of value just hasn’t been there for the Patriots in the 5th round.
So why not trade that pick for a player with NFL experience, and a player with a much greater chance of contributing?