The New England Patriots have experienced a long stretch of success because they consistently hit on their first round picks. This is why the DeflateGate penalty was so painful- more often than not, the Patriots first round pick develops into a franchise cornerstone.
So I was curious to see how the first round mock drafts from ESPN’s draftniks Mel Kiper and Todd McShay stacked up next to the actual selections by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. More often than not, Belichick had the upper hand.
|Pick||Mel Kiper||Todd McShay||Actual|
|2010||TE Jermaine Gresham||TE Jermaine Gresham||DB Devin McCourty|
|2011A||DL Muhammad Wilkerson||DL Cameron Jordan||OT Nate Solder|
|2011B||RB Mark Ingram||EDGE Brooks Reed||Trade Down|
|2012A||EDGE Courtney Upshaw||EDGE Courtney Upshaw||EDGE Chandler Jones|
|2012B||SS Harrison Smith||SS Harrison Smith||LB Don't'a Hightower|
|2013||CB Desmond Trufant||CB Xavier Rhodes||Trade Down|
|2014||SS Calvin Pryor||DL Stephon Tuitt||DL Dominique Easley|
|2015||OT Cedric Ogbuehi||DL Eddie Goldman||DL Malcom Brown|
It’s curious to see how often Kiper and McShay aligned on their picks and on the positions of need. Both Kiper and McShay mocked quality players to the Patriots, in general, but I would give Belichick the lead or a draw in every year other than 2014.
2010 NFL Draft
The Patriots ended up selecting TE Rob Gronkowski in the second round and TE Aaron Hernandez in the fourth round, so both Kiper and McShay were correct about the team need. Gresham has averaged 477 receiving yards per years over his seven seasons in the league, which isn’t worth the first round price of admission.
McCourty, on the other hand, is a three-time Second Team All Pro- once at cornerback and twice at free safety. It’s clear that Belichick and company win this round.
2011 NFL Draft
The Patriots had two selections in this draft and there are merits to both mocks by Kiper and McShay. When driven, Muhammad Wilkerson is the second-best defensive lineman in the league (behind J.J. Watt), but he fell off this season after receiving a mega-million contract. Cameron Jordan has been consistently excellent for the Saints.
But Solder has played like a top 10 offensive tackle for most of his career and his position comes with an arguably higher premium than a defensive lineman. I doubt the Patriots would swap Solder for either Wilkerson or Jordan, despite their successes.
As for the second pick, Mark Ingram has developed into a quality running back with the 8th most yards from scrimmage of any running back over the past three seasons. Brooks Reed hasn’t panned out in the NFL.
The Patriots opted to trade down for RB Shane Vereen in the second round and a future first round pick, which turned into EDGE Chandler Jones. The Patriots have the clear edge on the second pick.
2012 NFL Draft
Both Kiper and McShay give EDGE Courtney Upshaw and SS Harrison Smith to the Patriots in the first round. Upshaw hasn’t panned out in the NFL, so the Patriots have the clear advantage with the selection of EDGE Chandler Jones. In defense of the ESPN prognosticators, Jones was already off the draft board in their mock drafts earlier in the first round.
The second pick is more interesting because Smith has developed into one of the leagues premier safeties. A Smith and McCourty pairing could have been one of the greatest safety tandems the NFL has ever seen. Of course LB Dont’a Hightower just earned a Second Team All Pro nod this year, so the Patriots aren’t losing sleep over this selection. Hightower was also off the draft board at this point in both mock drafts.
2013 NFL Draft
Both Desmond Trufant and Xavier Rhodes have developed into premier cornerbacks in the NFL, so the Patriots would be happy to have either. Of course, if the Patriots drafted either, then the odds of signing both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in 2014 would decrease and could have impacted the Patriots run at Super Bowl XLIX.
The Patriots traded down and acquired picks for LB Jamie Collins, CB Logan Ryan, WR Josh Boyce, and a 7th round pick used to acquire RB LeGarrette Blount. It’s difficult to argue against that return.
2014 NFL Draft
Belichick’s selection of DT Dominique Easley will go down as one of the biggest whiffs of his tenure, if not the biggest. Either Calvin Pryor or Stephon Tuitt would have been better selections, with Tuitt developing into a real star with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tuitt’s versatility would have been perfect for the Patriots multiple front defense.
It also doesn’t hurt that Tuitt is still just 23 years old- roughly the same age as most rookies- and now has three seasons of NFL experience. He’s going to be a stud for a long time.
2015 NFL Draft
Both Kiper and McShay had DT Malcom Brown going to the Detroit Lions earlier in the first round, so the Patriots get the advantage purely because so many teams passed over such a well-regarded talent.
The Patriots need for an offensive tackle diminished with the return of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who turned both Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon back into top 10 tackles. Goldman has been fine in the NFL, but Brown has been better.
Actual: DT Malcom Brown. Both thought Brown would go to the Lions at 23 overall.
In total, I give the edge to Bill Belichick and the Patriots in every year other than 2014. I would consider the 2011 pick of OT Nate Solder a draw with DL Muhammad Wilkerson and DL Cameron Jordan, and I would do the same for the 2012 pick of LB Dont’a Hightower versus a selection of SS Harrison Smith.
If the Patriots added Tuitt over Easley, the #1 ranked New England defense would be considerably improved, as the three-man rotation of Tuitt, Brown, and Alan Branch would be one of the best defensive tackle rotations in the league.