In the NFL, there are multiple ways to build a team. Whether it is by signing free agents or by trading for players on other teams, organizations can use different methods to infuse talent. The most prominent and cheapest way to add players, though, is via the draft.
The New England Patriots know this as well as any team in the league. Year after year, they are trying to get the most out of their draft haul by acquiring picks and becoming as flexible as possible. And while not all selections ultimately work out – 2014 first rounder Dominique Easley is one of the latest examples – this approach has made the Patriots one of the NFL’s best teams when it comes to drafting.
There are countless ways of analyzing and dissecting success on draft day and beyond. Games played, statistics, team success. Twitter user @DeeepThreat has turned to looking at after-season accolades, namely Pro Bowl and All Pro selections, to find out which teams have been the most successful this century when it comes to picking college players.
Turns out the Patriots did rather well:
As can be seen, the Patriots are atop the league when it comes to drafting Pro Bowl players and tied for fourth in first team All Pros. While selecting a player like Tom Brady, who alone has accounted for a combined 14 of the team’s 79 drafted accolades since 2000, skews the numbers a bit it also shows just how good of a job the team has done when it comes to developing some of its draft picks.
Overall, New England has selected 153 players over the course of the last 16 drafts. This ranks second in the league over that timespan behind only the San Francisco 49ers’ 157 picks. Therefore, the Patriots are naturally more likely to have a higher number of "successful" picks. Still, the team also fares well when it comes to averages.
New England’s 63 Pro Bowl selections are the second most when weighed against the number of draft picks – trailing only the Dallas Cowboys. When it comes to the team’s 16 first team All Pro selections, it is fifth in the league when compared to the number of players drafted.
Obviously, looking at Pro Bowl and All Pro selections is far from a perfect method when it comes to measuring a team’s draft success. However, there are still some insights to be gained from the table above – most importantly that the Patriots, at least by this metric, are one of the best drafting teams in the NFL since Bill Belichick took over as head coach and de-facto general manager.