Gone is the 32nd overall pick, and the same is true of the 64th. But they didn’t depart for nothing.
The 2017 NFL draft began early for the New England Patriots, having shipped away those top assigned picks in the trades that acquired 23-year-old wideout Brandin Cooks and 25-year-old defensive end Kony Ealy this March.
The proven worth of Cooks, who eclipsed 1,100 yards in two of his first three NFL seasons while amassing 20 touchdowns, stacks up with the first- and third-round value the Patriots sacrificed to acquire him. And as for Ealy, who notched three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception back in Super Bowl 50, it was on a lesser scale; New England only had to drop down eight spots to bring him aboard.
But whether you’re the glass-half-full type or not, the deals with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers were still a give-and-take. In result, Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio’s war room isn’t currently scheduled to be on the clock until the third round at No. 72 overall in this year’s draft.
There will be plenty of time to wait until then. And with that time, it’s fair to wonder just what caliber of player the Patriots might find there.
Each draft inevitably comes with its own surpluses and scarcities; no two carry the same depth at a given position. But while mock drafts are a valuable exercise, there is also some merit in seeing who had their name called where the Patriots currently reside. History helps set a median.
So, let’s revisit it.
Over the last decade, seven defensive linemen, two offensive linemen and one cornerback have been selected at No. 72 overall. Five are currently on an NFL roster. Three are still with the team that drafted them. None have been voted to a Pro Bowl. One, though, has been named a second-team All-Pro.
Many of their names have since faded, with a few of whom playing their final professional down in a different league. But here’s an all-encompassing glance through those players taken at No. 72 since 2007, before the Patriots – conceivably – find themselves picking there on April 28.
2016: Jonathan Bullard, DT, Bears
A third-team All-American, first-team All-SEC selection and Chuck Bednarik Award semifinalist in 2015, Bullard was the last to land at No. 72. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Florida product went on to appear in 14 games during his rookie season with Chicago, collecting one start to go with 18 tackles and one sack.
2015: Jamon Brown, OT, Rams
A second-team All-ACC pick in 2014, Brown has since entered for 20 games through two seasons with the now-Los Angeles Rams. The former Louisville bookend has started 14 of them, including four of the final six last season.
2014: Scott Crichton, DE, Vikings
A first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2012 and second-team pick in 2013, Crichton managed to accrue only eight tackles over 21 games with Minnesota. The Oregon State product reverted to injured reserve after clearing waivers this past season, and was claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Bills this March.
2013: Brian Winters, G, Jets
Winters, a first-team All-MAC honoree in 2012, has since started 41 of the 51 contests he’s logged with New York. The former Kent State lineman reached a four-year contract extension with the Jets this January, worth $29 million with $15 million guaranteed.
2012: Olivier Vernon, DE, Dolphins
The ex-Miami Hurricanes pass-rusher went on to stay in Miami for his first four NFL seasons, prior to inking a five-year pact with the New York Giants in 2016. Vernon was named a second-team All-Pro this past year, and has compiled 259 tackles, 37.5 sacks and four forced fumbles over 80 games and 62 starts in his career.
2011: Martez Wilson, DE, Saints
Wilson, who earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition at Illinois back in 2010, was waived by New Orleans after two-plus seasons and went on to make brief stops with the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys. He appeared in 33 NFL games to tally 33 tackles, five sacks and two pass deflections before signing with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts in 2015.
2010: Alex Carrington, DE, Bills
The former Arkansas State defensive end and 2008 Sun Belt defensive player of the year proceeded to spend four seasons in Buffalo. Carrington has been a member of an additional three teams since then, most recently the Houston Texans in the summer of 2015. Over 59 career games, the 6-foot-5, 301-pound Carrington has netted 62 tackles, four sacks and six batted passes.
2009: Terrance Knighton, DT, Jaguars
Knighton found himself in Foxborough this past spring after inking a one-year pact with the Patriots, but that pact ultimately concluded during the 75-man roster cut. The onetime Temple nose tackle, who racked up 230 tackles, 14 sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions over 108 games and 96 starts through his years with Jacksonville as well as the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins, spent the rest of 2016 out of football.
2008: Chris Ellis, DE, Bills
After garnering a first-team All-ACC nod in 2008, Ellis went on to spent parts of three seasons with Buffalo, playing in 15 games to collect one start and 15 tackles. The former Virginia Tech edge-rusher later had a stint on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad before moving on to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2012.
2007: Marcus McCauley, CB, Vikings
McCauley’s tenure in Minnesota lasted two seasons before the Fresno State alum moved around to five additional teams in a two-year span. After 27 games, 10 starts, 70 tackles and 10 passes defended, the corner finished his career with the United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions in 2010.
Vernon, Knighton and Winters stand out as the most successful No. 72 overall picks over the last 10 drafts, while the jury is still out on Brown and Bullard. Although whether it’s at No. 72 or No. 64 or even No. 32, it’s clear that the margin for failure remains large for the Patriots.
Not only is that history, that’s reality.