Though the New England Patriots have made 15 first-round selections since Bill Belichick returned to Foxborough in 2000, none of which have transpired at the slot the war room sits now.
No. 31 overall.
It’s a slot no team wants to be picking in. It’s one that Belichick and the Patriots briefly sat in as a result of the Super Bowl XLII and XLVI losses, too. But in the Jerod Mayo class of 2008, the organization’s original pick was forfeited by way of Spygate. Then in 2012, New England sent No. 31 and a fourth-rounder to the Denver Broncos to move up five spots for Dont’a Hightower.
Which means the 2018 NFL draft could bring a first for Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio, director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort and Co.
And if so, what caliber of prospect might still be waiting for New England?
The narrow answer is a wide range. No two drafts are the same and no two draft boards are, either. But there are some historical points of reference to sort through as April 26 inches closer.
Let’s look back through the last 17 players taken at No. 31.
2017: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Foster, who was arrested Sunday on charges related to domestic violence and suspicion of possessing an assault rifle, started all 10 games he appeared in as a rookie for the San Francisco 49ers. Foster was named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best linebacker after finishing second on the team with 72 tackles. The Alabama product was arrested last month and charged with second-degree marijuana possession.
2016: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Ifedi has started each of his 29 games for the Seattle Seahawks through two regular seasons, working at both right guard and right tackle. Ifedi played 100 percent of Seattle’s offensive snaps in 2017, for an offensive line that conceded 43 sacks and saw its rushing attack average 4.0 yards per carry with a league-low four touchdowns.
2015: Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
Anthony was named to the PFWA All-Rookie team in 2015, when the Clemson Tiger gathered 112 tackles, a sack and an interception while starting all 16 games for the New Orleans Saints. But Anthony started just three more before being traded to the Miami Dolphins this past September for a 2018 fifth-round pick. He played in eight games for Miami to close out the campaign, logging 15 tackles in a reserve role.
2014: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
In a Denver Broncos secondary headlined by fellow cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, Roby has started 14 career games and seen action in all 48 since 2014. Roby, who has 48 passes defended to go with six interceptions, two touchdown returns and five forced fumbles in his career, was ranked a top-25 corner by PFF for his performance in 2018.
2013: Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin
First-round centers are not commonplace, and at the time, Frederick was called a “reach” because he became one. But the Dallas Cowboys’ pivot has since started 80 all games dating back to his PFWA All-Rookie season of 2013. He’s been named to four consecutive Pro Bowls, and has also been a two-time second-team All-Pro and 2016 first-team All-Pro.
2012: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Martin received Pro Bowl recognition as rookie in 2012, when he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, and again in 2015, when he added 1,402 yards and another six scores on the ground. But in his other four seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Martin has managed 1,777 rushing yards and nine TDs combined. The 29-year-old back is coming off his second straight campaign with 2.9 yards per carry and hasn’t broken a 20-yard run since Dec. 4, 2016.
2011: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
It took longer than it should have, but Heyward was named a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro for the first time this past season. Over 15 starts, the seventh-year Pittsburgh Steeler logged 45 tackles, an eighth-ranked 12 sacks, as well as two forced fumbles, Heyward has played in 102 career games and accrued 263 stops, 37 sacks, 21 batted passes and four forced fumbles to this juncture.
2010: Jerry Hughes, DE, Texas Christian
Hughes spent his first three NFL seasons with Indianapolis Colts before being traded to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. His career sack total has gone from five to 36 over the four seasons since. Hughes began his Bills stay with back-to-back 10 sack seasons, and the Horned Frog has started all but one game since 2014 off the edge of the front.
2009: Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State
Wells’ NFL tenure spanned from 2009 to 2012, and ended as his release from the Arizona Cardinals followed with a torn Achilles in a free-agent workout with the Baltimore Ravens. Along the way was one 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season and a Cardinals single-game rushing record, but career totals of 2,471 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns over 625 carries.
2008: Kenny Phillips, S, Miami
Phillips spent his first five NFL years with the New York Giants, earning a Super Bowl ring against the Patriots in his final one. He had short stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and Saints before retiring ahead of the 2016 season. Phillips, now 31, played in 59 regular-season games altogether to accumulate 275 tackles, 26 passes defensed and eight picks. He started 45.
2007: Greg Olsen, TE, Miami
Three Pro Bowls, two second-team All-Pros, and a PFWA All-Rookie selection outline Olsen’s NFL bio. And at 32, the 2007 Chicago Bears first-round pick is still kicking. Despite an injury-marred 2017, Olsen has put together three 1,000-yard seasons for the Carolina Panthers, and has 639 receptions to go with 53 touchdowns since his 2007 debut as a Bear.
2006: Kelly Jennings, CB, Miami
Kind of wild that Miami Hurricanes were taken 31st overall three years in a row, right? Jennings registered five seasons of service for the Seattle Seahawks before spending his final NFL season with the Cincinnati Bengals. The corner played in 91 career games, getting the nod in 45 to rack up 240 tackles, one sack, 52 pass deflections and a pair of interceptions.
2005: Mike Patterson, DT, USC
Patterson spent eight seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, starting 99 of his 110 games while amassing 332 tackles, 16.5 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a franchise-record 98-yard fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. The defensive tackle was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation after suffering a seizure in the lead-up to the 2011 season and underwent brain surgery following it. Patterson finished his career with two full 16-game seasons as a Giant.
2004: Rashaun Woods, WR, Oklahoma State
Woods had a quiet two-year stint with the team that drafted him, the 49ers, before being traded to the San Diego Chargers in exchange for cornerback Sammy Davis in the spring of 2006. Woods would be waived by San Diego that August and failed a physical with Denver after being claimed off waivers. He later made stops with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, closing his NFL career with seven catches for 160 yards and one touchdown over 14 games.
2003: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, California
Asomugha amassed three Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pros and two second-team All-Pros while with the Raiders. And after picking off eight passes in 2006 – tying for the NFL’s lead – the captain’s coverage was tested so seldomly that he wouldn’t reel in more than one in each of his next three seasons. Asomugha finished out his career with a disappointing two-year stint in Philadelphia – after agreeing to a five-year, $60 million deal – and a seventh-month cup of coffee in San Francisco. The onetime Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year has made the transition to acting in his post-football life.
2002: Robert Thomas, LB, UCLA
Thomas spent two seasons with the then-St. Louis Rams, one with the Green Bay Packers, three in Oakland and one preseason with the Washington Redskins. The ex-Bruins All-American played in 84 career games over those seven years, starting 50 to net 304 tackles, two sacks and one interception.
2001: Todd Heap, TE, Arizona State
A member of the Ravens’ ring of honor and a two-time Pro Bowler and 2003 All-Pro, Heap went out as a Cardinal having posted 499 receptions for 5,869 yards and 42 touchdowns over 145 contests. Heap eclipsed 800 yards receiving twice in his career. The throwback tight end had five seasons with five touchdowns or more.
2000: Trung Canidate, RB, Arizona
Canidate spent three seasons with St. Louis and one with Washington, handling 240 carries for 1,095 yards, 32 catches for 260 yards, and 43 kick returns for 945 yards with eight total touchdowns. Canidate started 11 of his 12 games for the Redskins after being traded for guard David Loverne and a fourth-rounder ahead of 2003. He hit career-bests in carries – 142 – and rushing yards – 600 – that year before being released as the Clinton Portis era got underway.
And that’s that.
Four defensive backs, three running backs, three off-ball linebackers, three defensive linemen, two offensive linemen, one tight end and one wide receiver have been drafted No. 31 overall since Belichick was named Patriots head coach in 2000.
Six have gone on to earn Pro Bowl honors during their respective careers, while a total of five check in with All-Pro notches in their belts. Five others left the league after six seasons or fewer, and nine are currently on an NFL roster entering 2018.
So while No. 31 might carry a bit more stigma than the other 31 first-round picks, it remains as much a dart throw as any. Sometimes you strike the bullseye and other times you just damage the drywall.