With the 2018 NFL Draft only weeks away, a lot of speculation has been made about what exactly the Patriots could do with their first-round draft picks. That has especially become the case since the team traded away Brandin Cooks recently and accumulated a second pick in the first-round, along with their own. In a draft that could garner as many as six quarterbacks being taken in the first round and much being made about quarterback Tom Brady’s age, theories of how the Patriots address their quarterback situation have run rampant.
With that in mind, I have gone through and examined every single transaction involving a first-round draft pick since Bill Belichick became the head coach in 2000. In this piece, we will take a look at all of those transactions and see what history shows up with the Patriots and their first-round draft picks.
Pick: 16th overall
Result: “Traded” to the Jets in exchange for Bill Belichick
Belichick made a splash in his first year with the Patriots. After famously resigning a day after being introduced as the Jets head coach, he was eventually “traded” to the Patriots in exchange for New England’s first round pick in 2000 & seventh-round pick in 2001 for Belichick and New York’s 2001 fifth-round pick and 2002 seventh-round pick.
Pick: 6th overall
Result: No trade involved. Selected defensive end Richard Seymour, University of Georgia
Believe it or not, the Patriots weren’t always Super Bowl contenders. New England struggled to a 5-11 record in their first season with Belichick. This time around, the Patriots did not trade their first-round pick and selected future Patriots’ Hall-of-Famer Richard Seymour. Seymour was staple along New England’s defense for years until he was traded in a move involving a first-round pick years later.
Pick: 32nd overall
Result: Patriots traded up from 32nd to 21st overall with the Redskins. New England gave up a third-round pick (96) & a seventh-round pick (234) as well to move to 21. Selected tight end Daniel Graham, University of Colorado
Fresh off their first Super Bowl victory as a franchise, the Patriots made their biggest trade up in team history. They moved 11 spots and selected Graham. The tight end would end up playing five seasons for New England, accumulating 1,393 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in 63 total games for the team. He would play another six seasons between the Broncos, Titans and Saints.
Pick: 14th overall
Result: Patriots traded up from 14th overall to 13th overall with the Bears. New England also gave up a sixth-round pick (193) in the move. Selected defensive lineman Ty Warren, Texas A&M
Pick: 19th overall
Result: Acquired from the Bills in exchange for quarterback Drew Bledsoe in 2002. The Patriots traded down, moving this pick to the Ravens in change for their second-round pick in 2003 (43) and their first-round pick in 2004 (21)
In order to make sure the Patriots selected their guy in Warren, they gave up a sixth-round pick to move up one spot to select him. Warren would play eight seasons with the Patriots, accumulating 20.5 sacks and 253 tackles. He moved all around the New England defensive line, spending time at both defensive tackle and defensive end.
After trading Bledsoe in 2002 to the Bills for a first-round pick due to the emergence of Brady, the Patriots would trade down and accumulate another second round in 2003’s draft and a first-round pick in 2004, which turned out to be only two picks later. That pick would be used to select a future Patriots Hall-of-Famer.
Pick: 21st overall
Result: Acquired from Baltimore in 2003 trade. Patriots used this pick and selected defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, University of Miami
Pick: 32nd overall
Result: Patriots’ original 2004 draft pick. They did not trade this pick and selected tight end Benjamin Watson, University of Georgia
Back when Miami was a power-house university and churning out first-round picks left and right, the Patriots got in on the action and selected Wilfork. The defensive tackle would play 11 seasons with New England, garnering five Pro Bowl nods and one First-Team All-Pro selection (2012). Wilfork was a menace for opposing offenses along New England’s defensive line for over a decade.
The second of two first-round selections in 2004, Watson was a main-stay for six years with New England. Accumulating over 2,000 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns during his time, he wasn’t the best offensive weapon, but he was reliable when on the field. In fact, he is still playing today, recently signing a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.
Pick: 32nd overall
Result: Patriots did not trade this pick and selected offensive lineman Logan Mankins, Fresno State University
After a second consecutive Super Bowl victory, the World Champions stood pat on their first-round pick and selected Mankins. In his nine years with the team, he was a main-stay on their offensive line and played in at least 15 games in seven of his nine seasons with the team. That’s not to mention his seven Pro Bowl nods and one First-Team All-Pro selection (2010) while with New England. Mankins is a borderline NFL Hall-of-Famer but should certainly see his name in the Patriots’ Hall of Fame one day.
Pick: 21st overall
Result: Patriots did not trade this pick and selected running back Laurence Maroney, University of Minnesota
The only time in Patriots history under Belichick that the team selected a running back in the first round. Maroney played four seasons with the team, mostly not living up to the hype of a first-round running back. He did have three seasons over 700+ rushing yards and at least six rushing touchdowns in those three seasons. He would only play one more season (Broncos) before retiring after the 2010 season.
Pick: 24th overall
Result: Acquired from the Seahawks in exchange for wide receiver Deion Branch in 2006. New England used the pick and selected defensive back Brandon Meriweather, University of Miami
Pick: 28th overall
Result: Patriots traded down to the 49ers, sending their first-round pick (28) for San Francisco’s 2008 first-round pick (7th overall) and 2007 fourth-round pick (110)
After securing a first-round pick for former Super Bowl MVP Branch, the Patriots would use this pick and select Meriweather. Known for his hard-hitting play-style, he would play four seasons for the team, playing in all 64 games and accumulating 12 interceptions and two Pro Bowl nods. He would be released after the team was reportedly unsuccessful in trading him.
The Patriots would end up trading down with the 49ers, giving up the 28th overall pick in 2007 for a fourth-round pick in that same draft and San Francisco’s first-round pick in 2008, which turned out to be seventh overall. It would turn out to be a great move for the team as they would lose their own first-round pick in 2008.
Pick: 7th overall
Result: Acquired from the 49ers during the previous draft, the Patriots would end up trading down with the Saints. New England gave up the 7th overall pick and a fifth-round pick (164) to acquire New Orleans’ first round pick (10th overall) and third-round pick (78). The Patriots would end up selecting linebacker Jerod Mayo, University of Tennessee
Pick: 31st overall
Result: Pick was forfeited by New England because of the “Spygate” scandal
Despite appearing in the Super Bowl, the Patriots had the chance to pick in the top 10 because of their trade the previous season with the 49ers. They would end up moving down a few picks and select Mayo, who served as their defensive leader for several seasons. He played his entire eight-year career with the team, gaining two Pro Bowl nods and one First-Team All-Pro selection (2010).
Because of the “Spygate” scandal, the NFL forced the Patriots to forfeit their original first-round draft pick. This stipulation was the harshest of the overall punishment but was cushioned by the selection of Mayo in the top 10.
Pick: 23rd overall
Result: Patriots would trade down with the Ravens, sending the 23rd overall pick for Baltimore’s first-round pick (26th overall) & 5th round pick (162). New England would then trade down again, this time with the Packers. They sent the 26th overall pick and 5th round pick (162, both picks acquired from Ravens) for Green Bay’s second-round pick (41), third-round pick (73) and another third-round pick (83).
This is where things get fun. The Patriots traded down twice in the first round, eventually trading out of it altogether. Between these trades and others, the Patriots ended up with four second-round picks and two third-round picks in this draft. They would eventually garner a first-round pick in 2011 months later, when they traded Seymour to the Raiders.
Pick: 22nd overall
Result: Patriots would trade down, sending the 22nd overall pick to the Broncos for their first-round pick (24th overall) and fourth-round pick (113). New England would then trade down again, this time with the Cowboys. They sent the 24th overall pick and a fourth-round pick (119) to Dallas for their first-round pick (27th overall) and third-round pick (90). The Patriots would use the 27th overall pick and select cornerback Devin McCourty, Rutgers University
For the second year in a row, the Patriots trade down twice in the first round. This time, they do select in the round though. McCourty was drafted as a cornerback but would eventually be moved to safety, where he still plays today at a high level. He was selected to two Pro Bowls and has played in at least 14 games every year of his NFL career. It says a lot about the Patriots and their player evaluation to be able to trade down twice and still select what turned out to be a core member of their defense.
Pick: 17th overall
Result: Acquired from the Raiders in 2009 in exchange for Richard Seymour. The Patriots would not trade this pick and would use it to acquire offensive lineman Nate Solder, University of Colorado
Pick: 28th overall
Result: The Patriots would end up trading down with the Saints, sending the 28th overall pick for New Orleans’ first-round pick in 2012 (27th overall) and 2011 second-round pick (56)
While Solder didn’t garner any Pro Bowl nods during his time with New England, he was a main-stay at left tackle for seven seasons who proved to be an above-average blindside protector for Brady.
The Patriots would continue their “trading down” ways by accumulating an earlier pick in the following draft and a second-round pick as well from the Saints.
Pick: 27th overall
Result: Acquired from the Saints in a 2011 trade, the Patriots would actually trade up with the Bengals. New England gave up the 27th overall pick along with their third-round pick (93) to acquire the 21st overall pick from Cincinnati. The Patriots would select defensive lineman Chandler Jones, University of Syracuse
Pick: 31st overall
Result: New England’s original pick, they would trade up again in this draft. The Patriots sent the 31st overall pick and a fourth-round pick (126) to the Broncos for the 25th overall pick. Using that pick, the Patriots would select linebacker Dont’a Hightower, University of Alabama
In the first of two trade-ups for the Patriots, they selected Jones at 21st overall. Jones would accumulate 36 sacks in his four seasons with New England, taking the role of their number one pass-rusher. He would be traded to the Cardinals before his rookie contract ended, most likely because of his contract demands. He would help New England to one Super Bowl victory during his time.
Regarded as the Patriots’ leader on defense, Hightower was the second first-round draft pick by the team. Unlike Jones, Hightower is still with the team, helping lead them to two Super Bowl victories so far. Hightower is extremely talented, being able to stop the run, rush the quarterback and even drop back in coverage when asked. He is coming off an injury-riddled season but still has a bright future ahead of him as he enters his seventh season with the team.
Pick: 29th overall
Result: The Patriots would resume their trend of trading down, this time with the Vikings. New England would trade out of the first round by sending the 29th overall pick in exchange for Minnesota’s second-round pick (52), third-round pick (83), fourth-round pick (102) and seventh-round pick (229).
In classic Patriots fashion, they move out of the first round and accumulate more picks for day two and three. Ironically, the Vikings would use that first-round pick and select Cordarrelle Patterson, who the Patriots acquired earlier this off-season.
Pick: 29th overall
Result: The Patriots would end up staying pat and using this pick to select defensive lineman Dominique Easley, University of Florida
A highly-talented player, Easley ended up slipping to the late first round because of injury concerns. He tore his ACL twice (once in each knee) while in college. He would end up on the injured reserve both seasons he was with the Patriots before surprisingly released in 2016. It would be reported that the main reasons was due to issues with not communicating with team while rehabbing and having some issues in the locker room even when healthy.
Pick: 32nd overall
Result: The Patriots would not trade this pick and instead use it to select defensive lineman Malcom Brown, University of Texas
For the second year in a row, the Patriots would use their original first-round pick, this time being for Brown. Going into his fourth season with the team, Brown has proven to be a capable player at defensive tackle. He has eight and a half sacks along with 84 tackles through three seasons. A decision will need to be made soon as to if the Patriots decide to exercise Brown’s fifth-year option, which is not a guarantee between the acquisition of Danny Shelton and possibly using a high draft pick this year for another defensive lineman.
Pick: 29th overall
Result: This pick would end up being forfeited by the Patriots as punishment for the “Deflategate” scandal.
Not much to say here. “Deflategate” was a joke.
Pick: 32nd overall
Result: The Patriots would use this pick along with their third-round pick (103) to trade for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick (118) from the Saints.
For the second year in a row, the Patriots didn’t choose anyone with a first-round pick. This time around, they traded for Cooks, who finished his lone season with New England accumulating 65 receptions, 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. For a season that saw the Patriots lose star wide receiver Julian Edelman before the season began, Cooks was a big part of the Patriots’ passing offense. And in true New England fashion, he was traded earlier this month to the Rams (along with a fourth-round pick) for another first-round pick.
The Patriots certainly live up to their reputation of being a team notorious for trading down. In all, they traded down nine times over the course of 17 years with Belichick as head coach. They stood pat and used their first-round draft pick(s) nine times as well. They traded up only four times over the span of three drafts (2002, 2003 & twice in 2012). And then of course, they lost three first-round picks by “forfeit” or compensation (for Belichick).
With so much talk around what the Patriots could do with their now two first-round picks, history has shown that they are probably more likely to either stand pat with their picks or trade down. Granted, when it comes to potentially grabbing the quarterback of the future, it is a more unique situation than any other position in football. And in a draft where four quarterbacks could be taken in the top five and possibly six in the first round alone, the Patriots have positioned themselves well to do a variety of things.
In the end, history shows that the Patriots are not a team that trades up in the first round often. In fact, they have stood pat with their pick(s) more often than trading up. But as we have seen for almost two decades now, the Patriots stand head-and-shoulders above the rest of the NFL with their roster construction and player evaluation. If they find a player (or quarterback, in this case) that they really like, they’ll find a way to get him. And they have put themselves in a spot where it is possible to do so.
But don’t get your hopes up at this juncture about the Patriots trading up in the first.