When the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams finalized a trade to send wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round draft pick west in return for two selections – a first-rounder and a sixth-rounder –, the Patriots lost their most productive wide receiver from the 2017 season. However, the team gained considerable draft capital for moving Cooks and now occupies five slots within the first 100 picks.
Two of those slots are in the first round (overall numbers 23 and 31) and two of them are in the second (numbers 43 and 63), with another pick coming late in round three (number 95). As can be seen, the Patriots have plenty of ammunition at their disposal to pick high-quality prospects to fill their roster's holes – left tackle, off-the-ball linebacker, developmental quarterback – or make moves to manipulate the board to their liking.
The team therefore finds itself in a unique position, one it has not been since the days of Pete Carroll: For the first time since 1998, the Patriots own two first-round picks and two second-round picks at the same time. Back then, Curtis Martin and Bill Parcells were the source of the additional selections – now, it is the aforementioned Cooks as well as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers last October.
This, of course, also means that head coach and de-facto general manager Bill Belichick finds himself in a new situation as well: Never under his leadership have the Patriots had this much high-end capital at their disposal. To put it in a more concrete way, the team's four draft picks – according to Rich Hill's draft value chart – are worth a combined total of 655.03 points, a little less than the equivalent of the second overall pick.
For comparison, the drafts that most resemble New England's current portfolio when it comes to the first two rounds – 2010's one first-rounder (#27) and three second-rounders (#42, #53, #62); 2011's one-first rounder (#17) and two second-rounders (#33, #56); 2012's two first-rounders (#21, #25) and one second-rounder (#48) – held combined values of 547.92, 576.34 and 635.52 points within rounds one and two.
Those drafts brought the team four cornerstones of its roster over the last decade in tight end Rob Gronkowski and safety Devin McCourty (2010), offensive tackle Nate Solder (2011) and most recently linebacker Dont'a Hightower (2012).
Of course, there is a discrepancy between judging a draft's high-end value before and after it took place. Take the 2012 draft, for example, which saw the Patriots enter the first two rounds with three completely different selections available: overall numbers 27, 31 and 62 – a total value of “only” 490.0 points. Through a series of trades that involved later-round selections, the Patriots were able to boost their top-tier value.
One year earlier, the Patriots entered the draft with the most similar selection bouquet to this year's: The team held two picks in each of the first two rounds (#17, #28, #33, #60) and came into day one with 773.06 points of assets. The Patriots, defining the strength of the draft class in the middle rounds traded back and picked up additional capital for 2012's draft along the way.
A similar thing could happen in 2018, with New England owning the ammunition to move up and down the board. It remains to be seen what will actually happen, but following the Brandin Cooks trade, the Patriots are now again in a position to add impact players in the mold of Gronkowski, McCourty, Solder and Hightower to their team – and as such ensure that the team’s unprecedented run of success continues.