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Bill Belichick and Compensatory Picks: An Updated History

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Mark Schofield takes a look at how the Patriots acquired their compensatory draft picks in the past.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-Winning Team Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the wake of Trent Brown and Trey Flowers departing via free agency, there is a chorus of voices outlining how Bill Belichick is again using the NFL’s compensatory pick structure to his advantage. After all, the New England Patriots enter the 2019 NFL Draft with 12 picks, thanks to being awarded four compensatory selections due to the departures of players like Dion Lewis, Nate Solder and Danny Amendola, among others, before last season. With Brown and Flowers now moving on, odds are that the Patriots will secure some extra picks in the 2020 draft.

Belichick’s penchant for using the compensatory pick structure to stockpile additional picks, and avoid paying out big contracts to free agents, is well known. But how have those resulting picks turned out? Here is an updated look at the compensatory selections during the Belichick Era, including an accounting of the players lost via free agency, the picks made, draftable players that were still available, and even a revision to a bit of Patriots folklore.

2019

While we do not yet know how Belichick will use his four compensatory selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, we at least know where those selections are in the draft order. After losing the following qualifying players in free agency (Danny Amendola, Johnson Bademosi, Malcolm Butler, Cameron Fleming, Dion Lewis and Nate Solder) and signing Adrian Clayborn and Jeremy Hill, the Patriots were awarded four compensatory picks:

Round 3, Selection 97

Round 3, Selection 101

Round 6, Selection 205

Round 7, Selection 252

With New England holding 12 selections in the upcoming draft, odds are at least one of these picks is going to find a new home via trade.

2018

The Patriots were awarded one compensatory pick prior to the 2018 NFL draft, and nearly qualified for more. New England lost the following qualifying players in free agency: LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long, Barkevious Mingo, Logan Ryan and Jabaal Sheard. Additions to the roster included Rex Burkhead, Stephon Gilmore and Lawrence Guy. Under the league’s net loss formula, the Patriots were denied additional compensatory selections as the “the final numerical values of the [compensatory free agents] who were lost by those clubs ranked 33rd through 37th among the final numerical values of all compensatory selections.” So the Patriots entered the draft with this single selection:

Round 4, Selection 136

New England would not use that pick in the draft, but included it in the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams. Cooks and pick 136 were sent to Los Angeles in return for pick 23, and pick 198. That 23rd selection in the draft was used on offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn - who might be called upon to start at left tackle in the wake of Brown’s departure - and the 198th selection was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for two seventh round selections, 233 and 243. Pick 233 was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for pick 250 and a 2019 seventh round selection. At 243, the Patriots drafted cornerback Keion Crossen, and at 250 New England selected tight end Ryan Izzo.

2017

New England was awarded a single compensatory pick prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, which would be the first in league history where teams could trade the compensatory selections. After the Patriots lost Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson in free agency, and added Shea McClellin, this was the selection:

Round 5, Selection 183

What did the Patriots do with that selection? Well, given how Belichick views fifth-round selections, it was sent to another team. New England dealt that pick to Kansas City for tight end James O’Shaughnessy and the Chiefs’ pick at selection at 216. Later in the draft, Belichick sent pick 216 and 239 to the Dallas Cowboys to move up to 211 and draft offensive tackle Conor McDermott. Perhaps the most notable player left on the board was selected at pick 225, defensive end Isaac Rochell.

2016

The Patriots were given a big number of compensatory selections for the 2016 NFL Draft. New England saw these qualifying free agents leave during the qualifying offseason: Akeem Ayers, Brandon Browner, Jonathan Casillas, Darrelle Revis, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Vince Wilfork. With Sheard the only qualifying player the Patriots signed, New England was given four compensatory picks:

Round 3, Selection 96

Round 6, Selection 208

Round 6, Selection 214

Round 6, Selection 221

Lacking the ability to trade these picks, Belichick and company were forced to make some selections. At 96 they drafted Vincent Valentine, the defensive tackle from Nebraska, who was released by the team in 2018. With pick 208, New England drafted Kamu Grugier-Hill a linebacker from Eastern Illinois, who was waived by the team during final roster cuts. Grugier-Hill was part of the Philadelphia Eagles team that won Super Bowl LII. Belichick drafted Elandon Roberts with that pick at 214, and the linebacker has carved out a role for himself in the Patriots’ defense. Finally at 221 the Patriots drafted Ted Karras, who has been a reserve lineman for New England over the past few seasons with five starts under his belt.

2015

The Patriots were awarded two compensatory selections in the 2015 draft, including the first compensatory selection of the draft. New England saw Dane Fletcher, Brandon Spikes, and Aqib Talib depart via free agency, and the additions of Browner and Brandon LaFell caused the league’s formula to aware New England the following draft picks:

Round 3, Selection 97

Round 7, Selection 253

With the first compensatory pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Patriots selected Geneo Grissom, who would be a rotational defensive lineman for New England until last season, when he was ultimately waived and signed by the Indianapolis Colts. At pick 253, Belichick and company called for Xzavier Dickson from Alabama. The defensive end was released by the Patriots prior to the 2015 season, and is now a big part of the formidable Iron Curtain defense for the Birmingham Iron of the AAF.

2014

When the NFL announced the compensatory picks for the 2014 NFL Draft, the Patriots received one additional selection. During the qualifying period for the 2014 draft the Patriots lost some big names in free agency, but the Patriots’ additions worked to offset those losses...at least under the applicable formula. New England saw these players leave town: Patrick Chung, Donald Thomas, Wes Welker, and Danny Woodhead, but they added Danny Amendola, Isaac Sopoaga, and Will Svitek. Sopoaga notched one sack during his time with the Patriots, and Svitek appeared in 13 games during the 2013 season, making two starts. As a result, the Patriots had this additional pick:

Round 4, Selection 140

The Patriots turned that pick into Cameron Fleming, who started 20 games for the Patriots and appeared at a number of positions along the offensive line such as both guard positions, both tackle positions and even as a tight end in some jumbo offensive packages. While Fleming played a solid role for New England some interesting names were still on the board at pick 140, such as quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Aaron Murray and linebacker Telvin Smith.

2013-2011

New England was not awarded any compensatory selections during these three drafts.

2010

Prior to the 2010 NFL Draft the Patriots were awarded four compensatory picks, as the qualifying offseason saw them lose a number of players via free agency. New England saw the departures of Heath Evans, Jabar Gaffney, Larry Izzo, LaMont Jordan, and Lonie Paxton, and with Brandon McGowan the only qualifying addition, the Patriots were given these four additional picks:

Round 6, Selection 205

Round 7, Selection 247

Round 7, Selection 248

Round 7, Selection 205

With that sixth round pick, the Patriots drafted Ted Larsen, a center from N.C. State. Larsen was waived by the Patriots early in the 2010 season. That was not the last time that New England saw Larsen, however. He was on the field for the Dolphins for the “Miracle in Miami,” throwing a critical block downfield to help spring Kenyan Drake. At pick 247, New England drafted Brandon Deaderick, who was a rotational defensive lineman for the Patriots and started in a Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVI. With the pick at 248, the Patriots drafted Kade Weston, a defensive tackle who spent his rookie season on the injury list and was waived prior to the 2011 season. Finally, with that pick at 205 the Patriots drafted quarterback Zac Robinson from Oklahoma State, who most recently was an analyst for Pro Football Focus before being named the new assistant quarterbacks coach for the Rams.

2009

The 2009 Draft saw the Patriots make three additional selections under the league’s compensatory pick formula. The NFL awarded New England those selections in the wake of departures by Randall Gay, Asante Samuel, and Donté Stallworth. Those picks were:

Round 3, Selection 97

Round 5, Selection 170

Round 6, Selection 207

With the third-round selection the Patriots drafted linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who played for three different programs while in college. McKenzie tore his ACL during training camp prior to his rookie season, and would eventually be waived by the team. With the pick at 170 New England drafted George Bussey, a guard from the University of Louisville. He also battled injuries and never appeared in an NFL game. Finally the Patriots used the 207th selection in the 2009 draft on Myron Pryor, a defensive lineman from Kentucky. Pryor spent four years in New England and tallied 34 tackles and a sack for the Patriots, before his release in 2013.

When the Patriots selected McKenzie at the end of the third round, guard T.J. Lang and safety Glover Quin were both available. Tight end Zach Miller and guard Matt Slauson were on the board when the Patriots drafted Bussey at 170. Finally, after the Patriots selected Pryor at pick 207, tight end John Phillips and defensive back Captain Munnerlyn came off the board in the next handful of choices.

2008

The Patriots did not have a compensatory pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

2007

New England saw some notable departures during the 2006 season, including a player who played a prominent role during the Patriots’ early string of Super Bowl success. New England saw these players leave via free agency: Tom Ashworth, Matt Chatham, Andre Davis, Tim Dwight, Christian Fauria, David Givens, and Adam Vinatieri. Reche Caldwell was the only qualifying addition, so the Patriots were awarded four compensatory picks at the following spots in the draft:

Round 5, Selection 171

Round 6, Selection 208

Round 6, Selection 209

Round 7, Selection 247

Unfortunately, the Patriots could not strike gold with any of these late round selections. With pick 171 New England drafted offensive tackle Clint Oldenburg from Colorado State, who was cut prior to the season. With the two sixth-round selections the Patriots drafted Justise Hairston and Corey Hilliard. Hairston, a running back from the University of Connecticut, was cut by the team prior to the season as well, reaching an injury settlement. Hilliard, an offensive lineman from Oklahoma State, never made the Patriots but did appear in 47 NFL games, with 12 starts. He played in one postseason game with the Detroit Lions in the 2012 season. Finally, with pick 247 the Patriots drafted Mike Elgin, an interior lineman from the University of Iowa. Elgin also never made the roster.

2006

Entering the 2006 NFL Draft, the Patriots held two additional sixth-round selections thanks to the league’s compensatory pick formula. In the previous offseason New England saw the departures of Joe Andruzzi, Adrian Klemm and David Patten, and linebacker Monty Beisel was the only qualifying addition via free agency. Those picks were slotted in at:

Round 6, Selection 205

Round 6, Selection 206

With those two picks, the Patriots drafted guard Dan Stevenson from Notre Dame and defensive tackle LeKevin Smith from the University of Nebraska. Stevenson never appeared in a Patriots uniform. Smith played in 31 games for New England, recovering one fumble and making 17 tackles. He was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2010 along with a seventh round selection for a fifth round selection, which the Patriots would eventually trade because as we all know, Belichick hates fifth rounders. If New England wanted to address the guard position, as it seems they did with the selection of Stevenson, Zach Strief was on the board for both selections. After the Patriots drafted Smith, two interesting defensive backs came off the draft board in the next few picks, Antoine Bethea and Cortland Finnegan.

2005

During the 2004 offseason the Patriots added nose tackle Keith Traylor via free agency, and saw the departures of Mike Compton, Bobby Hamilton, Ted Washington and Damien Woody. This led to the league awarding New England three compensatory picks for the 2005 NFL draft, at the following spots:

Round 3, Selection 100

Round 5, Selection 170

Round 7, Selection 255

With the third round selection, the Patriots drafted Nick Kaczur, an offensive tackle who would go on and start 62 games for New England. At 170, the Patriots selected linebacker Ryan Claridge out of UNLV. He would never appear in an NFL game, and was picked before tight end Bo Scaife and defensive back Chris Harris (not the current Bronco, but a player who appeared in over 100 NFL games and notched 17 career interceptions). Selection 255 was Mr. Irrelevant, and that player was tight end Andy Stokes from William Penn University. He never played in the league. Interestingly enough, just a few selections prior was quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Did you know he played at Harvard?

2004-2003

The Patriots did not have a compensatory selection in either the 2004 or the 2003 NFL Drafts.

2002

A selection the Patriots made in the 2002 NFL Draft has taken on a bit of lore as a compensatory draft choice. When the NFL announced the list of compensatory selections in the upcoming draft in April of 2002, this was the list. As you can see, the Patriots were not given a compensatory selection.

However, in the midst of all the compensatory selections in the 7th round, the Patriots made a pick at the 253rd spot overall. That pick? David Givens, a wide receiver who went on to play for three seasons in New England and caught a touchdown in each of the Patriots’ postseason games in the 2004 season, including one in Super Bowl XXXIX versus the Philadelphia Eagles. Givens is commonly listed among the more notable compensatory picks by Belichick.

There is just one...slight problem with that.

He was not a compensatory selection. Technically.

As this page from Ourlads.com indicates, the Patriots originally held the 244th pick in the draft, but they passed. New England eventually made the selection after the Detroit Lions made a pick at 252. In addition, as stated by Ourlads: “Teams listed as drafting between 244 and 252 actually held positions one slot lower than the order shown. The order shown above was the order in which the selections were made.” Here’s some more evidence of this oddity of draft history. This archived page from NFL.com showing the results of the 2002 NFL draft. As you can see, among the sea of compensatory picks is Givens in the 253 spot:

The Givens selection is often listed among the best compensatory picks of the Belichick Era. The truth, however, might be a bit of a deviation from the lore.

2001

The Patriots were awarded three compensatory picks prior to the 2001 NFL Draft. These came due to the exit of the following players prior to the 2000 season: Heath Irwin, Steve Israel, Shawn Jefferson, Marty Moore and Chris Sullivan. With the free agent additions of Eric Bjornson and Grant Williams, the league awarded New England the following compensatory picks:

Round 5, Selection 163

Round 6, Selection 200

Round 7, Selection 239

With the pick at 163, the Patriots drafted hybrid defender Hakim Akbar out of the University of Washington. Akbar, a linebacker/safety hybrid, appeared in six games for the Patriots, mostly on special teams. He was released by the organization in March of 2002. With the pick in the sixth round, New England drafted cornerback Leonard Myers, who was with the team until 2003. Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh came off the board a few picks later. Finally, New England drafted linebacker T.J. Turner out of Michigan State at pick 239. Turner appeared in two games for the Patriots in 2001 with three tackles to his credit.

2000

Belichick’s first draft in New England saw the new head coach holding four additional picks via the league’s compensation formula. Due to the departures of Todd Collins, Tom Tupa, Mark Wheeler and Dave Wohlabaugh, the Patriots were awarded these selections:

Round 4, Selection 127

Round 6, Selection 199

Round 6, Selection 201

Round 7, Selection 239

With that final compensatory selection, New England drafted fullback Patrick Pass out of the University of Georgia. Pass would be a three-time Super Bowl champion in New England. At 201, the Patriots called on defensive end David Nugent, out of Purdue University. Nugent appeared in 15 games for New England over two seasons, with one start during the 2001 campaign. With that pick in the fourth round, the Patriots drafted Greg Randall, an offensive tackle out of Michigan State. He appeared in 12 games for New England as a rookie, and started all 19 of the Patriots’ games in the 2001 season. Randall played in seven games for the Patriots in the 2002 season, with three starts, and was traded to the Houston Texans prior to the 2003 season in a deal that sent a fifth-round pick back to the Patriots. Which, of course, Belichick subsequently traded.

As for Pick 199…

We know how that one turned out.

Some long time contributors, some traded picks, a bit of history that needs to be revised and the greatest quarterback of all time. Those are just some of the stories that come out of the history of Belichick compensatory selections. Obviously anytime you draft the GOAT in the sixth round via a compensatory pick, you can view the entirety of the selections as a win. Yes, some of the picks missed, and there were some instances where the Patriots could have drafted a better player. But the draft overall is a crap shoot, and compensatory selections give you a few more bites at the apple while often moving on from players expecting a big payday. Plus, given six Super Bowl titles during the Belichick Era, the results somewhat speak for themselves.