The New England Patriots entered the 2001 NFL draft with the rights to pick No. 6 overall.
Gone before then would be Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick and Texas guard Leonard Davis. Florida defensive tackle Gerard Warren was next off the board. Missouri defensive end Justin Smith followed. And so did running back LaDainian Tomlinson out of Texas Christian.
The New England war room fielded a couple of phone calls.
“We talked about it,” head coach Bill Belichick told reporters during in his April 21, 2001 press conference, per the team’s transcript archives. “We considered it. But in the end, we just felt good about the player and there wasn’t anything that was strong enough to move us.”
Georgia defensive lineman Richard Seymour was that player. A 6-foot-6, 317-pound reason not to move.
Seymour, who became the 30th Patriots Hall of Fame inductee on Monday, stood as a two-time All-SEC first-team selection and a reigning first-team All-American. He led the Bulldogs in tackles as a junior in the fall of 1999.
“I hate to put a comparison on him because he is a little bit different,” Belichick said. “He is a taller kid for a tackle, but he does play inside and he is a pretty athletic kid. I think really the adjectives describe him better than trying to say he is this guy or that guy. We don’t really have anybody and there are not a lot of people – and I would say there are not a lot of people in the draft, either – that are going to fit his dimensions.
“A lot of the people who could play inside or outside are either bigger, definitely inside players or the 250-to-270-pound defensive end-type that are clearly outside players. This is a 300-pounder that can play outside, has played outside, and also has played inside and he is pretty athletic for that size.”
Seymour started 25 games and appeared in 41 while in Athens. A total of 233 tackles, with 26 for loss, and 10 sacks were accumulated along the way by the permanent team captain. And to a Patriots team that had gone 5-11 the previous year he went.
Belichick had met with Seymour at the NFL Scouting Combine. The South Carolina native was not among the organization’s subsequent pre-draft visitors.
When asked why that was the case, Belichick replied: “We didn’t feel like we needed to.”
“He was one of the highest-rated players going into the season and one of the highest-rated players coming out of the end year,” Belichick said. “There’s been a lot of scouts, a lot of cross-checks on him. This guy is no sleeper in the draft. I think everybody knew about him. I am talking about all the way from last year when everybody went out to do their fall scouting this was one of the top seniors.”
California defensive end Andre Carter went No. 7 overall to the San Francisco 49ers after a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. A pair of wide receivers in Michigan’s David Terrell and North Carolina State’s Koren Robinson were then taken back-to-back. And to round out the draft’s initial 10 picks, the Green Bay Packers called upon Florida State defensive end Jamal Reynolds.
As for Seymour?
“He is big. He’s athletic. He plays hard,” Belichick said of the film. “He is a high-effort player and, again, his versatility. You see the guy making plays at the point of attack, being able to handle himself with size and power. He is a 300-pounder. You can also see him run and making plays down the field.”
The Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI in Seymour’s rookie season. Two more Super Bowl victories would arrive during his tenure before the September 2009 trade to the Oakland Raiders.
The foundational five-technique earned five Pro Bowls and five All-Pros for New England at a position not designed to fill the game book.
“With Seymour, he is like any other rookie when he walks in here,” added Belichick. “He is going to need to establish a role for himself and then build on that and that’s what he is. He is not a miracle worker; he is going to have to come in and establish a spot for himself like everybody else will. And once he does that, then we just build on that from there. He has got enough versatility to play a number of different spots. We will put him where we think either he is best or he best fits with everybody else.”