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A very brief history of the Patriots and the NFL’s Supplemental Draft

Related: NFL cancels supplemental draft for a second straight year

J’’Juan Cherry

For the second year in a row, the NFL has decided not to hold a supplemental draft. This “other” draft was first introduced by the league in 1977 to give players a chance to enter the league without having participated in the regular event taking place earlier during the offseason.

The supplemental draft has produced some noteworthy talent over the last four decades— from Bernie Kosar to Cris Carter to Josh Gordon — but saw only a small number of players actually get selected: in total, just 45 men heard their names called.

Two of those players were picked by the New England Patriots, even though neither of them had any noteworthy success with the club.

The first supplemental draft pick by the organization was made in 1981, when it invested an eleventh-round selection in a wide receiver from the University of Rhode Island. Chy Davidson joined a position group led by Stanley Morgan and Harold Jackson that would have benefitted from additional depth and talent — two things the Patriots’ new rookie ultimately failed to provide.

Not even two months after getting picked by the team, Davidson was let go again without having appeared in an actual game. He then moved to Washington first to play for the city’s NFL franchise and then for its USFL counterpart, but again was unable to make an impact. In 1984, he eventually joined the New York Jets for whom he appeared in four games over two seasons. Davidson’s NFL stat sheet reads as follows:

4 in-game appearances; 1 kickoff return; 9 yards

None of those statistics were accomplished with the Patriots — a distinction Davidson shares with the club’s second supplemental draft choice, J’Juan Cherry.

In 1999, Cherry became the lone player selected during the extra draft: New England added him to a cornerback group led by All-Pro (and future Hall of Famer) Ty Law and veteran Steve Israel. With the draft taking place just before the start of the regular season, Cherry essentially made the Patriots’ roster by default: he signed his deal on September 9, six days after getting drafted with a fourth-round selection, and was activated on September 20.

After joining the team’s roster, the Arizona State product was a game-day inactive for the first three weeks of his NFL career. He did dress for the Patriots’ mid-October games against Miami and Denver but did not see the field in either contest. Three days after New England’s game against the Broncos, New England placed Cherry on its injured reserve list due to a hip issue. The next offseason and under new head coach Bill Belichick, Cherry was cut.

His career in the pros ended with him having played a grand total of zero snaps.

The most success New England has had with a supplemental player was actually with the aforementioned Josh Gordon. The Cleveland Browns invested a second-round draft pick in the Baylor product in 2012, but traded him to the Patriots in 2018 after numerous suspensions.

Gordon appeared in eleven games for his new team, and caught 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns, but ended his season with another ban. The Patriots went on to win a Super Bowl without him, and later gave him another chance the following season. However, after six additional games as well as 20 catches for 287 yards and another score, New England decided to release Gordon for good.

When he was let go, Gordon had posted a pretty good stat-line:

17 in-game appearances; 60 catches; 1,007 receiving yards; 4 touchdowns

Despite his unceremonious departure, he still remains the most successful player in Patriots history to enter the league via the supplemental draft. Given the event’s uncertain future after back-to-back cancelations, there also is a chance that Gordon will be the last player to join New England through the supplemental draft system.