Even with one game left to go in the wild card playoff round, the New England Patriots already know when they will be on the clock in the 2022 NFL Draft. They will pick at No. 21 overall following their loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday as well as the outcome of Sunday’s slate of games.
That position is not an unfamiliar one for the organization. Not only have the Patriots gotten used to drafting late during their two-decade run of dominance between 2001 and 2019, they also have held the 21st overall pick six times already.
Looking at their history in that draft spot, they can feel very good about their haul.
DB John Charles (1967): Selected in the first common AFL/NFL Draft, Charles joined the Patriots out of Purdue and went on to appear in 39 games over three seasons. Along the way, he registered six interceptions — including two that were returned for touchdowns — and recovered a fumble. Ahead of the 1970 season, Charles was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for quarterback Jim Kapp.
S Tim Fox (1976): A Pro Bowl selection in 1980, Fox had arrived in New England four years earlier out of Ohio State. He was a core member of the Patriots’ defenses in the late 70s and early 80s, playing a combined 93 regular season and playoff games. Fox caught 17 interceptions — 16th most in franchise history — and recovered seven fumbles. After leaving the team in 1982, he spent three seasons as a Charger and two more as a Ram.
TE Daniel Graham (2002): Graham spent five seasons with the Patriots, and they were quite successful. Appearing in 74 total games, he caught 133 passes for 1,536 yards and 18 touchdowns. His receiving numbers may not stand out compared to today’s standards, but Graham was still a valuable member of New England’s championship teams in both 2003 and 2004. He joined the Denver Broncos as a free agent in 2007, and also spent time with the Tennessee Titans (2011) and New Orleans Saints (2012)
DT Vince Wilfork (2004): One of the best players in Patriots history, Wilfork was as good a nose tackle as any in football during his time in New England. The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion played 185 regular season games and 21 playoff contests for the club, notching 19 total sacks as well as 13 fumble recoveries — one for a touchdown — and three interceptions. Wilfork spent the final two years of his career with the Houston Texans (2015-16) but his status as a Patriots legend did not change by his departure.
RB Laurence Maroney (2006): The second running back taken in 2006, Maroney put up some solid numbers during his four seasons as a Patriot. Appearing in 52 games, he carried the football 675 times for 2,799 yards and 24 touchdowns, and was instrumental in helping New England reach the Super Bowl in 2007. His tenure with the team came to an end in 2010, when he was traded to the Denver Broncos.
LB Chandler Jones (2012): The last player drafted 21st overall by the Patriots, Jones helped New England win a Super Bowl in his third year. Obtained via a trade-up, the Syracuse product played 64 total games for New England over a four-year stretch — posting 38 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Coming off the best season of his career, however, the Patriots traded Jones to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a second-round draft choice and guard Jonathan Cooper. Jones made the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2010s.
A lot can change between now and April 28, obviously, but looking at this history Patriots sure can feel good about the players they have selected at No. 21 through the years. That streak continuing would be big for an organization that has found its franchise quarterback but now needs to continue surrounding him with the appropriate pieces on both sides of the ball.