Well it actually might have been harder to make the top 10 'best' moves list and not for the reasons one would have thought. As PatrioticChief (free shoutout you're welcome) astutely pointed out in the comments of the 'worst' moves list - there seems to be a cluster of those bad moves.
And there seems to be a cluster here for the good moves. Particularly some very saavy trades prior to our last SB run and even during the three-peat appearance era. Inherently subjective, but this would be my rankings. If I'm missing anything let me know I'm an idiot:
GM Bill's Best 10:
Signing CB Stephon Gilmore, 5 years/65 million, 31 million guaranteed
Let me start by saying it's harder than solving a rubix cube while skydiving while heavily intoxicated than choosing a true #1 for this list. There is no clear one, but this is the closest. A contract eerily similar to Jonnu Smith's with 250k less guaranteed money with 1 additional year hilariously enough (cap/year noted).
This was a great signing. We perhaps don't make it to the 2017 SB against the Eagles and certainly don't win the 2018 SB without Gilmore. This wasn't a Law/Revis level guy out of Buffalo, he was good but more a B to B+ player there. The talent evaluation was great, on the NFL tape/field which BB excels at. 2019 defensive player of the year post-2x SBs, 2020 drop off and injury but still, 3 to 3.5 pretty good to elite years of play. The Ty Law/Revis of the second dynasty stint. Number 1.
Trey Flowers, 101st pick of the 4th round 2015
This one might come as a surprise to some, but personally I saw Flowers as a very underrated player. He was better than Judon 2021 was during his peak in NE. He was a constant for 3x SB appearances in a row for this team.
Not quite elite but a B+ level edge defender, he really bolstered the defense from 2016-2018 in that precise three year window. On very cheap rookie deal as a 4th rounder. Top 101 picks, still weighted pretty heavily for a GM/draft. BB drafting Flowers takes this spot.
Trading for OT Trent Brown
As much as one can argue Brown is overrated as a player in general, currently, and even in 2018 - he was still very good in 2018. At minimum a B+ level LT which is very valuable. Belichick acquired this behemoth by merely swapping the 95th pick in the 2019 draft with SF's 143rd.
If the theme has not been established, Brown was an extremely valuable impact piece to a SB winning team.
Trading for TE Martellus Bennett
Well 3-6 here could be pretty interchangeable, but here is another massive reason we ended up winning the ATL 28-3 legendary SB title. Gronk had been injured with a back/lung/car crash, and missed the final 5 games + entire postseason.
Martellus Bennett amassed over 700 regular season yards and 62 yards in the SB while being a very competent blocker. Not super flashy but held a 79.5 PFF grade for this 2016 season which is also, very good for a TE.
Flipping Brandin Cooks
This might be one of the most masterful sequences by GM Belichick in this time period or ever. But...it did not result in a SB championship, but an appearance. Perhaps something goes different if Malcolm Jenkins doesn't blatantly target Cook's brain in that final game.
Also it's arguable that getting rid of him wasn't the best move but also 2018 with Gordon/Edelman/Gronk was enough to win a ring. Belichick sent 32 + 103 for Cooks and 118. Then we flipped Cooks and a 4th for 23 + a 6th.
Effectively the net result achieved was: 1 year of Cooks on rookie deal, move up 9 picks in the 1st round but a year out, gaining a 6th for the price of a comp 3rd and a 4th.
Wynn was selected with the 23rd pick from the Rams, Crossen/Izzo/Cowart by means of slightly more capital packaged were a result of the 6th. The only argument pushing this further down the list or keeping it at 5, is the fact that we did "need" a + receiver in coming years and we were unwilling to pay Cooks although he was paid heavily, etc.
Joe Thuney, 78th overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft
Starting LG for the 3x SB appearance Patriots of 2016-2018, starting guard right out the gates as a rookie. Was not very good as a rookie but solid, improved each year and was a pretty damn good guard for us.
His iconic moment would be blocking Aaron Donald, stonewalling him, in the 2018 SB game for stretches. With all the praise said, I do personally think Shaq Mason is the better player not to take away from Thuney. But for a GM I believe the 78th pick has significantly more weight than the 131st therefore this draft selection ranks higher.
Felony Armed Robbery of CLE for CB Jason McCourty
Plot twist, you thought Mason was next. He has to wait, because I don't care if CLE wanted to sell off and get younger, this was highway robbery. We quite literally moved back 9 spots from the dead a-- end of the 6th into the early 7th (trading our 6th for their 7th) to acquire Jason McCourty.
Not only is there the twin DBZ fusion going on, Jason McCourty was good. Underrated. Lost in Cleveland. Coming off a 76.3 PFF grade there, and then posting a 79.1 grade for NE in 2018 (that is very good), he was playing outside boundary corner, moving into slot, capable of safety, doing it all.
He also had a legendary moment with his recognition and speedy range to break up what would be a TD pass to Brandin Cooks (hello old friend) in the 2018 dominant defensive SB performance.
Shaq Mason, 131st overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft
Here's Shaq. Recently departed from our franchise, but arguably one of the best interior OL we've ever had. Only rated this low due to it being a late 4th round pick aka far more variable and uncertain, harder to give as much weighted credit to a GM.
However, this guy was also part of the 3x SB, 2x ring run of 2016-2018. PFF absolutely loves Mason giving him 3x 85+ grades and 4x over 80. Which translates to - they think he's one of the best RGs in football from 2015-2021.
Dante Scarnecchia also has a lot to do with the OL development undeniably, and perhaps the scouting and has actual input on drafting. So that needs to be said.
Patriots trade for WR Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon deserves more lines in the story of our double dynasty run. A candle that burns twice as bright. Perhaps that's a bit more credit, he wasn't Randy Moss 2007 out there but he is underrated for what he brought in 2018.
It only costed us the 170th overall pick in the 5th round for Gordon and a conditional 7th (I assume never conveyed). But it was worth it a million times over. In just 11 games, Gordon manned the X receiver position for this team and caught 40 balls for 720 yards.
Ultimately he did relapse, disappoint, and got suspended right before the playoffs. But do we secure the bye without him? Maybe. Maybe not. And subjectively I've tended to weigh SB championships and direct reasons as to why we won those heavily. Maybe he deserves to be cut off this list, but to me this was a saavy low risk move that paid off and ultimately the team won a SB.
Mac Jones, 15th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft
Honestly, I'm hesitant to put this in the top 10 but I have to. Here is the reasoning: First off, GM Belichick sat there at 15 and got lucky. Fans here pretend like it was some mastermind galaxy brain play, but I don't see it that way.
I see it was luck. It was extremely lucky that teams at 7-10 aka DET, CAR, DEN, PHI all decided to pass on drafting a QB (Fields, Jones on board). It was lucky no one leapfrogged us in a trade like the Jets did to 14 but obviously not grabbing a QB after Wilson.
It's about process too. It would cost what, a 4th or so to move up and secure him? But sure if you don't agree that's fine. Secondly, Mac had a solid year in 2021 but he was not great. He was not Burrow or Herbert or Watson or clearly Mahomes (sophomore to be fair) or Dak as a rookie.
He looked good in comparison to a bunch of rookies who all sucked. Just being objective. At this point we really don't know how good Mac is or how he stacks up. He was on a leash, he was a game manager last season. With all that said, Belichick didn't get cute and made the correct pick. Even if Mac is a ~12-18 range QB it's still the correct process to take. Let's hope he improves and is better than that.
Cheat alert - T-10th - Adrian Phillips signed in 2020, 2 years/6 million dollars
Yes I'm going to put a tie for 10th here and add this signing. Just so cheap for such a solid B to B+ safety coming off an injury but looked great prior to that. Great signing, types of signings Belichick excels at really like a Mills/Bourne that adds to a championship roster. (Unfortunately we don't have that right now)
- BB trades a 6th for KVN and a 7th, 215 for 239
- Michael Onwenu, 2020 6th round pick
Sorry but it's just too much of a crap shoot and too little weight in the late 6th for me to credibly rank him among other moves. Also while I think he's a good player, he was relegated to the bench in year 2 for some reason, kind of tough to rank him top 10 with those things considered.
- 2021 trade up to draft Christian Barmore
This one definitely could have made the list. Same problem with Mac Jones though and any pick from 1 year ago, it's one year out. One season. Small sample size here to judge.
- 2022 draft pick Marcus Jones
This definitely was not making the list for obvious reasons but deserves to be considered as of now simply because it was the only consensus level pick and only pick that fans almost unanimously praised. Also a prime example of hitting a need a year or so early rather than late (Jonathan Jones is sneaky older, inconsistent at times, and oft injured lately)
These were not on my list at all, but just decided to toss them down here. I don't think there is an argument for anyone but Mills to be real.
Takeaway from both lists:
I think the real takeaway from creating both the best and the worst of GM Belichick's moves from 2015-2022 is a few things.
A. Clearly there were a lot of good moves earlier on in this set time span, a ton of saavy trades and signings (J-Mac, KVN, Gordon, Brown, Bennett) around 2016-2018. Not really so much after that, aside from Phillips let's say.
B. GM Bill excels at adding those C+ to B+ pieces around a core that is already SB caliber. Which is possibly/probably a problem with his recent GMing outside of the draft itself.
C. As has been said, many times, the drafting from this range was very poor. Specifically the top 3 rounds were abysmal. You can't credibly put a top 101 pick on this list besides Thuney or Flowers. And Flowers while psuedo comp 3rd, was by definition a 4th round pick.
There is not a single 1st or 2nd round pick you can list from the first 6 years (albeit one year we didn't have one) here. And then it's pretty damn speculative and early.
D. It was harder to rank the good moves, and not because there was a lack. It's just a combination there being, somewhat surprisingly, more than expected and not a single home run answer for 1 or even 1-5. It's easy to point to Jonnu Smith's contract or Harry or 2nd round DB nightmares,
But how do you rank Adrian Phillips vs Jason McCourty vs KVN vs Barmore vs Mac Jones? It's just far more subjective and open for debate I think. Well thanks for reading I guess.