The New England Patriots’ free agency spending spree last month was a direct result of them failing to find a sufficient number of quality contributors through the draft recently. That being said, the team was still had its hits as well over the last decade — from Dont’a Hightower (2012), to James White (2014), to Trey Flowers and Shaq Mason (2015), to the encouraging selections that were Kyle Dugger and Michael Onwenu last year.
One man stands above them all, at least according to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox: Joe Thuney, who joined the Patriots as a third-round draft pick back in 2016.
Knox crowned Thuney as New England’s best selection of the last decade in a recent story listing Every NFL Team’s Best Draft Pick of the Past Decade. The rationale behind Thuney’s selection is as follows:
For as great as the Patriots have been over the past decade, they haven’t drafted particularly well in the early rounds — a point chairman and CEO Robert Kraft conceded.
“I don’t feel like we’ve done the greatest job the last few years, and I really hope and believe I’ve seen a different approach this year,” Kraft told reporters.
New England, however, did hit on Joe Thuney in a big way. The North Carolina State product was chosen in the third round and immediately became a fixture of the Patriots offensive line.
Thuney has never been named to a Pro Bowl, but he’s been among the league’s most reliable players since he was drafted in 2016. He has started every game over the past five years and has rarely missed a snap, playing at least 97 percent of the time.
While Thuney played well enough to earn the franchise tag last offseason, the Patriots allowed him to walk in free agency this year, and he signed with Kansas City.
There certainly is a valid case to be made for Thuney, given how he became a cornerstone of two Super Bowl-winning teams despite starting his career as a third-round pick. His durability and steady growth over his five years in New England are nothing short of impressive, but do they make him worthy of “best draft pick of the decade” status?
That much can be dispute given that Dont’a Hightower, who joined the Patriots as a first-round selection back in 2012, has a strong case as well.
Hightower became a leader of the team’s defense almost immediately and played a pivotal role in three of New England’s six total Super Bowl wins. There is a strong case to be made for “Mr. February” as the club’s best draft selection of the last 10 years, especially considering that he already seems to have earned his spot in the Patriots Hall of Fame — an honor that is less certain to be bestowed upon Thuney one day.