This is (hopefully) a multi-part look at the previous drafts of the New England Patriots in the Bill Belichick era. With limited breaking news about football and the Patriots in particular until training camp kicks off in July, this is the perfect time to at last get around to looking back and re-grading the past drafts of the modern New England Patriots. Starting at the beginning, below is the revisit and re-grading of Bill Belichick’s first draft in charge of the war room in Foxboro, MA.
The 2000 draft was historic due to one pick, but the interesting story is how the Patriots ended up with their uber-executive and head coach, Bill Belichick. Belichick had initially joined the Patriots and then coach Bill Parcells in 1996 after a semi-successful and controversy-filled tenure in Cleveland the ended with owner Art Modell making a clean break from the city moving the team to Baltimore and firing Belichick. Belichick joined as assistant head coach and defensive backs coach and left after the Super Bowl when Parcells bolted out of town seemingly before the final whistle in the Super Bowl to the Jets and brought his new defensive coordinator, Belichick, along with him (as well as most of the coaching staff other than offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia). When Bill Parcells retired (yet again, but not for the last time ) as Jets head coach after the 1999 season, Belichick was the successor. Well, at least for one day.
Belichick hastily resigned from the post (or as the newspapers enjoyed reporting, as the “HC of the NYJ” as he scribbled on a cocktail napkin). What is forgotten, is that Jets director of football operations Bill Parcells played a key role in negotiating the compensation for Belichick joining the Patriots as head coach. In fact, Parcells reached out to his then enemy, Patriots owner Bob Kraft, and ended their personal and professional enmity as Parcells worked to negotiate a deal to give the Jets the Patriots’ first round pick and the Patriots the head coach they desired.
1st Round #16: Traded to New York Jets for the rights to sign coach Bill Belichick.
Remember, in 2000 the Jets ended up with four first round picks. At that time, they were expected to build their squad into a juggernaut to control the AFC East for the next decade. The Jets traded that pick from New England to move up and grab defensive lineman Shaun Ellis. While a very good player (and future New England Patriot), the Jets got a run-stuffing lineman who anchored the defensive line for a decade. That year, the Jets also added defensive end John Abraham, quarterback Chad Pennington, and tight end Anthony Becht. One great pass rusher, a very good run-stuffer, a disappointing tight end, and an average quarterback was hardly the impact that Bill Parcells expected. The Patriots simply ended-up with the best coach of the salary cap era, and arguably one of the greatest of all time.
Should have drafted: NO ONE ELSE. Linebacker Julian Peterson ended up being drafted by San Francisco at #16, but every single person in New England realizes that just one first round pick was a bargain.
2nd Round #46: Adrian Klemm, Guard:
The first pick of the Bill Belichick era hardly engendered confidence. A big body on the interior line, Klemm had difficulty breaking into the regular offensive line rotation and only started ten games in his Patriots career. On one hand, Klemm has three Super Bowl rings in his possession; however, he only started ten games in five years and failed to make any major contribution before moving on to Green Bay when his contract expired.
Should have drafted: Wide Receiver Joey Porter, taken by Oakland at #47. Quarterbackd Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady would have enjoyed having Porter lined up outside with Troy Brown in the slot.
3rd Round #76: J.R. Redmond, Running Back:
Redmond was hardly a great player in New England; however, he had one great drive in the snow in the 2002 Divisional Playoff Game (aka the Snow Game/Tuck Rule Game) against Oakland in overtime, catching three passes on that drive. In addition, in the Super Bowl versus the St. Louis Rams, Redmond caught a short pass from Tom Brady with less than 45 seconds, and not only got the first down, but dragged a defender out of bounds to stop the clock. For those two drives alone, J.R. Redmond earned every penny he was paid in New England (and should be getting free drinks from every bar in New England for the rest of his days).
Should have drafted: Maybe, just maybe wide receiver Laveranues Coles who went to the Jets at #78, but I am not sure that–based on the 2001 playoffs–there was a better choice than Redmond.
4th Round #127: Greg Robinson-Randall, Tackle:
Greg Randall was a starter for one season, the Patriots first Super Bowl victory in the 2001 season, as he started all 16 regular season games and all post-season games at right tackle that season. However, by 2003 he had been traded to Houston for a fifth round pick. That fifth round pick (after some wheeling and dealing) netted the Patriots their starting center for the next eight seasons in Dan Koppen. One Super Bowl start and a trade that nets a draft pick that results in a pro bowl center: that, is classic Bill Belichick value.
Should have drafted: Linebacker Clark Haggans was grabbed by the Steelers in the fifth round at #137 and gave them a number of years of high production.
5th Round #141: Dave Stacheski, Tight End:
Dave Stacheski remains in the Patriots history as an important figure. Former General Manager/Director of Player Personnel Scott Pioli kept a photograph of Stacheski on his desk as a reminder that he drafted this tight end ahead of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Stacheski played in nine games over his short career with one reception.
Should have drafted: Defensive end Kabeer Gbalia-Biamila was taken at #149 and was a pass-rushing beast in Green Bay for a short window in the 2000s and finished his career with 75 career sacks. He would have looked great opposite Willie McGinest.
5th Round #161: Jeff Marriott, Defensive Tackle:
Marriott never played a game in New England. Not much else to say about him. You don’t expect much from a 5th round pick, but you certainly expect something.
Should have drafted: Future Patriots linebacker was drafted with pick #186 by Baltimore who got the 6th round pick for cheap production. If the Patriots had him for cheap during his youth instead of aging and overpaid, he’d be held in higher esteem in this area.
6th Round #187: Antwan Harris, Defensive Back:
Antwan Harris was not a terrible player. He contributed some on special teams for the Patriots, and played in the dime package on occasion. He will always be remembered for receiving Troy Brown’s lateral after a blocked field goal and running almost 50 yards for a huge score for the Patriots against the Steelers in the 2001 AFC Championship. Helping to win an AFC Championship Game with a big play is good production for a 6th round pick.
Should have drafted: Robaire Smith at pick #197 was a decent defensive end who contributed with a decent rush for a few years in Tennessee.
6th Round #199: Tom Brady, Quarterback:
Quite simply the greatest (or luckiest, depending who is giving their opinion) draft pick in NFL history. Paired with coach Bill Belichick, whose rights to sign were acquired for the first round pick of this draft, this draft gave the Patriots the greatest coach-quarterback combination of the modern (salary cap era) NFL.
Should have drafted: No other human being alive on the planet (no hyperbole–that is a fact).
Grade: A+ (if there was a higher grade to give, it would be given here)
6th Round #201: David Nugent, Defensive End:
Nugent did not really make an impact, starting 2001 on the practice squad, then contributing with one start and a few games played during the season. Nothing special, but not all 6th round picks can be Tom Brady.
Should have drafted: Mark Tauscher, a tackle taken at #224 had a decent career in Green Bay. Otherwise, nobody got much after pick 200. Maybe San Francisco quarterback Tim Rattay (#212) could have backed up Brady a few years.
7th Round #236: Casey Tisdale, Linebacker:
Tisdale never played for New England, but as a late 7th round pick, there’s not much expectation of value.
Should have drafted: Jacksonville got 20 sacks over his career out of defensive end Rob Meier. Not much else available this late.
7th Round #239: Patrick Pass, Running Back:
Patrick Pass actually carved out a decent role in New England, playing special teams and fullback. He had decent hands, picked up some championship jewelry, got shouted at by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, and had a solid 5-year run in New England.
Should have drafted: No, he was the pick to make. This is good value for almost the last pick of the draft.
The team got Brady and Belichick in this draft. That alone makes it one of the best drafts ever, to say nothing of adding contributors like Redmond, Robinson-Randall, Harris, and Pass.
Overall Draft Grade: A