RECENT HIGH DRAFT PICKS:
New England is most comfortable spending high draft picks on defense in recent history. Their last two first round draft picks were in 2015 and 2014 and both picks were on defensive linemen: Malcom Brown and Dominique Easley. In 2015 they also doubled-up on edge rushers grabbing Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers within four picks of each other at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth round.
Last year two of their top three picks were edge rushers as they grabbed Derek Rivers at number 83 overall and Deatrich Wise Jr. in the fourth round. In 2016 New England grabbed nose tackle Vincent Valentine in the third round. In 2013 their top pick was linebacker Jamie Collins and 2012 was Jones and Hightower in the front seven (as well as bust defensive end Jake Bequette in the third round).
The 2011 NFL Draft was the outlier where New England did not go heavy with their top picks. Remember, the 2009 through 2012 teams were desperate for help in the secondary as the Hall-of-Fame talent of the defense at cornerback (Ty Law) and safety (Rodney Harrison) and significant contributors (Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson, Ellis Hobbs, James Sanders, and Brandon Meriweather) began to be replaced. That year the Patriots added Devin McCourty and Rob Gronkowski with their top two selections and then went edge rusher (Jermaine Cunningham) and inside linebacker (Brandon Spikes).
New England has also gone after big bodies on the other side of the ball in recent years. Offensive tackle Antonio Garcia was taken at number 85 overall last year. In 2016 it was starting left guard Joe Thuney with their first pick of the third round. Starting right guard Shaq Mason came from the 2015 draft taken in the fourth round (along with guard Tre’ Jackson). In 2014 the Patriots spent two fourth round draft picks on linemen grabbing center Bryan Stork and tackle Cameron Fleming. Finally, in 2011 the Patriots grabbed tackle Nate Solder with their first round draft pick.