New England Patriots: Trade up or Trade Down in First Round?

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 26: Dont’a Hightower of Alabama (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /


For the first time since 2012, the New England Patriots will have two first round draft picks in the NFL Draft. That year they double-dipped on defense and scooped up a pair of contributors for years to come in edge rusher Chandler Jones and inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower. That duo led a defensive revival in New England giving the team two Pro Bowl caliber players in the front seven.

While there are many fans anxious to see the Patriots pick a successor to quarterback Tom Brady with one of their first round draft picks, history suggests that head coach Bill Belichick will continue to build inside out (offensive and defensive line) with his first round draft picks. First round draft picks in 2015 (defensive tackle Malcom Brown), 2014 (defensive tackle/end Dominique Easley), 2012 (Jones), and 2011 (offensive tackle Nate Solder).

In 2003 New England had two first round draft picks after having traded quarterback Drew Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots went big getting defensive end Ty Warren and traded the other to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2004 first round pick and 2003 second round pick. They ended up with starting free safety Eugene Wilson and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork while Baltimore got Kyle Boller.

The second 2004 first round draft pick was tight end Ben Watson. Watson remains in the league to this day having carved out a role as a multi-purpose tight end. Initially expected to pair with 2002 first round draft pick Daniel Graham, the Patriots had to wait until 2010 to draft Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez before they got the two-tight end offense to work properly.

The New England Patriots double-dipped again in the first round in 2007 when they had an extra first rounder from trading Deion Branch to the Seahawks. They drafted Brandon Meriweather 24th overall and traded away their second first round pick for a future first round pick in 2008 and a fourth round draft pick in 2007. Meriweather never fulfilled his potential, but he was better than high first round busts like Gaines Adams (fourth overall), Levi Brown (fifth overall), LaRon Landry (sixth overall) Jamaal Anderson (eighth overall), Amobi Okoye (tenth overall),  Adam Carriker (13th overall), Justin Harrell (16th overall), Jarvis Moss (17th overall) and Brady Quinn (22nd overall).

San Francisco got Joe Staley, a solid tackle for the past decade, but paid a steep price. The first round pick in 2008 ended up seventh overall. The Patriots moved back and got two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jerod Mayo tenth overall that year. The fourth round pick? They traded it to Oakland for some washed up wide receiver named Randy Moss. Oakland got University of Cincinnati cornerback John Bowie (playing only five games over three seasons).

New England again had two first round picks in 2011 after getting Oakland’s future first round pick for defensive end Richard Seymour in 2009. New England grabbed left tackle Nate Solder and trade out of the first round again. They got a 2011 second round pick (running back Shane Vereen) and a second first round pick in 2012 to grab Hightower and Jones that year.