Curtis Martin, 1995-1997
The New England Patriots selected Curtis Martin in the third round of the 1995 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Martin led the AFC in rushing with 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns. Martin won Offensive Rookie of the Year, becoming the third Patriots running back to do so in a seven-year span (John Stephens and Leonard Russell also won).
Martin followed up his rookie year in 1996 by rushing for 1,152 yards and another 14 touchdowns in his second season with the Patriots, en route to leading the team to Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers. Then in 1997, his third season with the team, Martin rushed for 1,160 yards.
In his first three seasons in the league, Martin carried the ball 958 times for 3,799 yards and scored 32 touchdowns with the Patriots. Martin went on to be a five-time Pro Bowl running back and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after retiring with the New York Jets.
Martin was one of the best running backs in his time and definitely someone the Patriots let get away.
Leonard Russell, 1993
The New England Patriots drafted Leonard Russell in the first round (14th overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft. He became the second Patriot running back in a three-year span to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (1988, John Stephens).
In 1993, Russell had 300 carries and averaged 3.6 yards per attempt for 1,088 yards along with scoring seven touchdowns. He totaled 2,437 rushing yards and scored 13 touchdowns during his Patriot career.
Russell played in 40 out of 43 games he was available and only missed one game in each of the three seasons he played for the Patriots. After his best season, the Pats released Russell after trading with the San Diego Chargers for the league’s leading rusher, Marion Butts.