Patriots' 10 best draft steals during the Bill Belichick era

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots
Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
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The Patriots weren't known for being incredible drafters throughout the two decades of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era. It became a smudge on Belichick's resume, a fault that followed him until his final season in New England, regardless of how many successful rosters he built over the years.

Because of the incredible success they saw during the Dynasty years, their positioning early in the draft wasn't always the most desirable. They almost always picked late in the first round, and from there on it is considered a crap-shoot for any team.

Although Belichick didn't consistently hit it out of the park with his selections, he did get lucky with players who were considered draft steals and became integral parts of the team's legendary run.

Ten players stand out the most when reflecting on the best steals during the Belichick era, one of which was selected just last year in what would be the coach's final draft with New England.

10 of the Patriots' best draft steals during the Bill Belichick era

Christian Gonzalez - Round 1, pick 17 in 2023)

During the months leading up to the 2023 Draft and the hundreds of mock drafts published by analysts and fans to project who the Patriots would select, there seemed to be one factor that remained throughout; they wanted to see a cornerback or offensive tackle taken.

The Patriots held the 14th overall pick, putting them in an excellent spot to get a solid player at either position. For the most part, the top two cornerbacks became the most desirable, Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon. Witherspoon looked like the one who would fall to them on draft night, with Gonzalez going off the board in the top 5 in most predictions.

That's not what happened, though, as the Seahawks took the University Of Illinois alum with the 5th overall pick. He was the first cornerback off the board, making it seem extremely doubtful that Gonzalez would somehow fall to New England nine picks later.

Somehow, he did but Belichick decided to trade back with the Steelers, swapping the 14th pick for the No. 17. And miraculously, Gonzalez was still available when they were on the clock, a shocking turn of events that even the most seasoned draft expert didn't anticipate.

He was immediately labeled an absolute steal for the Patriots and went on to prove exactly why every team that picked before them should regret passing on him at the start of his rookie season. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in Week 4, but he impressed in every game beforehand and is expected to pick up where he left off at the start of the 2024 season later this year.