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

James White - (Round 4, pick 130 in 2014)

Running backs are not the most respected position in the NFL, nor are they typically taken very high in any draft. In the 2014 Draft, the first running back didn't get selected until late in the second round, and twelve more were picked before the Patriots truly lucked out with taking James White.

It's almost hard to put into words just how important White became to the offense during his eight year career, ultimately earning the title of the best third down back during the Belichick era. He accomplished so much throughout his career, trailing only Kevin Faulk in most catches and receiving yards by a running back in team history.

White quickly earned Tom Brady's trust in and out of the backfield, resulting in him becoming one of the heroes of Super Bowl LI where he recorded 14 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown. On top of that, he added six carries for 29 yards and two scores, one of which was the game-winner in overtime.

Because of all that he became and what he contributed to the second half of the Patriots Dynasty, he is easily one of the biggest draft steals of the last 20 years.

Rob Gronkowski - (Round 2, pick 42 in 2010)

Perhaps a player being taken early in the second round doesn't qualify as a draft steal, per se. However, because Rob Gronkowski went on to be the greatest tight end to ever play in the NFL, it seems to warrant his placement on this list.

As soon as he stepped on the field, Gronk was an immediate force within the Patriots offense. He quickly rose in the ranks of Brady's favorite targets, recording 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns through 115 regular season games.

As dominant as he was as a receiver, he was almost more unstoppable as a blocker. This aspect is far too often overlooked when evaluating tight ends, but Gronkowski set the standard for what it meant to be a well-rounded, true-to-the-position tight end and exemplified that in every game.

He was as consistent as they come and was the biggest factor in why the Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl against the Rams in 2019, making impressive catches at the right time and really putting his body on the line to get the job done.

If only he had been able to avoid some of the injuries he suffered, he could have even more easily put the GOAT tight end argument to rest.