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

Julian Edelman - (Round 7, pick 232 in 2009)

When the Patriots selected quarterback Julian Edelman from Kent State in the 7th round of the 2009 Draft, not a single soul could have imagined how integral he would go on to be for the team's dynastic run of the 2010s.

A seventh-rounder isn't expected to be much of anything in the NFL, so he predominately spent the first few years of his career as a special teamer. But when Belichick decided to switch Edelman to wide receiver and truly integrate him into the game plan a few years into his career, he became one half of one of the best quarterback/receiver duos of the modern era.

Although he was never the flashiest player or atop the league in stats, he did record three 1,000-yard seasons, the last coming at age 33.

He was easily Tom Brady's favorite target, which inevitably helped him catch the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX, dive for one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history against the Falcons in 2017, and earn the MVP Award in Super Bowl LIII.

Edelman's postseason career is what really defines his legacy in New England. It's almost as if he played better when the game was on the line, all of which proved why he was a great draft steal even more.

Matthew Slater - (Round 5, pick 153 in 2008)

Much like the expectations for Julian Edelman a year later, Matthew Slater wasn't anticipated to become one of, if not the best, special teamer in Patriots history, especially one that would spend 16 years with the team.

Throughout his career, Slater was the most consistent players to suit up in a Patriots uniform and helped lead their special teams to being atop the league from their performance. He was the main reason for their success during their second Championship run in the 2010s, and his value to the team went beyond what he gave on the field.

Slater's natural ability to lead eventually made him the voice of the locker room, leading the team's celebrations after big wins. He brought positivity and mentorship that can't be overstated, and he made teams across the league care more about improving their special teams because of just how good he was.

The 2024 season will be the first time in 16 years that Slater won't be on the field, but fortunately, he is reportedly taking an advisor role with the team to help put the next generation of special teamers on the right track.