It goes without saying that the New England Patriots are facing a ton of pressure leading up to the 2021 Draft.
Assuming they don’t do something entirely unforeseen, however, they should be able to satisfy fans with whomever they pick in the first round.
Whether the Patriots trade up to draft a quarterback, nab one of the top remaining wide receivers or choose to further bolster their secondary by selecting a cornerback, they’d be hard-pressed to come out of the first round as losers.
While that’s all well and good, there’s a discussion to be had in terms of how the Pats should approach the rest of the draft. After all, their track record in the first round over the last seven years is so bad that it’s almost impressive, if that makes any sense. But guess what? The same goes for the second round.
As former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum noted on Twitter, the Patriots have made seven picks in the second-round during that span, zero of which (!) have emerged as full-time starters.
In fact, the three cornerbacks they’ve drafted in Round 2 since then — Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson and Cyrus Jones — have started a combined three games.
The Patriots’ draft track record after the first round over the last seven years is actually depressing.
How … how is that even possible? Bill Belichick caught some heat in the middle of last season for his recent draft failures, which is largely why he’s spent close to $300 million in free agency this offseason, and this nugget proves that criticism was warranted.
The second round is where general managers are supposed to show their true brilliance — look no further than Colts GM Chris Ballard’s exceptional draft log — and to say that the Pats exec has failed in this regard would be a colossal understatement.
If you look through the Patriots’ draft history, they haven’t hit on a second-round pick since Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014 and he was traded after three years (and two starts) with the team. He also has an extensive injury history, so he’s not exactly what you would call a home run selection.
Going back further, you could make a case for Jamie Collins in 2013, but he’s been inconsistent throughout his career and was let go following his rookie contract before being brought back for a one-year stint in 2019. Still, however, that was eight flipping years ago.
Eight drafts have come and gone since then, and safety Kyle Dugger is the closest thing the Patriots have in terms of hitting on a second-round pick. Maybe Josh Uche, too, but there’s not enough of a sample side.
That isn’t to say it’s been a complete disaster for the Patriots after the first round, as impact players like Rob Gronkowski (second round), Joe Thuney (third), James White (fourth), Damien Harris (third), Logan Ryan (third), and Patrick Chung (second) were all taken beyond Round 1 outside of the last seven years.
However, the fact we had to research as far back as 2009, which was when Chung was drafted, just to make that list look respectable is a massive indictment against New England. In fact, if you were to exclude Harris from that group, none of those picks came after 2016.
For the sake of fans, let’s hope that Belichick’s new “collaborative approach” signals a long overdue changing of the guard in Foxborough as far as the draft is concerned.