Over Bill Belichick’s tenure with the New England Patriots, winning has been a constant. Beyond that, Belichick has shown time and time again that he’s playing chess while the rest of the NFL is playing checkers. He’s certainly a better on-field coach than a GM, but he’s still built a 15+ year dynasty almost exclusively through the draft (including trading picks for established veterans).
Here are his ten best picks ever:
10. Matthew Slater, Wide Receiver (5th round pick, 2008)
A captain for many years, Slater is one of the best special teams players in the entire league. With 127 special teams tackles in 132 games, Slater continues to put up top numbers among specialists.
Slater has made six straight Pro Bowls, while also being named a First-Team All-Pro four times. Including 2017, Slater will have been named a team captain for the seventh consecutive year, earning a good deal of respect and admiration from his teammates and coaching staff. Not bad at all for a fifth-round draft pick.
9. Devin McCourty, Safety (1st round pick, 2010)
When first drafted from Patriots Defensive Back University (a.k.a. Rutgers), McCourty was brought in to play cornerback. He would be elected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie after starting in all 16 games (rare for a Patriots first-year) and recorded a career-high seven interceptions. But what eventually forced his transition to safety were his difficulties in his sophomore season.
McCourty got even better as a defensive back when he switched to safety. He now joins Hall of Famers Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott as the only players in NFL history earn All-Pro nods at both safety and cornerback. McCourty is highly respected by his teammates as well, and has been named a defensive captain in six of his seven seasons. He’s also been extremely consistent game-to-game and season-to-season, always an imperative for Belichick.
8. Stephen Gostkowski, Kicker (4th round pick, 2006)
Normally kickers aren’t selected until the very late rounds, if at all. Gostkowski turned out to be a great selection, as he’s already cemented himself as one of the best kickers in NFL history. His 87.0% field goal completion percentage is fourth all-time, and at the same time he has a ridiculous 73% completion percentage for fields goals of 50 yards or more. He’s only missed four extra points in his entire career out of 552 attempts.
A two-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro, Gostkowski was able to come in after the departure of Adam Vinatieri and pick up right where he left off. With many more years ahead of him, don’t be surprised if Gostkowski moves up this list even further by the time his career is over.
7. Asante Samuel, Cornerback (4th round pick, 2003)
Perhaps one of the more underrated cornerbacks during the 2000s, Samuel vastly outperformed his fourth-round draft selection. While he only played five seasons with the team before finishing the remaining six with the Eagles and Falcons, Samuel’s best years were in New England. He only missed five games during his time with the Patriots, and even had ten (yes, ten!) interceptions in 2006 while only playing 15 games that season.
Named to his only First-Team All-Pro squad in 2007 while with the team, Samuel was an integral part of the Patriots defenses and was the team’s lock-down corner. He’s also one of the few players the Patriots may have regretted passing on after he went to Philly following the 2008 Super Bowl loss to the Giants and had 24 interceptions over the next four seasons.
6. Logan Mankins, Offensive Guard (1st round pick, 2005)
Much is expected of a first-round pick upon selection. But Mankins blew those expectations out of the water as one of the best offensive guards this century. Out of Fresno State, Mankins collected seven Pro Bowl selections, five Second-Team All-Pro nods, and one First-Team All-Pro honor. He also played in all 16 games six times in his nine seasons with the team and was the glue that held the team’s offensive line together.
While Mankins may not get the call to Canton one day, there’s no denying the terrific career he had. He was an elite run-blocker and above average pass-blocker throughout his career. At the very minimum, Mankins is a lock for the Patriots Hall of Fame.
5. Richard Seymour, Defensive Lineman (1st round pick, 2001)
As a player who would move in between the interior and exterior of the defensive line, Seymour terrorized opposing offenses against the run and the pass. His 38 pass deflections, 57.5 sacks, and eight fumble recoveries stand out on paper, but his on-field performance was able to tell the whole story of how disruptive he was as a defensive lineman.
Seymour was one of the league’s best defensive players during the 2000s and named to the Pro Bowl seven times, the First-Team All-Pro team three times, and the Second-Team All-Pro team twice, along with the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary and All-2000s team. Not to mention that he made the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team as well. A borderline Hall-of-Famer, Seymour has a legit case as the best defensive player in Patriots history. David Terrell, who most fans wanted the Patriots to take? Not so much…
4. Matt Light, Offensive Tackle (2nd round pick, 2001)
Matt Light embodies all the same qualities as Mankins, and not just because they look alike. Tom Brady’s blindside protector for over a decade, Light was among the elite offensive linemen during his time in the league. A three-time Pro Bowler, one-time First-Team All-Pro, and a member of the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary team and All-2000s Team, Light’s contributions did not go unnoticed. Outside of 2005 when he broke his leg, Light played in at least 14 games nine of his ten remaining seasons.
3. Rob Gronkowski, Tight End (2nd round pick, 2010)
There’s no question that Gronkowski is the best tight end in football today. He’s also on his way to going down as the best tight end in NFL history. He’s nearly unstoppable. Gronk has averaged just under ten receiving touchdowns per season (68 in seven seasons) and has a career 15 yards per reception, which is simply unheard of for a tight end.
Gronk has three seasons of 1,100+ yards, five with 10+ touchdowns, and three 70+ reception years. In ten career playoff games, he’s averaged almost 84 yards per game and nearly a touchdown per contest (nine). Mostly known for his receiving ability, Gronk is also one of the best blockers at the position as well, which is understandably forgotten in the midst of his mind-blowing offensive output. Whenever he’s on the field, Gronk is a threat to score a touchdown no matter whom he faces. Only 28 years old, Gronkowski may go down as the second-best Patriots player all-time when all is said and done…
2. Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver (7th round pick, 2009)
While Edelman’s career got off to a slow start with the Patriots, he has been an extremely important piece of the team’s offense over the past few years. A former seventh-round quarterback convert, Edelman has returned quite a bit on the team’s tiny investment in selecting him. He has at least 90+ receptions and 900 yards in three of the past four seasons. Not only does Edelman do a lot of dirty work for the team as a short-to-intermediate receiver who grinds for extra yards and first downs, but he’s one of the best run blockers in the league at his position.
A player the Patriots game-plan around every week, Edelman has blown all expectations out of the water after nearly going undrafted, and is one of the greatest draft picks for Belichick during his time with New England.
1. Tom Brady, Quarterback (6th round pick, 2000)
As if there was ever any doubt…