Perry: Second-rounders under Belichick run the gamut
Patriots second-rounders under Belichick run the gamut
By Phil Perry
As a refresher, here's how things stand right now for the Patriots at the top of this year's draft: they have no first-round pick; they don't pick until No. 60 overall at the end of the second round; they picked up an additional second-rounder (No. 61 overall) in a trade with the Cardinals that sent Chandler Jones to Arizona.
The Patriots have 11 choices in all, but that number -- and the order of those picks -- could change between now and draft weekend. Either way, without a first-rounder, it appears as though the perceived success or failure of the 2016 draft for Bill Belichick and his staff will rest largely on what they're able to do with those two second-round selections.
Over the course of Belichick's 16 years at the helm in New England, the second round of the draft has resulted in a mixed bag, featuring both extremes in terms of production. At one end of the spectrum, you have 2010 second-rounder Rob Gronkowski, who has proven to be a generational talent at tight end. The argument could be made that he's one of the best second-round picks of all-time. At the other end of the spectrum is 2007 second-rounder Chad Jackson, who made 13 catches in his Patriots career.
With about a month to go before the clock starts on the second round of this year's draft, here's a quick look at 22 second-round picks the Patriots have made over the course of Belichick's tenure as head coach. (Editor's note: The Patriots did not make second-round picks in 2005 or 2007.)
Adrian Klemm, G, No. 46 overall in 2000
Matt Light, LT, No. 48 overall in 2001
The Patriots took another swing at a second-round offensive lineman in Belichick's second season. This one they drilled. A pillar of the team's three Super Bowl wins in 2001, 2003 and 2004, Light helped the Patriots to five Super Bowls in all, protecting Tom Brady's blindside through 2011. An intelligent, tough, winning player who had the ability to bring levity to the locker room, Light is one of the most important individuals to pass through Foxboro in the last 20 years.
Deion Branch, WR, No. 65 overall in 2002
Another home-run second-rounder, Branch was New England's best receiver on back-to-back Super Bowl-winning clubs. He caught 10 balls for 143 yards against the Panthers, and the following season he tallied 133 yards on 11 grabs to earn MVP honors. A contract dispute in 2006 led to Branch's departure -- it also led to a dearth of capable receivers on that year's roster -- but he returned in 2010 and quickly re-established his chemistry with Brady, averaging about four catches and 54 yards per game over the next season-and-a-half.
Eugene Wilson, FS, No. 36 overall in 2003
It would've been difficult to imagine a better start to a career than the one the 5-10, 195-pounder out of Illinois turned in. He ended up starting 45 games in his first three seasons, picking off nine passes and winning two Super Bowls while playing alongside Rodney Harrison. His next two seasons were marred by injuries, and in 2008 he signed with the Texans to play out the final three seasons of his career.
Bethel Johnson, WR, No. 45 overall in 2003
The 5-11 speedster out of Texas A&M was seen as a potential deep threat for Brady and an elusive return specialist. He was a big-play threat as a return man, taking back kicks for touchdowns in 2003 and 2004, but in three seasons with the Patriots, he caught just 30 passes.
Marquise Hill, DE, No. 63 overall in 2004
The LSU product played 13 games in his three seasons with the Patriots. Tragically, Hill died in a jet-ski accident before the 2007 season. That year Patriots players wore Hill's No. 91 on the backs of their helmets on their way to a perfect regular-season record.
Chad Jackson, WR, No. 36 overall in 2006
An athletic play-making receiver at the University of Florida, Jackson declared he would enter the NFL draft early after making 88 catches for 900 yards as a junior. The promise he showed in college, however, never came to fruition. He made just 13 catches as a rookie, and he played in only two games without making a single catch in 2007. He was released before the start of the 2008 season.
Terrence Wheatley, CB, No. 62 overall in 2008
A two-time first team All-Big 12 selection at Colorado, Wheatley played in 11 games in two years with the Patriots, starting one. In 2010, an injury forced him to miss the start of the season, and he was eventually released mid-year.
Patrick Chung, DB, No. 34 overall in 2009
The Patriots would've loved for the former Oregon Duck's first go-round with the team to be as productive as his second. He's played at a near Pro Bowl level over the last two seasons, specializing as a box safety who thrives against the run and in covering tight ends and receivers in the slot. In his first four seasons with the Patriots, Chung played in 50 games and started in 30, but he struggled at times when asked to patrol the deep part of the field.
Ron Brace, DT, No. 40 overall in 2009
The 6-3, 330-pounder out of Boston College had his best season in 2010 when he played in 13 games and started in five. Otherwise, he served as a reserve defensive tackle who played in his final regular-season game in 2012.
Darius Butler, CB, No. 41 overall in 2009
The speedy corner from UConn played in all but three games in his first two seasons in New England, but he was waived before the start of his third. He played with the Panthers in 2011 and has since landed in Indianapolis where he’s established himself as their top nickel corner.
Sebastian Vollmer, OT, No. 58 overall in 2009
When healthy, Vollmer has been one of the most effective right tackles in the league since he was drafted out of the University of Houston. He started in eight games as a rookie, and since his sophomore season, he's started in 72 of the 74 games in which he's played.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, No. 42 overall in 2010
The most dominating tight end in the game was a gamble coming out of Arizona. He had back injuries that forced him to miss his entire junior season, but the Patriots thought he was worth the risk 10 picks into the second round. They've never been more right.
Jermaine Cunningham, LB, No. 53 overall in 2010
This one didn't go quite as well. Drafted as a 6-2, 250-pound outside linebacker out of Florida, the Urban Meyer pupil finished with 3.5 sacks in three seasons with the Patriots. He was cut before the start of the 2013 season.
Brandon Spikes, LB, No. 62 overall in 2010
The Patriots doubled-up on Gators nine picks after selecting Cunningham. Spikes gave the Patriots a hard-hitting, run-stuffing presence for four seasons, but as defensive schemes skewed more toward stopping opposing passing games, his skill set became less relevant.
Ras-I Dowling, CB, No. 33 overall in 2011
Taken with the first pick of the second round, Dowling had all the traits to become a highly-effective boundary corner. The University of Virginia product came into the league with injury concerns that proved to be his downfall with the Patriots. He started in his first two games as a rookie, then injured his hip and ended up on injured reserve. A thigh injury ruined his second season, and he was released before the start of the 2013 campaign.
Shane Vereen, RB, No. 56 overall in 2011
The pass-catching running back out of Cal had his best season with the Patriots in his fourth and final year with the team, reeling in what was then a career-high 52 passes for 447 yards. In Super Bowl XLIX, he gashed the Seahawks for 11 receptions and 64 yards.
Tavon Wilson, DB, No. 48 overall in 2012
The 6-foot, 205-pounder from Illinois took many by surprise when the Patriots made him their second-round pick. He made four interceptions in his rookie season, but he eventually found a more consistent role as a core special teamer. Dependable and a good influence in the locker room, Wilson played in all but three games in his first three seasons. He was repeatedly made a healthy scratch in 2015, playing in nine regular season games.
Jamie Collins, LB, No. 52 overall in 2013
It was unclear what position Collins would play when he entered the draft, and his win-loss record while at Southern Mississippi was a bit of a concern. But as the 2013 draft approached, Collins was clearly one of the best athletes available, and his versatility was viewed as a positive. The Patriots have been rewarded many times over for trading out of the first round and eventually taking Collins where they did. In Belichick's defense, Collins has improved over each of his three seasons, and he made a Pro Bowl for the first time in 2015.
Aaron Dobson, WR, No. 59 overall in 2013
A talented basketball player with the size (6-3, 210) and speed to serve as a legitimate deep threat in the NFL, Dobson has faded since his rookie season. He posted one of the best seasons of any Patriots first-year receiver when he caught 37 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns. Since then, he's dealt with injuries that have limited him to 16 catches over 12 games in the last two years.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, No. 62 overall in 2014
"We know what Tom's age and contract situation is," Belichick told reporters after selecting Garoppolo out of Eastern Illinois. Were the Patriots getting ready for life after Tom Brady? Were they looking to motivate Brady after what would be considered a sub-par season by Brady's standards in 2013? Now that Brady is signed through 2019, it looks as though Garoppolo's days in New England could be numbered. Might a quarterback-needy team be willing to deal away significant assets to pick him up before the 2017 season?
Jordan Richards, DB, No. 64 overall in 2015
The Stanford safety contributed primarily as a special-teamer in his first professional season. It appears as though the Patriots will have a relatively crowded top of the depth chart at the safety position once again in 2016 with Devin McCourty, Chung and Duron Harmon likely filling the top three spots.