Speaking of drafts, here’s Belichick’s most memorable ones
Bill Belichick's most memorable drafts
In the aftermath of the NBA draft -- a draft that was met with plenty of skepticism from Celtics fans -- why not take a look at some of the most memorable Patriots drafts under Bill Belichick?
I can't think of a reason not to. You can't think of a reason not to. This is exactly the kind of inconsequential list that's fun to look at on a Friday in late June.
Some of these drafts, as you'll see, serve as reminders that sometimes the best classes don't look like franchise-altering hauls until a year or two after they're completed.
So there's hope, Celtics fans, however faint it may seem now.
No. 5: Class of 2000
You may think this qualifies as a harsh grade since the Class of 2000 did, after all, result in arguably the game's most accomplished player arriving to New England via a sixth-round pick.
Outside of Tom Brady, though, this group was generally bereft of impactful talent.
Without a first-round selection -- that was sent to the Jets in exchange for the rights to Belichick's services -- the Patriots went with guard Adrian Klemm as their first pick in the second round. Running back JR Redmond, a third-rounder, played in 50 games and will be forever remembered for his role in the game-winning drive of Super Bowl XXXVI, but he was never a legitimate starting-caliber tailback. Seventh-round fullback Patrick Pass played his role and played it well, but it was limited. Fourth-round tackle Greg Randall started every game in 2001, giving the Patriots their next-best value after Brady in this class, but he was gone by 2003 and out of the league soon thereafter.
Because of Brady this was a vitally important draft class, no doubt, but it lands just on the edge of Belichick's top five with the Patriots.
No. 4: Class of 2003
You drafted four eventual mutli-year starters, a group that helped the Patriots to two Super Bowl titles, and the class only ranks No. 4 on a top-five list? Them's the breaks.
While there were better classes put together by Belichick and his front office over the years, what they did in 2003 was one of their best draft-weekend performances.
They came away with Ty Warren in the first round, a talented defensive lineman who missed just one regular-season game out of a possible 90 between 2003-2007.
Then came safety Eugene Wilson in the second, whose star burned brightly for his first three seasons -- he had eight picks in his first two years -- before injuries began to take their toll.
Asante Samuel, a fourth-round corner, played in all 16 games as a rookie but didn't become a starter until mid-way through the 2004 season. In five years with the Patriots, he racked up 22 picks, including three that were returned for touchdowns.
In the fifth round, the Patriots nabbed center Dan Koppen, a Boston College product, to replace Damien Woody. How'd that work out? As cerebral as he was strong, Koppen started 120 of the 121 games he played in New England between 2003 and 2011.
No. 3: Class of 2010
The Patriots loaded up on second-rounders in this class, and while they really only hit on one of them, they hit big.
Rob Gronkowski may go down as the best tight end in the history of the game, but regardless of where he falls in that conversation, he'll long be considered one of the biggest draft steals of all time. A back injury suffered in college cause him to fall down draft boards, but the Patriots, never averse to selecting a matchup-problem-waiting-to-happen at that position, didn't hesitate to scoop him up.
Four First-Team All-Pros later, seems like a pretty good move.
Belichick and Co. also found great value at the bottom of the first round in 2010, selecting a player who was heralded as an elite special teamer, and who NFL Network's Mike Mayock suggested would "compete for time in your nickel and dime coverage."
Devin McCourty, a rangy corner-turned-safety, has done much more than that in six seasons. He's solidified the Patriots defense with his tackling ability and his knack for recognizing concepts and getting his teammates lined up accordingly. He was named a captain in 2011, and in 2015 he signed a five-year $47.5 million deal to remain in New England through 2019.
One of the best players to come out of this draft class -- more productive than second-rounder Jermaine Cunningham, and more effective over a longer period than linebacker Brandon Spikes -- never played a down for the Patriots. Center Ted Larsen, a sixth-round pick, played four seasons with the Bucs, then landed with the Cardinals where he's served as a starter over the last two years.
Aaron Hernandez was a fourth-rounder in this draft class and looked like a long-term offensive staple until he was arrested and later convicted of the first-degree murder for the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez has been sentenced to life in prison without parole and is awaiting a trial date for a 2012 double homicide committed in Boston.
No. 2: Class of 2002
This class may not have any future Hall of Famers like Gronkowski or Brady, but its depth is what sets it apart.
This was Belichick's third draft class while running the Patriots, and though he was coming off of a Super Bowl victory, he readily admits today that he didn't feel as though he had his program fully installed at that point. His roster still had holes that needed to be filled with players that fit what he was trying to do.
The Class of 2002 allowed Belichick take one giant step forward in that regard, and it helped pave the way for two of the best teams in franchise history.
Tight end Daniel Graham, the team's first-rounder, quickly became one of the game's best blocking tight ends -- famously thwarting Panthers pass-rusher Julius Peppers in New England's second Super Bowl title in three years. Though he was less known for his receiving prowess, he was a reliable red zone threat, catching 11 touchdowns in 2003 and 2004.
The crown jewel of the class was second-round receiver Deion Branch, who was one of the first in a long line of versatile receivers in whom Brady trusted implicitly. At his best in big games, Branch totaled 21 grabs for 276 yards in back-to-back Super Bowl wins, earning himself MVP honors against the Eagles in 2005. Though things between Branch and the Patriots ended contentiously in 2006, he returned via trade in 2010 and immediately picked up where he left off with Brady, catching nine passes for 98 yards in his first game back.
The Patriots also nabbed pass-rush specialist Jarvis Green in this class, a fourth-rounder who became one of several thorns in the side of Peyton Manning over the years. David Givens, a seventh-round receiver who caught a touchdown pass in seven consecutive playoff games, made himself into a Class of 2002 headliner as well.
This was the smallest draft class Belichick has ever assembled -- just six players, including quarterback Rohan Davey and running back Antwoine Womack -- but he made the majority of his picks count.
No. 1: Class of 2001
The Patriots selected 10 players in 2001. Eight of them you probably can't remember.
The first two, though? Those two -- Richard Seymour and Matt Light -- became two of the best players in team history and cornerstones of three Super Bowl championship teams.
Seymour, the No. 6 overall pick in 2001, became a three-time All-Pro, made five Pro Bowls, and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-2000s First Team. While Ty Law was New England's dominant force in the defensive backfield, it was Seymour who was the star in the trenches. He was a physical force who could not be checked and had a penchant for finding another gear in the playoffs.
He was traded before the start of the 2009 season, and the day he was moved -- as Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran pointed out in his Top 50 Patriots of the Belichick Era list from last summer -- Belichick gave his career with the Patriots a glowing assessment.
"From nearly the day he arrived in 2001, Richard Seymour established himself as one of our premier players for nearly a decade. His presence has been felt as a force on the field, a respected man off it and a multiyear champion."
Light didn't receive quite as many on-the-field accolades as Seymour did, but he made good on his second-round selection and then some.
He played in five Super Bowls, making him one of the few to see the initial dynastic run and then endure a pair of Super Bowl losses over the next seven seasons. He was named an All-Pro in 2007 for protecting Brady's blindside during a record-setting year. He also made three Pro Bowls.
Considering the pass-rushers he faced in his decade-plus as a left tackle -- Dwight Freeney, Jason Taylor and Terrell Suggs to name a few -- Light's performance at his peak is as noteworthy as his longevity. That he lasted as long as he did, and that he was effective as he was, despite playing with Crohn's Disease, something he opened up about only after retiring, makes his career all the more impressive.