Bill Belichick's Top 20 Shrewdest Draft Trades
For a long time, it was a rite of spring around here. The sun would be high in the sky on a Saturday in late April, the birds would be chirping, heralding one of the first days of real warmth.
And you would be indoors. Watching NFL Draft coverage. Waiting for the Patriots to be on the clock. And then, when their turn finally came, you’d hear the four words you’d come to dread: “There’s been a trade … “
The draftnik’s equivalent of epididymal hypertension (Google it).
Since Bill Belichick took charge, no team has been more open for business during the NFL Draft than the Patriots. Since 2000, they’ve executed 71 trades during draft weekend. Last year, they swung eight deals, equaling the previous high set in 2003. This year, they have 12 picks. There will be wheeling. There will be dealing.
Looking back at the trades executed, one thing stands out. When the Patriots target a player and get edgy about somebody else snatching him up, they make a move to go get him. And quite often, that player has been really friggin’ good.
Here’s a look back at the 20 shrewdest deals they made.
1. Landing Gronk
The Patriots were sitting at 44 in April 2010. The Raiders were on the clock at 42. The Ravens were at 43 and looking for a replacement for Todd Heap. The Pats leapfrogged Baltimore by swapping spots with Oakland and giving the Raiders a sixth-round pick for their trouble. The Ravens in turn took linebacker Sergio Kindle, who played three games in the NFL. If that move did indeed prevent the Ravens from getting Gronk, it’s the most important deal of this decade considering the arc of both franchises since.
2. Bowie For Moss
On the second day of the 2007 draft, the Patriots fleeced the Raiders and acquired Randy Moss in exchange for the 110th overall pick. Bowie played five games in the NFL. Moss revitalized his career, set the single-season record for touchdown receptions and played in his only Super Bowl less than a year after being acquired.
3. Futures Market
In 2003, the Patriots bailed out of the first round, sending the 19th pick to Baltimore in exchange for the 41st pick and a first-round pick in 2004. The Patriots turned that 21st pick into Vince Wilfork a year later. To boot, they also used the 41st pick to move up in the second round and draft solid safety Eugene Wilson.
April 26, 2003: Traded 2003 1st round pick (19th overall, Kyle Boller) to Ravens for 2003 2nd round pick (41st overall subsequently traded, Bennie Joppru) and 2004 1st round pick (21st overall, Vince Wilfork)
4. Bledsoe Leads to Warren
In April of 2002, the Patriots dealt Drew Bledsoe to the Bills in exchange for a first-rounder in 2003. That pick became the 14th overall pick. The Patriots, trying to find a DT to pair with Richard Seymour, wanted Ty Warren. So they convinced the Bears to drop back one spot by sending No. 14 and a sixth-rounder to Chicago and they then drafted Warren.
April 22, 2002: Traded Drew Bledsoe to Bills for 2003 1st round pick (14th overall subsequently traded, Michael Haynes)
April 26, 2003: Traded 2003 1st round pick (14th overall, Michael Haynes) and 2003 6th round pick (193rd overall subsequently traded, Marques Ogden) to Bears for 2003 1st round pick (13th overall, Ty Warren)
5. Joe Staley Leads to Mayo
This is a fun one. The Patriots jumped out of Round 1 in 2007, sending the 28th pick to the Niners who took stalwart left tackle Joe Staley. In return, the Pats got the Niners' first-rounder in 2008. They also got a 2007 fourth-rounder. The fourth-rounder ended up being the pick they sent to Oakland for Randy Moss. The 2008 first-round was the seventh overall. When the draft came, the Patriots moved back to No. 10 and added a third-rounder. They took Jerod Mayo and Shawn Crable. Meanwhile, the Pats — having been stripped of their first-rounder in the wake of Spygate — were still able to add a vital piece.
April 28, 2007: Traded 2007 1st round pick (28th overall, Joe Staley) to 49ers for 2007 4th round pick (110th overall subsequently traded, John Bowie) and 2008 1st round pick (7th overall subsequently traded, Sedrick Ellis)
April 26, 2008: Traded 2008 1st round pick (7th overall, Sedrick Ellis) and 2008 5th round pick (164th overall, Carl Nicks) to Saints for 2008 1st round pick (10th overall, Jerod Mayo) and 2008 3rd round pick (78th overall, Shawn Crable)
6. Blount Instrument
Late in the 2013 draft, the Patriots unloaded track star/kick returner Jeff Demps and a seventh-round pick on the Buccaneers. The Bucs were happy to take that and say goodbye to pain in the posterior LeGarrette Blount, who ended up being a weapon in New England.
7. Dillon Delivered
I'm taking a liberty here because it's my damn slide show and I say the week of the draft is close enough. Especially for this deal. In 2004, the Patriots sent a second-round pick to the Bengals for Corey Dillon. The Bengals were happy to use that pick on Madieu Williams and be rid of Dillon. The Patriots got a guy who helped them win a Super Bowl.
8. A Brown Bentley
With Nate Solder having gone to the Giants in free agency, the Patriots drafted Isaiah Wynn in the first round last year but they still had no bona fide starting NFL tackle on their roster. So they extracted one from the San Francisco 49ers. The Pats sent a third-round pick to San Fran in exchange for tackle Trent Brown and a fifth-rounder they turned into promising linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley. It worked out for the Niners because Brown had an expiring contract (he's since signed with Oakland for stupid money) and it worked out for the Patriots because Wynn got hurt, Brown played well and the Patriots won a Super Bowl.
9. Leave the Light On
The first draft-day trade Belichick made for the Patriots was set up by Tom Brady and wound up landing the team Matt Light. When the Patriots took Brady at 199 in 2000, they passed on Tim Rattay. The Niners wanted Rattay but didn't have a pick so they extracted a seventh-rounder from the Pats in exchange for a 2001 sixth-rounder. When the Patriots were stuck at No. 50 in 2001 and knew the Jets were lusting after Light at No. 49, the Patriots jumped ahead of New York by sending them the sixth-rounder and taking Light.
10. Vikings Fleeced
The Vikings HAD to have Cordarelle Patterson in 2013. So they went to the Patriots, who had the 29th pick. Minnesota gave up the 52nd (Jamie Collins), 83rd (Logan Ryan), 102nd (Josh Boyce) and 229th (Everett Dawkins) to make the deal.
Collins was really good then not good at all. Ryan was very solid and helped them win a Super Bowl. And the Patriots eventually got Patterson here in New England and got some assistance from him in winning another one.
April 25, 2013: Traded 2013 1st round pick (29th overall, Cordarrelle Patterson) to Vikings for 2013 2nd round pick (52nd overall, Jamie Collins), 2013 3rd round pick (83rd overall, Logan Ryan), 2013 4th round pick (102nd overall, Josh Boyce) and 2013 7th round pick (229th overall subsequently traded, Everett Dawkins)
11. High on Hightower
12. Jonesing for Chandler
The Patriots had the 27th overall pick in 2012 (as well as their own at 31) and wanted to get up for a shot at Chandler Jones. So they sent No. 27 to the Bengals in exchange for the 21st pick. The Patriots also gave up a third-rounder. So the team executed two trade-ups to get two high-level defenders. Good projection.
In 2016, the Saints came knocking in the second round for the Patriots 61st overall pick. The Patriots moved that in exchange for a third and a fourth. They used the 78th pick on Joe Thuney, a three-year starter at left guard, and the 112th on Malcolm Mitchell, who had a nice rookie year, helped the Patriots in SB52 then was forced to retire because of injuries.
14. Cannon Fodder
Five years before the Saints came knocking, the Texans were at the Patriots door looking for the 60th overall pick. The Patriots sent that to Houston and got back 73 (Stevan Ridley) and 138 (Marcus Cannon). The Cannon pick has been a real boon because — despite some growing pains — when he’s at his best, he’s among the best.
15. Gotta Get Slates
Obviously, the Patriots loved Matt Slater. Because when the fifth round came along in 2008 and they were holding the 160th pick, they felt they should go up seven slots to take him at 153. So the sent the Bucs the 160th and a seventh-rounder and got Slater. And he’s been with the Patriots ever since.
16. Subtle Move for Chandler Jones
At the end of the first round in 2011, the Saints wanted Mark Ingram. So they got the 28th pick in the draft and sent back to the Patriots a second-rounder that the Patriots turned into Shane Vereen (56th overall). The Saints also sent their first-rounder in 2012 (27th overall). In 2012, the Patriots sent No. 27 and a third-rounder to Cincy and had the ammo to go up to 21 to get Chandler Jones.
April 28, 2011: Traded 2011 1st round pick (28th overall, Mark Ingram) to Saints for 2011 2nd round pick (56th overall, Shane Vereen) and 2012 1st round pick (27th overall subsequently traded, Kevin Zeitler)
17. Building a Cassel
April 24, 2005: Traded 2005 6th round pick (175th overall, Anttaj Hawthorne) to Raiders for 2005 7th round pick (230th overall, Matt Cassel) and 2006 5th round pick (136th overall, Ryan O'Callaghan)
18. High Yield
In 2010, the Patriots knew they were taking Devin McCourty in the first round. They also knew few other teams would be on McCourty. So they traded back from 22 with Denver and got the 24th overall pick plus a fourth-rounder. They turned the fourth-rounder into Aaron Hernandez. They traded down a second time at 24, sending that pick to Dallas. The Patriots then took McCourty at 27 and, with a third-rounder Dallas sent to New England as well, took Taylor Price. The Broncos and Cowboys used the Patriots slots to take Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant.
April 22, 2010: Traded 2010 1st round pick (22nd overall, Demaryius Thomas) to Broncos for 2010 1st round pick (24th overall subsequently traded, Dez Bryant) and 2010 4th round pick (113th overall, Aaron Hernandez)
19. Mining for Jules
Very circuitous tale that yields Julian Edelman and touches on Gronk. The 232nd pick in the 2009 draft first belonged to the Dolphins. But they traded with Jacksonville in March of that year to get offensive lineman Tony McDaniel. When the draft rolled around, Jacksonville wanted to get Derek Cox in the third round. So the Jags sent the Patriots a seventh-rounder (232) and a 2010 second-rounder. The Patriots turned 232 into Julian Edelman.
The second-rounder for 2010? It was No. 44. And the Patriots sent that to the Raiders so they could get up to 42 and draft Gronk.
20. Cushion For Lawyer’s Leaving
The 2003 Patriots had two very good safeties: newly acquired Rodney Harrison and veteran Lawyer Milloy. They made sure to add one at the draft, though, when they traded up five spots in the second round to get Eugene Wilson at No. 36. The Patriots also had to give up a third-rounder to sweeten the deal, which the Texans softened by sending back a fourth. That was the 117th pick and it was Dan Klecko. Five months later, the Patriots released Milloy and Wilson became the starter for a team that won consecutive Super Bowls.
April 26, 2003: Traded 2003 2nd round pick (41st overall, Bennie Joppru) and 2003 3rd round pick (75th overall, Seth Wand) to Texans for 2003 2nd round pick (36th overall, Eugene Wilson) and 2003 4th round pick (117th overall, Dan Klecko)