J.J. Watt. Luke Kuechly. Anquan Boldin. Osi Umenyiora. Tyrann Mathieu.
All NFL greats, and all players that perhaps could have been in Foxboro if the Patriots managed second-round picks better.
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Run down this list: Since Bill Belichick took over, the Patriots have taken 10 good players (by my count) with 25 picks in the second round.
Leaving alone the two that sadly died early in their careers (Ron Brace and Marquise Hill), that's 10 out of 23. A second-round pick shouldn’t be a 50-50 endeavor, and the Patriots aren’t even hitting that mark, even if their second-best draft pick ever (Rob Gronkowski) was in the second. We should all be able to agree that for as long a list as “things Bill Belichick does better than anyone else” is, “drafting in the second round” is not on there.
It would be easy to just do an easy "they took ___ instead of _____," but we've got nothing but time these days. Let's also add this to it: What kind of scenario might have existed if they just traded that pick to move up in the first?
I'll run down some of the failed picks like this:
The pick: duh, the number
Who they took: duh, the player
Who'd they pass on? Anyone who went shortly after. Let's say no more than 16 spots (half a round) later
wHaT If tHeY PaCkAgEd iT To mOvE Up iN ThE FiRsT? This is fun.
Using a draft pick value chart, I'll add this pick to whatever the Pats did in the first round and see who they could have moved up to take instead. If you're wondering why this is written in the Spongebob stylization, it's because it's probably unrealistic for at least a couple of reasons per case. It's more to be met with a softly spoken "damn" than to be taken as gospel.
That last section will obviously be inexact since some of those picks were the result of trading up or down, but be quiet. This is probably already a nightmare for you to follow, and I fear if I add any more qualifiers. I’ll lose you.
Here are some of the wild ones (not in chronological order):
The second-round pick: No. 33
Who they took: Ras-I Dowling
Who'd they pass on? Kyle Rudolph went 10 picks later
wHaT If tHeY PaCkAgEd iT To mOvE Up iN ThE FiRsT? They could have moved from No. 17 (where they took Nate Solder) all the way up to No. 7 and had freaking J.J. Watt (or Tyron Smith, a better tackle than Solder).
The second-round pick: No. 48
Who they took: Tavon Wilson
Who'd they pass on? Zach Brown went four picks later.
wHaT If tHeY PaCkAgEd iT To mOvE Up iN ThE FiRsT? They could have moved up to No. 4 and had Luke Kuechly instead of the Chandler Jones/Dont'a Hightower combo, which, in hindsight, is tempting, but not worth it.
The second-round pick: No. 56
Who they took: Duke Dawson
Who'd they pass on? D.J. Chark went four picks later
wHaT If tHeY PaCkAgEd iT To mOvE Up iN ThE FiRsT? If they added No. 56 to the picks they used for Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel, the Patriots could have gotten all the way up to No. 5, where Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey and Minkah Fitzpatrick were all available.
The second-round pick: No. 64
Who they took: Jordan Richards
Who'd they pass on? Tyler Lockett went five picks later
wHaT If tHeY PaCkAgEd iT To mOvE Up iN ThE FiRsT? They could have gone from No. 32 (Malcom Brown) to as high as No. 20 and gotten Byron Jones, who just became the highest-paid cornerback in the league.
The second-round pick: No. 36
Who they took: Chad Jackson
Who'd they pass on? Roman Harper went seven picks later
wHaT If tHeY PaCkAgEd iT To mOvE Up iN ThE FiRsT? They could have moved from No. 21 (Laurence Maroney) to as high as No. 10 and added Haloti Ngata to an already stacked defensive line.
The second-round pick: No. 62
Who they took: Jimmy Garoppolo
Who'd they pass on? Jarvis Landry went with the next pick
wHaT If tHeY PaCkAgEd iT To mOvE Up iN ThE FiRsT? They could have taken Brandin Cooks in the first instead of Dominique Easley. Then they'd have had up to five years of Cooks on his rookie contract instead of just one.
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OTHER NOTABLE MISSES
Bethel Johnson in 2003: Anquan Boldin and Osi Umenyiora went within the next 11 picks,
Aaron Dobson in 2013: Eddie Lacy, Travis Kelce, Larry Warford and Tyrann Mathieu went within the next 10 picks.
Darius Butler in 2009: Jairus Byrd, Connor Barwin and LeSean McCoy went within the next 12 picks
Jermaine Cunningham in 2010: Carlos Dunlap, Sean Lee and Golden Tate went in the next seven picks.
Terrence Wheatley in 2008: Jamaal Charles went 11 picks later.
Cyrus Jones in 2016: Kevin Byard and Yannick Ngakoue went within the next nine picks.
Joejuan Williams in 2019: This doesn't count as a miss yet, but A.J. Brown and MeCole Hardman went within the next 11 picks. DK Metcalf was also on the board. We'll see what these guys become in the coming years.
THE GOOD NEWS
There is less of a chance they miss on a second-round pick this year because Tom Brady traded their second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu. Then again, Belichick has never been afraid to trade out of the first round, and the team does have two thirds it could use to move up the board.