NFL draft

The darkest timeline: What if the Patriots had to trade up for Brady?

The darkest timeline: What if the Patriots had to trade up for Brady?

This will be a weird one, but it's August and the Red Sox stink. Bear with me. 

Tom Brady posted a picture of his draft card Sunday. It taught us nothing new -- we've all heard countless times that he was a sixth-round compensatory pick -- but it did give me a thought. 

What if Brady wasn't the 199th pick? What if teams knew the doughy kid from Michigan was a legend in the making, and thus he was the first overall pick? 

There's no measuring how much the Patriots were helped by the fact that they got the greatest player ever in the sixth round, but let's try. 

If anybody even remotely knew his worth, how much would it have cost the Patriots -- who didn't even have a first-round pick in the Brady draft -- to get to the top and select Brady? 

The Browns held the first overall pick that year, which they spent on Courtney Brown. New England's first-round pick in 2000, which was 16th overall, went to the Jets as part of the package for Bill Belichick. The Pats were first on the clock at No. 46 overall, hardly a potential centerpiece for the first overall pick. 

So, the Patriots would have had to get creative. They'd definitely need to include their 2001 first-round pick, which they used on Richard Seymour. From there -- and again, this is in some fantasyland where they know Brady is going to be Brady -- the move would be to ship out Bledsoe for tradable assets. 

Let's take a look at teams that could have used QBs in 2000, a year that was considered to have a horrible quarterback class (LOL). Only one team took a quarterback in the first round in that draft, but it was the very one that had just gotten its coach stolen from the Patriots. Let's call Bledsoe-to-the-Jets a long shot, even if Bledsoe would eventually be traded in the division. 

A direct swap with the Browns would have been unlikely given that they'd taken Tim Couch first overall. Getting to No. 2 with Bledsoe wouldn't have been easy either, as the Redskins had Brad Johnson coming off a Pro Bowl season and only held the pick because they'd gotten it from the Saints as part of the haul for the Ricky Williams pick. 

The best-case scenario would have been a deal after the season with the 49ers, who held the third overall pick after Steve Young retired. There's no telling whether they'd have traded for Bledsoe, however, as they had a player in Jeff Garcia who was on his way to a Pro Bowl nod the very next season. The 49ers ended up trading No. 3 to the Redskins for Nos. 12 and 24 a few weeks after the Super Bowl. 

The more realistic fits for a Bledsoe trades would have been the Ravens at No. 5, the Steelers at No. 8 and the Bears at No. 9. 

Say the Pats could have gotten the fifth pick from Baltimore for Bledsoe. They'd then be able to offer Cleveland the fifth overall pick, the 46th overall pick and their first-round pick in 2001 in exchange for the first overall pick. That's a package similar to what the Giants paid to swap Philip Rivers (No. 4 overall) for Eli Manning (No. 1 overall; the trade was Rivers, the Giants' third-rounder that year and first-and-fifth rounders the next year). 

Again, though, this is a timeline in which the Browns and Patriots know this is Tom Freaking Brady, not Eli Stupid Manning. We'll be kind to the Pats and only make them add another second to the pile, making the trade:  

To Cleveland: No. 5 (from Baltimore), No. 46, 2001 first-round pick, 2001 second-round pick 
To New England: No. 1 

OK, so the Patriots end up with Brady. Now comes the fun (or anxiety-inducing): What would the Patriots have not had?

- Bledsoe in 2001. Do the Patriots even reach the Super Bowl without Bledsoe in the AFC Championship replacing an injured Brady? 

- Seymour, whom they chose sixth overall in 2001. One of the best players in franchise history. It makes the conversation fascinating, as you can legitimately ask whether the Patriots still would have won one or both of their first two Super Bowls (both three-point victories) without the defensive stalwart. 

- Adrian Klemm, the tackle they chose 46th overall pick in 2000. He started 10 games over five seasons for the Pats. Respectfully, he wasn't the caliber of the other players we're discussing here. 

- Matt Light, the Patriots' second-round pick in 2001. They traded up to get him using the second-rounder they would have dealt to Cleveland in this scenario. Light, Brady's longtime left tackle, started in the Pats' first three Super Bowl victories, earned three Pro-Bowl nods and was an All-Pro in 2007. 

- Before you go thinking that's it: Remember, the Patriots giving up Bledsoe to get Brady would mean there would be no post-Brady trade of Bledsoe to the Bills. Buffalo sent its 2003 pick to the Pats for Bledsoe after Super Bowl XXXVI. The Pats used that pick (No. 14 overall) to move up a spot and take eventual All-Pro Ty Warren. 

No player has ever altered a franchise like Tom Brady, but look at those names and think of just how different everything would have been if that's how the Patriots had to get him. The first half of the Patriots' dynasty would have been without a pair of All-Pro defensive linemen and its All-Pro left tackle, among other things. Would Brady still be a six-time champion, or might four or five be a more realistic number in such a case? 

Luckily, that timeline never had to play out. Just thank the football gods Brady was doughy and teams aren't as good at projecting as they tell us. 

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Tom Brady posts a picture holding his 2000 NFL Draft card on Instagram

Tom Brady posts a picture holding his 2000 NFL Draft card on Instagram

Every year we talk about NFL Draft day steals, and how teams like the Patriots consistently find value with their late-round picks. 

It's safe to say Tom Brady was a steal, but that word doesn't seem to do him justic, does it? It might be more appropriate to call the Brady pick a heist or grand larceny, because drafting the greatest quarterback of all time at No. 199 is just criminal. 

Brady reminded us all what an all-time decision the Patriots made by drafting him when he posted a picture of his selection card from the 2000 NFL Draft. The card that would change the landscape of the league for almost two decades. 

Of course, it wasn't just the Patriots who proved everyone wrong with their pick. Brady worked to become the most methodical and clutch quarterbacks we've ever seen, so there's plenty of credit to go around for the six Super Bowl rings he dons on his fingers. 

Brady isn't done either after signing an extension with the Patriots Sunday to play past his age-42 season. While that might not mean Brady will finish his career in New England, he'll continue to play his way into uncharted territories of NFL history. 

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Why N'Keal Harry didn't expect Patriots to draft him at No. 32 overall

Why N'Keal Harry didn't expect Patriots to draft him at No. 32 overall

Were you surprised the New England Patriots took a wide receiver in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft?

So was the wide receiver in question.

In a recent interview with FS1's Kristine Leahy, rookie wideout N'Keal Harry admitted he had "no clue" he'd go to the Patriots at No. 32 overall, even as the end of the first round approached.

"I really was not expecting to go to the Patriots," Harry said. "Honestly, I was thinking I would either go to the Seahawks (at No. 29), or I was thinking the Ravens (at No. 25) or the Raiders (at No. 24). So, the Patriots I was not expecting."

Why so much doubt? Like most Patriots fans, he knew his history: Head coach Bill Belichick had never drafted a receiver in the first round since coming to New England in 2000.

"Once they got to pick 32, we were watching the TV and I heard the announcers talking about wide receivers and how they don't traditionally go wide receiver, how Bill has never picked a wide receiver (in the first round)," Harry said. 

"So I was like, 'It's over. Let me just get ready for Day 2.' And then the call came in."

That call wasn't without a little stress, as Harry was in an area of poor service in Scottsdale, Ariz., and had to scramble to get reception to speak with Belichick.

But the 21-year-old Arizona State product has made a strong connection with the Patriots since then, linking up with Tom Brady for offseason workouts as he aims to validate Belichick's rare decision to snag a receiver in Round 1.

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