Today is the day we have all been waiting for. The 2021 NFL Draft is here! To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to take a stroll down memory lane. In honor of another incoming Patriots draft class, I’ll be ranking the 10 best selections New England has made since 2010.
I originally was going to go all the way back to the year 2000. However, I feel like that would be a little too easy. Narrowing my list down to the last 10 drafts gives me less to pick from compared to 20 different draft classes. A little more of a challenge for myself.
Also, it could be a nice way to remind everyone that Belichick can hit on talent in the draft . If he is truly that bad at it, then this list should be pretty unimpressive. SPOILER ALERT: It’s not.
My list is determined by a few factors. Stats are an obvious component. Time spent on the team also factored into some of the rankings. Championship rings and individual accolades played a role as well. My personal preference was ultimately the deciding factor in some of the close call scenarios.
So, without further ado, here is my list for the top 10 Patriots draft selections since 2010:
10. CB Logan Ryan – 2013 (3rd Round, 83rd Overall)
Logan Ryan in my opinion is one of the more underrated picks over the last decade. I feel he maybe gets overshadowed because guys like Darrelle Revis, Malcolm Butler, and Aqib Talib shared the field with him.
Make no mistake, Ryan was a solid corner in New England. He was a part of both the 2014 and 2016 championship teams. Although statistically never a star player, he recorded 13 interceptions and 41 passes defended in 4 seasons with New England.
For a 3rd round pick, Logan Ryan did what was expected of him and more. Ryan was never able to take the No.1 corner role during his time with the Patriots. As far as No.2 corners go however, you couldn’t ask for much better than him.
9. LB Jamie Collins – 2013 (2nd Round, 52nd Overall)
Jamie Collins has had a rather up and down career up to this point. Tough stints in Detroit and Cleveland have affected his image in a negative manner. That being said, when he suited up in Foxborough, he was always a consistent contributor to the defense.
Collins appeared in 66 games for New England (56 starts) over a five year span that included two different stints in Patriot blue.
He was versatile, could rush the passer with efficiency (25.5 career sacks) and provide solid coverage in passing situations (11 career interceptions. 36 career passes defended).
Collins was also a key piece of the defense from the 2014 championship team, starting in every game during that playoff run. He may not have been at the level of a Bruschi or a McGinest, but Collins was effective in his role.
8. OT Marcus Cannon – 2011 (5th Round, 138th Overall)
Finding a player like Marcus Cannon on Day 3 of the draft should be an NFL team’s dream. It’s not often you find a franchise All-Pro tackle that deep in the draft.
Cannon was a key contributor on the 2016 and 2018 championship teams. He helped anchor one of the leagues better offensive line units over the last half of the decade.
A career that started with a cancer battle and shaky performances, Cannon became one of the more valuable Patriots in recent memory.
7. DE Chandler Jones – 2012 (1st Round, 21st Overall)
Chandler Jones is sort of tough to rank.
On one hand, Jones has been on the best edge rushers in the league since 2012. He has record 97 sacks in his nine year career.
On the other hand, he has spent more years now as a Cardinal than as a Patriot. The majority of his career numbers have come in Arizona.
This is a Patriot list however, and because of that I cannot rank him any higher than here.
Jones was definitely impactful during his tenure with the Pats. I just feel at this point he is more known for what he has done in Arizona. Maybe I’m just a little salty.
At least we got Joe Thuney out of him? (More on that guy later).
6. OT Nate Solder – 2011 (1st Round, 17th Overall)
I still hate that Nate Solder ended up in New York. Seeing him go to the Giants still stings years later.
Regardless of where he ended up, he was a monster on the Pats. Similar to Cannon, he was a key piece on multiple championship teams.
For most of the 2010’s, Solder was regarded as a top tackle in football. He heald down the LT position for 7 years in Foxborough.
Even though he has fallen off a cliff in recent years, it should not be forgotten just how good he was at his peak. There’s a reason the Giants gave him $62 million at age 31.
5. RB James White – 2014 (4th Round, 130th Overall)
James White is your prototypical “Patriot Guy.” Player not a lot of people were high on. Ends up becoming a key ingredient of a championship team. Recognize the pattern yet?
White went from being a 4th round pick to Tom Brady’s favorite weapon next to Gronk and Edelman.
In 7 seasons, all with the Patriots, he has accumulated a whopping 369 catches. He also has 59 career catches in the postseason as well.
White also scored the game winning touchdown in the Super Bowl against Atlanta in OT. I think that moment alone makes his career here worth mentioning.
4. OG Joe Thuney – 2016 (3rd Round, 78th Overall)
Joe Thuney just became the highest paid guard in NFL history. Pretty sure that qualifies him to be in the top five here.
This list has shown that New England has had some pretty great draft success on the O-Line. Thuney is the best out of them all.
He wasn’t JUST a great Patriot. Joe Thuney was and still is arguably the best LG in the NFL. He was a model of consistency. Thuney never missed a game in 5 seasons with the Patriots.
He anchored a line that played key roles in two Super Bowl victories. He will be greatly missed in Foxborough.
3. FS Devin McCourty – 2010 (1st Round, 27th Overall)
Devin McCourty is one of the most memorable players from the Patriots’ twenty year dynasty.
He is a quintessential Patriot. 10 seasons, 5 Super Bowl appearances, 3 victories in the big game. Multiple Pro Bowl selections.
His career stats and accolades have a lot of meat to them. When I think of team guys, I think of McCourty. His love for the Patriots organization is clearly visible.
McCourty wasn’t the late round steal New England is sometimes known for. Even for a 1st round pick though, I don’t think anyone could have seen this career coming.
He’s a Hall of Famer in my book.
2. LB Dont’a Hightower – 2012 (1st Round, 25th Overall)
Picking between McCourty and Dont’a Hightower as the best defensive pick of the decade was difficult.
Both have multiple Pro Bowls. They both have 3 championship rings. Both spent their entire careers playing in Gillette.
For me though, Hightower is the guy that set the tone for the 2nd coming of the New England Dynasty.
He carried the torch passed down from the likes of Tedy Bruschi and Jerod Mayo. He was the game changing linebacker this team needed.
Just look at his postseason resume, that’s all you need to show his value. He made game changing plays in all 3 Super Bowl victories he was a part of.
Hightower is the leader of the defense. For many years he was one of the best linebackers in all of football.
His name belongs in the same class with guys like Bruschi, Richard Seymour, and Ty Law as icons of the Pats’ greatness over the past two decades.
The 2nd half of the dynasty doesn’t happen without Hightower, plain and simple.
1. TE Rob Gronkowski – 2010 (2nd Round, 42nd Overall)
The only guy who could top Hightower’s resume, is this guy. Rob Gronkowski is in my humble opinion the greatest TE ever. Hands down.
We talk about in basketball how Stephen Curry changed the game with his shooting. He revolutionized the sport of basketball.
In many ways Gronk did the same with football. He introduced a combo of size and speed that was never really seen before.
Being someone that grew up watching Gronk every Sunday, he was literally a monster. In his prime I would say he was the most difficult player to game plan for.
Too fast for most linebackers, too big for corners and safeties. You had to gameplan your defense mainly on him.
He opened the door for guys like Travis Kelce and George Kittle today. Watching him at his peak was truly a gift.
Considering where they got him, he was an insane draft steal. He is the best pick of the past decade, and maybe the best draft pick in Patriot history next to Tom Brady himself.
I hope you all enjoyed this list! Here’s to hoping we land a talent like one of these guys in this upcoming draft!
Photo: (Steven Senne – AP Photo)