This was the final draft the Patriots would conduct before winning their first Super Bowl, and the team's 2001 class played a prominent role in the franchise's dynastic rise. This is the latest installment in the NESN.com series that has profiled each of Bill Belichick's drafts as the New England's head coach.
The Patriots were equipped with the sixth pick, which was their highest overall draft pick since they landed linebacker Willie McGinest with the fourth selection in 1994. New England was coming off of a 5-11 season in 2000 and hadn't made the playoffs since 1998. It was also the fourth consecutive season in which the team's win total had declined, so there was some obvious excitement surrounding the possibility of adding a big-time player at the top of the draft. With the sixth selection, the Patriots added …
… Georgia defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who was a horse for the Patriots' defense for eight seasons. Looking back, the Patriots can thank the Browns, who took Florida defensive tackle Gerard Warren at No. 3, and the Bengals, who selected Missouri defensive end Justin Smith at No. 4 (yes, Smith was a Pro Bowler, but he wasn't on the same level as Seymour). The Pats famously earned criticism for taking Seymour over wide receivers David Terrell and Koren Robinson, who went eighth and ninth, respectively, but it soon became obvious that Belichick knew what he was doing.
It was fairly well-known that Seymour and Belichick didn't always see things the same way, but Seymour still had a dominant run in New England, recording 39 sacks and winning three Super Bowls.
It was bad enough that the Patriots used a third-round pick (No. 86 overall) on Notre Dame cornerback Brock Williams, who never played a down for the team due to injuries and was released in 2002. But then Williams famously pawned his Super Bowl ring in Las Vegas for $2,000. His mother told the Boston Herald he ran out of money. Pawn Stars showed the world that he actually ran out of shame.
The Rest of the Picks
Left tackle Matt Light, second round, No. 48 overall: The Patriots sent their 50th overall pick and a sixth-rounder to Pittsburgh to move up two spots to select Light. The Purdue product has been the Pats' starting left tackle for nine seasons, and that stability has helped the offensive line's consistency and familiarity.
Offensive lineman Kenyatta Jones, fourth round, No. 96 overall: Jones was actually the first of three consecutive South Florida players taken at the start of the fourth round (cornerback Anthony Henry, kicker Bill Gramatica), but Jones' other headlines have, umm, soiled his reputation. He started 11 games for the Patriots in 2002 but was placed on the physically unable to perform list in 2003. While away from the team, Jones threw hot water on his roommate while the victim was sitting on the toilet, an incident that led to legal trouble and Jones' immediate release from the team. Then in March 2008, Jones was soaking up the environment in a Tampa nightclub when he urinated on the dance floor, which led to an arrest.
Tight end Jabari Holloway, fourth round, No. 119 overall: The Notre Dame product didn't log any game action for the Patriots, but he caught 15 passes for 157 yards in two seasons with the Texans. He was out of football after 2003.
Safety Hakim Akbar, fifth round, No. 163 overall: The Washington product had a special-teams role with the Patriots in 2001, but a November car accident caused him to miss the remainder of the season. Akbar was released during the 2002 offseason and spent time with the Texans, Rams, Buccaneers and Jaguars. He has not been on an NFL team since 2004.
Tight end Arthur Love, sixth round, No. 180 overall: Love was on the physically unable to perform list for 10 weeks in 2001, and he was inactive for the team's final six games. The South Carolina State product spent a couple of weeks on the practice squad in 2002 but was released in September.
Cornerback Leonard Myers, sixth round, No. 200 overall: Myers spent two seasons with the Patriots and later sold his Super Bowl ring on eBay for $32,600. Apparently, Williams didn't know how to do that, either.
Kicker Owen Pochman, seventh round, No. 216 overall: The Patriots wisely hung onto that Adam Vinatieri guy, so Pochman never did anything in New England. He did have a pair of regular-season stints for the Giants (2001) and 49ers (2003), and he converted eight of 17 career field goals (47.1 percent) and nine of 10 extra points (90 percent). Ouch.
Linebacker T.J. Turner, seventh round, No. 239 overall: Turner played in two of the Patriots' first eight games in 2001 before being released in November.
Who They Missed
The Bengals took running back Rudi Johnson with the 100th overall selection, which was just a handful of picks after Williams and Jones were taken, and Johnson could have provided better stability with the Patriots' running game for a few seasons. Ironically, Johnson's emergence in Cincinnati helped the Bengals trade Corey Dillon to New England in 2004.
Then, four picks after Myers, the Bengals grabbed wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. But, even though the Patriots' mid-to-late round selections left something to be desired, they can take solace in the fact that there were only three Pro Bowlers taken after the 74th pick in the draft (out of 172 selections).
Obviously, the Patriots' selection of Pochman was a curious one, particularly due to Vinatieri's firm grasp on the kicking job, but it's worth noting that kickers Rob Bironas, Shayne Graham and Jay Feely were all undrafted free agents.
This was a very top-heavy draft, and the first two rounds were stacked with future Pro Bowlers. The Patriots landed a pair of them in Seymour and Light, so they did a solid job at the important part of the draft. Their later rounds were less than spectacular, but that was the case with every team that year. Hey, it's tough to make quality picks when the players aren't overly talented.
This was an above-average job by the Patriots, despite the hilarity that ensued with Williams, Jones and Myers.