The excitement that surrounds the NFL draft involves anticipation and mystery. At this point, about three weeks from the start of the 2012 draft, every pundit has labeled a handful of players who can provide a boost for their new organization. But in reality, no one truly knows anything.
The Patriots have tipped the scales in each direction throughout their existence as a franchise. They've nailed the No. 1 pick, which is the greatest conductor to energize a fan base. And they've also found some Hall of Fame talent at the back end of the draft, which helps translate to team success.
The Patriots have drafted 685 players in their 51-year history, according to Pro Football Reference, so it's not easy to come up with their 10 best. And really, when discussing a franchise that won three Super Bowls in four years, it's easy to skew the values of everything that goes into their 10 best picks in five-plus decades.
This list was an imperfect science that included on-field performance, marketability, draft value and the value toward winning games and championships. In one case, a smaller sample size led to a projection.
It's crazy to think this list doesn't include linebacker Steve Nelson, tackle Bruce Armstrong, cornerback Mike Haynes, linebacker Willie McGinest and linebacker Nick Buoniconti. It also didn't include the selection that was forked over to the Jets after Bill Belichick abruptly changed head coaching jobs.