FOXBORO, Mass. — The analysis was correct back in late April: Malcom Brown was a steal with the final pick of the 2015 NFL Draft’s first round.

Brown, who was projected to be selected as high as the middle of the first round and certainly didn’t expect to drop past the Indianapolis Colts’ 29th pick, fell to the New England Patriots at the very bottom of the first round. He’s responded by playing all 15 games, starting 11 (including the last 10), and recording 42 tackles with three sacks and two fumble recoveries.

In that time, Brown has progressed “a lot,” according to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

“I’d say it kind of started around the bye week, somewhere there after the Jacksonville (Jaguars) game, somewhere in that area,” Belichick said. “I think he’s really come on through the season, which isn’t always the case with first-year players. I think Malcom has. It kind of took him a while to get to that point, training camp and the early point of the season. He’s become much better and more consistent in every phase of the game — run game, passing game, play recognition, communication, adjustments, just everything. It seems like every week, he builds on it.

“He’s really hit a good slope, good incline. He’s worked hard. There’s a lot on every rookie’s plate, a lot of his plate as a rookie in the different situations he plays in and the number of things we do on the front. It’s not easy, but he’s improved his techniques, his fundamental play. He’s improved his overall communication, understanding, the multiples that are involved. He’s been good.”

Brown likely played his best game of the season in Week 16 against the New York Jets, when he had five tackles, a quarterback hit, three hurries and four total pressures. He was on the field for 44 plays against the Jets, accounting for a season-high 61.1 percent of the total defensive snaps.

He’s played in over 50 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in every game starting in Week 11, and he’s emerged as the top defensive tackle on the Patriots’ roster.

The Patriots have received solid production from many rookies this season, including offensive linemen Shaq Mason, David Andrews and Tre’ Jackson, safety Jordan Richards, cornerback Justin Coleman and special teamer Brandon King, but Brown has proven his worth as the Patriots’ top overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Dec 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown (90) during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports