In the 56 NFL drafts the New England Patriots have participated in, they have gone without a first-round pick just six times. They never have waited two full rounds before making their first selection.
That could change this year.
With the 2017 NFL Draft just hours away from kicking off Thursday night in Philadelphia, the Patriots currently do not own a single first- or second-round pick. Their highest selection? That would be No. 72, the eighth pick of Round 3.
New England also owns another selection later in the third round (No. 96), plus one in the fourth (No. 131), two in the fifth (Nos. 163 and 183), one in the sixth (No. 200) and one in the seventh (No. 239).
How did the Patriots get to this point? By being relentlessly — and surprisingly — aggressive in the weeks following their Super Bowl LI victory.
They began by trading a fourth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for tight end Dwayne Allen and a sixth-rounder. Next came the Kony Ealy trade, which involved the Pats moving down eight spots from No. 64 to No. 72 to land the former Carolina Panthers defensive end.
New England capped off their flurry of trade activity with their most significant deal of all, trading the 32nd overall pick to the New Orleans Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks in a swap that also included an exchange of mid-round picks.
A quick recap of those trades:
Pick No. 72 (third round)
Pick No. 118 (fourth round; forfeited as part of Deflategate punishment)
Pick No. 200 (sixth round)
Patriots gave up:
Pick No. 32 (first round)
Pick No. 64 (second round)
Pick No. 103 (third round)
Pick No. 137 (fourth round)
As it currently stands, 71 players will be drafted before the Patriots make their first pick. The longest they ever waited to draft was until pick No. 60, where they chose cornerback Cyrus Jones last year after losing their first-round pick for Deflategate. The other five years New England went without a first-round selection were 1972, 1974, 2000, 2009 and 2013.
Could the Patriots make another trade to move back into the first two rounds of this year’s draft? Of course they could. We all know Bill Belichick is more than happy to wheel and deal on draft night, even if most of those trades usually involve New England moving down the board rather than up it.
And even though their top two trade chips (quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and cornerback Malcolm Butler) reportedly are likely to stay put, the Patriots always could move another player or a package of future selections to leap back into the top 64.
But will they? Mike Lombardi doesn’t believe so. A former Patriots executive who knows Belichick well, Lombardi said this week on The Ringer’s “GM Street” podcast he expects New England to stand pat at No. 72.
“Yeah, I definitely do,” Lombardi said. “I don’t think (Belichick) is going to move. He has six picks.”
In addition to the three players the Patriots have added via trade this offseason, they also have signed four free agents: cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee.
Thumbnail photo via Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports Images
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