With the 2020 NFL Draft set to begin in just over two weeks, we decided to take a look back at the previous 10 drafts to answer a simple question:
Where do the New England Patriots find their draft picks?
Here’s what we found:
PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS BY CONFERENCE SINCE 2010
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 5
Big East: 5
FCS (Ohio Valley, Missouri Valley, Southland, Southern): 5
Conference USA: 3
Mountain West: 2
Sun Belt: 1
Division II (Northern Sun): 1
PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS BY SCHOOL SINCE 2010
Arizona State, Florida State, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina State, Stanford, TCU
Eastern Illinois, Georgia Tech, LSU, Marshall, Nebraska, Vanderbilt
Arizona, Auburn, Cal, Central Arkansas, Colorado, Concordia-St. Paul, Houston, Maryland, Miami, Mississippi State, Navy, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Purdue, Southern Miss, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, Troy, UCLA, Virginia, West Virginia, Western Carolina, Wisconsin, Youngstown State
— Unsurprisingly, college football’s best conference has produced by far the largest contingent of Patriots draft picks.
Of the 87 players New England has drafted over the past decade, exactly one-third of them (33.3 percent) have come from SEC schools. The Big Ten ranks second with a 14.9 percent share. The Pac-12 and ACC are tied for third at 11.5 percent.
Four of the five schools that have produced four-plus Patriots picks are SEC programs, and the outlier (Rutgers) hasn’t had a player drafted by New England since the trio of Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and Steve Beauharnais in 2013.
This trend persists in more recent sample sizes, as well. In the past five drafts, the SEC has manufactured 16 of the Patriots’ 43 picks (37.2 percent), including five of 10 in 2019 (Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams, Alabama’s Damien Harris, Arkansas’ Hjalte Froholdt, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Mississippi’s Ken Webster).
That’s not totally unique to New England, though. In addition to producing 10 of the last 14 national champions, the SEC has led the nation in players drafted in each of the last 13 years. Its 64 total draftees in 2019 set a new record.
— A total of 47 different schools have produced a Patriots draft pick in the last 10 years. Eight have produced a first-round pick: Arizona State, Georgia (two), Texas, Florida, Syracuse, Alabama, Colorado and Rutgers.
Twenty-seven have had players drafted by New England in the first three rounds, including non-Power Five programs like Eastern Illinois (Jimmy Garoppolo), Southern Miss (Jamie Collins), Youngstown State (Derek Rivers), Troy (Antonio Garcia), Marshall (Aaron Dobson) and Ohio (Taylor Price).
— The five Big 12 selections is the lowest of any Power Five conference, and just one of those players became an NFL starter: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown. The others: Oklahoma defensive end Geneo Grissom, TCU receiver Josh Boyce, Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson and West Virginia offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste. (The book is still open on Cajuste, a 2019 third-rounder missed his entire rookie season with an injury.)
Multiple Big 12 prospects have been mentioned as potential Patriots targets in the first round of this year’s draft, including Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, Baylor wideout Denzel Mims and TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock.
— The Patriots drafted players from outside the Football Bowl Subdivision (the highest level of Division I) in 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018, most recently using a seventh-round draft pick on Western Carolina cornerback Keion Crossen.
The restrictions put in place to protect against COVID-19 (canceled pro days, no pre-draft visits/workouts, etc.) will make evaluating lower-level prospects especially difficult this year. A few such players were able to showcase their skills at the NFL Scouting Combine, though, most notably tight end Adam Trautman (FCS Dayton), offensive tackle Ben Bartch (Division III St. John’s) and hybrid safeties Kyle Dugger (Division II Lenoir-Rhyne) and Jeremy Chinn (FCS Southern Illinois), all of whom could be Patriots targets.
— The most obscure school that’s produced a Patriots draft pick in the last 10 years easily is Division II Concordia-St. Paul, alma mater of 2014 sixth-round pick Zach Moore. Moore didn’t last long in New England — he played in eight games as a rookie before being cut — but hung around the NFL through the 2018 season.
Other candidates for that honor from earlier in the Belichick era: Central Connecticut State (RB Justise Hairston, 2008) and William Penn (TE Andy Stokes, 2005).
— The above list doesn’t account for undrafted free agents. Here’s a breakdown of that group, including only ones who wound up making the Week 1 roster:
-Six SEC (David Andrews, Jonathan Jones, Adam Butler, Justin Coleman, Kyle Love, Brandon Bolden)
-Four ACC (Jakobi Meyers, Marcus Forston, Joe Vellano, Danny Aiken)
-Three Mountain West (Jacob Hollister, Zach Sudfeld, Chris Barker)
-Two Big Ten (J.C. Jackson, Cole Croston)
-Two Pac-12 (D.J. Foster, Chris Harper)
-Two Big East (Kenbrell Thompkins, Justin Francis)
-Two Division II (Gunner Olszewski, Malcolm Butler)
-One MAC (Josh Kline)
-One WAC (Ryan Allen)
-One Independent (Harvey Langi)
-One FCS (Dane Fletcher)
— New England stuck to name brands in 2019, drafting only players from Power Five conferences (Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Michigan, West Virginia, Arkansas, Auburn, Maryland, Stanford and Ole Miss) for the first time since 2012 and just the second time since 2004.
— Bill Belichick has not drafted a player from Clemson, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Washington State, Oregon State, Utah, Kansas, Kansas State or Duke during his Patriots tenure.
Clemson won or played in four of the last five college national championships and has had 29 players selected in the last five drafts. South Carolina, alma mater of Stephon Gilmore, is the lone SEC team on that list.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images