How Bill Belichick-Nick Saban Link Has Manifested Itself With Patriots

Belichick has drafted 11 players coached by Saban


Jan 11, 2021

Turn on Monday night’s Alabama-Ohio State College Football Playoff National Championship, and there’s a good chance you could be watching multiple future New England Patriots players.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick first met back in the early 1980s when Saban worked with Belichick’s father at the Naval Academy, and they’ve maintained a strong bond ever since as they’ve gone on to win eight Super Bowls and six national championships. Saban was an assistant under Belichick in the early 1990s while Belichick was head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Saban was his defensive coordinator. The pair haven’t worked together since that time, but they’ve shared numerous players and coaches.

Saban was hired as Michigan State’s head coach in 1995, while Belichick was still head coach in Cleveland. Belichick selected a player from Saban’s Spartans in his first draft as head coach of the Patriots in 2000, offensive tackle Greg Randall. Belichick and the Patriots drafted Michigan State linebacker T.J. Turner in 2001. Tight end Chris Baker also played for Saban and the Spartans and Belichick and the Patriots.

Belichick took three coaches from Saban’s Michigan State staff: Dean Pees, Josh McDaniels and Brian Daboll.

Saban left for LSU in 2000. The Patriots drafted or signed a number of former Tigers who played under Saban, including quarterback Rohan Davey, defensive linemen Jarvis Green and Marquise Hill, cornerback Randall Gay and linebacker Eric Alexander. Quarterback Matt Flynn and running back Joseph Addai had shorter and less memorable stints with the Patriots but also played at LSU under Saban.

Saban then moved on to the Dolphins from 2005 to 2006. Running back Sammy Morris, wide receiver Wes Welker and linebacker Junior Seau played under Saban in Miami before going to the Patriots.

The Patriots have drafted six Alabama products since Saban was hired by the Crimson Tide in 2007: defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Xzavier Dickson and Anfernee Jennings, cornerback Cyrus Jones and running back Damien Harris. Tight end Michael Williams, safety Vinnie Sunseri and wide receiver DeAndrew White also played at Alabama and had stints with the Patriots. The Patriots have taken Alabama players in four of the past six drafts.

Since 2008, 97 players have been drafted out of Alabama, and the Patriots have selected six of them (6.19 percent).

Among those 97 players, 36 of them were taken before the Patriots even had the opportunity to select them. So, the Patriots actually have taken a staggering 9.84 percent of available, draftable Alabama players since Saban took over the program.

In case you’re wondering, here is the full list of Alabama products the Patriots didn’t even have a chance to draft because they were selected before New England could pick:

OL Andre Smith
LB Rolando McClain
DB Kareem Jackson
DT Marcell Dareus
WR Julio Jones
RB Trent Richardson
S/LB Mark Barron
CB Dre Kirkpatrick
CB Dee Milliner
OL Chance Warmack
OL D.J. Fluker
LB C.J. Mosley
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
WR Amari Cooper
OL Ryan Kelly
LB Reggie Ragland
RB Derrick Henry
DL A’Shawn Robinson
DL Jarran Reed
CB Marlon Humphrey
DL Jonathan Allen
TE O.J. Howard
LB Reuben Foster
OL Cam Robinson
LB Ryan Anderson
DL Dalvin Tomlinson
DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
DL Daron Payne
LB Rashaan Evans
DL Quinnen Williams
OL Jonah Williams
RB Josh Jacobs
QB Tua Tagovailoa
OL Jedrick Wills Jr.
WR Henry Ruggs III
WR Jerry Jeudy

That illustrates the quality of players the Patriots have missed out on simply because they’ve been so good each season.

The Patriots have taken three coaches from Saban’s staff at Alabama: Joe Judge, Sunseri and Joe Houston.

Alabama wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, cornerback Patrick Surtain II, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, defensive lineman Christian Barmore, quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris could be first-round picks this April. Offensive linemen Landon Dickerson and Deonte Brown, defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis, cornerback Josh Jobe and linebacker Christopher Allen could be taken on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Patriots have drafted 186 players since 2000, and 11 of them (5.91 percent) were coached by Saban.

The Patriots select 15th overall in the 2021 draft. They’ll have plenty of options from the Crimson Tide player pool at that point in the first round.

Thumbnail photo via Vasha Hunt/USA TODAY Sports Images
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