There’s been a lot of chitter-chatter about whether the New England Patriots will trade up Thursday night in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, possibly with an eye toward selecting a quarterback.
For now, however, that’s all noise. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Patriots still owned the No. 15 overall pick in Round 1, their highest selection since drafting linebacker Jerod Mayo with the No. 10 pick in 2008.
So, let’s assume for a minute the Patriots stand pat. What kind of player can New England reasonably expect to land?
Well, obviously, it varies from year to year. And since there’s projected to be an early run on quarterbacks in 2021, it’s possible the Patriots ultimately will come away with a non-QB who might’ve been drafted higher in other years. There are a few highly regarded wide receivers and cornerbacks who might be available at No. 15, for instance.
Revisiting past drafts admittedly is fruitless. Even more so when placing a single selection — No. 15, in this case — under the microscope. Of course, we’re able to more accurately evaluate teams’ decisions with the benefit of hindsight. And again, each draft is unique in terms of strengths, weaknesses and overall depth.
That said, we’ve seemingly assessed the upcoming draft from every other angle. So, why not look back on past No. 15 picks to see what kind of history the Patriots are staring in the face?
Alas, here are all of the No. 15 picks since 2000 (Bill Belichick’s first year as New England’s head coach) — if for no other reason than to stroll down memory lane and add another sliver of context to this week’s festivities.
|2020||Jerry Jeudy||WR||Alabama||Denver Broncos|
|2019||Dwayne Haskins||QB||Ohio State||Washington Redskins|
|2018||Kolton Miller||OT||UCLA||Oakland Raiders|
|2017||Malik Hooker||S||Ohio State||Indianapolis Colts|
|2016||Corey Coleman||WR||Baylor||Cleveland Browns|
|2015||Melvin Gordon||RB||Wisconsin||San Diego Chargers|
|2014||Ryan Shazier||LB||Ohio State||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2013||Kenny Vaccaro||DB||Texas||New Orleans Saints|
|2012||Bruce Irvin||DE||West Virginia||Seattle Seahawks|
|2011||Mike Pouncey||G||Florida||Miami Dolphins|
|2010||Jason Pierre-Paul||DE||South Florida||New York Giants|
|2009||Brian Cushing||LB||USC||Houston Texans|
|2008||Branden Albert||G||Virginia||Kansas City Chiefs|
|2007||Lawrence Timmons||LB||Florida State||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2006||Tye Hill||DB||Clemson||St. Louis Rams|
|2005||Derrick Johnson||LB||Texas||Kansas City Chiefs|
|2004||Michael Clayton||WR||LSU||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|2003||Jerome McDougle||DE||Miami||Philadelphia Eagles|
|2002||Albert Haynesworth||DT||Tennessee||Tennessee Titans|
|2001||Rod Gardner||WR||Clemson||Washington Redskins|
|2000||Deltha O’Neal||DB||California||Denver Broncos|
So, yeah. A mixed bag, really. Which more or less is the NFL draft in a nutshell. Yet the event remains such an integral avenue for building the core of Super Bowl contenders, and a team’s ability to draft well — or not — can have huge long-term ramifications.
This isn’t to say the Patriots are screwed if they botch their first pick Thursday night. After all, they splurged in free agency, which should help them improve in 2021 after an underwhelming 2020. And Belichick’s coaching prowess can help the team overcome some of its flaws.
But New England doesn’t usually pick this high — such is life when you win six Super Bowl titles as part of a dynastic run spanning two decades — and a franchise-altering selection could go a long way toward restoring order in the AFC East following Tom Brady’s departure.