Where do the New England Patriots find their draft picks?
With the 2021 NFL Draft set to kick off April 29, we set out to answer that simple question. To keep the sample size manageable and current, we included only picks made since 2010 — the last 11 drafts.
Here?s what we found:
PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS BY CONFERENCE SINCE 2010
Big Ten: 15
Big 12: 5
Big East: 5
FCS (Ohio Valley, Missouri Valley, Southland, Southern): 5
Conference USA: 4
Mountain West: 3
Division II (Northern Sun, South Atlantic): 2
Sun Belt: 1
PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS BY SCHOOL SINCE 2010
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida
Arizona State, Florida State, Illinois, Marshall, North Carolina State, Stanford, TCU
Eastern Illinois, Georgia Tech, LSU, Nebraska, UCLA, Vanderbilt
Arizona, Auburn, Cal, Central Arkansas, Colorado, Concordia-St. Paul, Houston, Lenior-Rhyne, Maryland, Memphis, Miami, Mississippi State, Navy, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Purdue, Southern Miss, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, Troy, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Western Carolina, Wake Forest, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Youngstown State
— Unsurprisingly, college football?s best conference has produced by far the largest contingent of Patriots draft picks.
Of the 97 players New England has drafted since 2010, nearly one-third (30.9 percent) have come from SEC schools. The Big Ten ranks second with a 15.5 percent share, followed by the ACC (12.4 percent) and Pac-12 (11.3 percent).
That?s not totally unique to New England, though. In addition to producing 11 of the last 15 national champions, the SEC has led the nation in players drafted in each of the last 14 years. The conference produced 63 draft picks in 2020, one shy of its all-time record of 64, set one year earlier.
The three schools that produced six Patriots draftees during this span all are SEC programs. Alabama, led by Bill Belichick’s longtime friend Nick Saban, has been the No. 1 producer of Patriots picks in recent years, with one in each of the last two drafts and four of the last six.
Michigan (Big Ten) has been a close second of late, with New England selecting one Wolverine in 2019 and two in 2020.
— The Patriots did stray from their SEC focus in last year’s draft. After picking four SEC players in 2018 and five in 2019, they grabbed just one in 2020: Alabama linebacker Anfernee Jennings (third round).
The last New England draft class that didn’t feature a single SECer? 2013.
— A total of 52 different schools have produced a Patriots draft pick since 2010. 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 Lenoir-Rhyne (Kyle Dugger), Eastern Illinois (Jimmy Garoppolo), Southern Miss (Jamie Collins), Youngstown State (Derek Rivers), Troy (Antonio Garcia), Marshall (Aaron Dobson) and Ohio (Taylor Price).
— Since 2010, the Patriots have drafted more players from outside of the Football Bowl Subdivision (seven) than from the Big 12 (five). Their most recent non-FBS draftee was D-II product Dugger, their top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (37th overall).
The Patriots also drafted players from lower levels in 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Potential small-school targets in this year’s draft include quarterback Trey Lance (FCS North Dakota State), offensive tackle Dillon Radunz (FCS North Dakota State), wide receiver Cade Johnson (FCS South Dakota State, edge rusher Elerson Smith (FCS Northern Iowa) and center/guard Quinn Meinerz (Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater).
New England has selected just one Big 12 player in the last four drafts: offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste (West Virginia, third round, 2019), who has yet to play an NFL snap.
— Here’s how last year’s Patriots draft class broke down: two Big Ten (Michigan’s Josh Uche and Mike Onwenu), two ACC (Virginia Tech’s Dalton Keene, Wake Forest’s Justin Herron), one Division II (Dugger) one SEC (Jennings), one Pac-12 (UCLA’s Devin Asiasi), one Conference USA (Marshall’s Justin Rohrwasser), one Mountain West (Wyoming’s Cassh Maluia), one AAC (Memphis’ Dustin Woodard).
— Dugger, Keene and Herron were the first players from their respective schools drafted by the Patriots during Belichick’s tenure. The only current Power Five programs that have not produced a Belichick-era Patriots pick are Clemson, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State.
Clemson is the most notable team on that list, considering the Tigers have been the nation’s second-best program behind Alabama over the last half-decade or so. The Patriots have been linked to Clemson wideout Amari Rodgers ahead of this year’s draft.
New England also has largely ignored a few other marquee football schools. Ohio State and Oklahoma have produced just one Patriots draft pick apiece since Belichick took over in 2000 — Nate Ebner in 2012 and Geneo Grissom in 2015, respectively — and the Pats haven’t drafted a player from Notre Dame since 2007 (Mike Richardson).
— 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)
-Three Pac-12 (J.J. Taylor, D.J. Foster, Chris Harper)
-Two Big Ten (J.C. Jackson, Cole Croston)
-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)
The Patriots have found undrafted gems at far-flung schools like West Alabama (Butler) and Bemidji State (Olszewski), and the overall conference distribution here is a bit more balanced. The big-name programs still produce the lion’s share, though. Of the 26 UDFAs who have made the team since 2010, 23.1 percent were from the SEC and another 34.6 percent came out of the ACC, Pac-12 or Big Ten.
Other pre-2010 UDFAs to stick include Randall Gay (LSU, 2004), Mike Wright (Cincinnati, 2005), Gary Guyton (Georgia Tech, 2008) and Brian Hoyer (Michigan State, 2009).