Five Biggest Patriots Draft Busts Of Bill Belichick Era

Including two notable first-round whiffs


Apr 17, 2023

Tom Brady. Rob Gronkowski. Devin McCourty. Julian Edelman. Dont’a Hightower. Vince Wilfork. Richard Seymour. Logan Mankins.

Throughout Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach, the New England Patriots have found many of their franchise cornerstones through the NFL draft. The core of each of the franchise’s six Super Bowl championship teams was heavily reliant on homegrown talent.

But Belichick’s track record on draft night is, of course, far from flawless. His two-plus decades in charge of the Patriots have featured an infamous list of regrettable busts — early-round picks who, thanks to injuries, evaluation errors or a combination of the two, failed to live up to their lofty draft slots.

Here are’s picks for the five biggest Belichick-era draft flops:

CB Duke Dawson (second round, 56th overall, 2018)
The Patriots traded up seven spots to select Dawson late in the second round — then traded him to Denver before he played a single NFL snap. His exit from New England (on roster cutdown day ahead of his second season) was the quickest by any first- or second-round pick in the Belichick era.

CB Ras-I Dowling (second round, 33rd overall, 2011)
From 2000 to 2020, no Patriots player drafted in the top 50 picks appeared in fewer NFL games than Dowling. He started the first two games of his pro career but wound up making just nine appearances for New England and 12 total. The Patriots placed him on injured reserve in each of his first two seasons and cut him midway through his third training camp.

WR Chad Jackson (second round, 36th overall, 2006)
Taken with the fourth pick in the second round, Jackson made it just halfway through his rookie contract before being released. The Florida product caught 16 passes over two injury-plagued seasons in New England and played his final NFL game in 2008.

DT Dominique Easley (first round, 29th overall, 2014)
Generally, Belichick has a keen eye for talent when drafting front-seven defenders in Round 1. He selected eight in his first 23 Patriots drafts, and seven became either useful players or full-blown stars. Easley was the exception. The former Florida standout missed five games in each of his first two seasons and was released two months into the 2016 offseason, making his tenure the shortest of any first-round Patriots pick under Belichick.

WR N’Keal Harry (first round, 32nd overall, 2019)
Belichick’s first Round 1 wideout averaged less than two catches and 20 receiving yards per game before being dumped for a seventh-round pick before his fourth season. Harry couldn’t find success with any of the three Patriots quarterbacks he played with (Brady, Cam Newton and Mac Jones), and the opportunity cost to select him was immense. Wideouts taken later in the same draft included Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Diontae Johnson and Hunter Renfrow.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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