It has always amazed me what the Patriots have been able to accomplish in this league with the players they have. The Patriots have consistently beat teams with players who weren’t considered top draft prospects. Belichick has always had an eye for talent when he sees it. I mean, he drafted the best quarterback of all time in the 6th round, come on now. And speaking of Brady, that’s where we’ll start. Lets take a look back at the Patriots 10 best draft picks and undrafted rookies they picked up, who weren’t on ‘ol Mel’s big board, from the year 2000 until now (with one exception.)
1. Tom Brady (2000, 6th round, QB)
This is an obvious one. Brady still has one of the slowest 40-yard dash times by a quarterback in combine history. Every team, well almost every team, overlooked him. Six quarterbacks were drafted in front of Brady, some of who are managing the night shift at a local Wendy’s for all I know. The Patriots took a chance on Brady, and I guess you could say it paid off.
2. Adam Vinatieri (1996, undrafted, K)
Forget about him? Vinatieri is the one exception I am making to my “before 2000 rule”, and for obvious reasons. He is a big reason Brady has five championships. He was an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State. He’s on the list this high for a reason. The man hit two Super Bowl winning kicks for goodness sake.
3. Julian Edelman (2009, 7th round, WR)
Edelman can do it all. He has some of the best hands in the league and is easily one of the shiftiest players I’ve seen in a long time. And let’s not forget he has thrown for a touchdown. He is tough across the middle and thank god teams slept on him. Edelman will continue to get better and better.
4. James White (2014, 4th round, RB)
White is a gutsy call putting him this high on the list. But after his incredible showing in Super Bowl 51, White’s upside is incredible. He can do it all. Run inside, run outside. Catch the ball out of the backfield, catch the ball lined up as a receiver. He is the total package and an ideal player for the Patriots scheme.
5. Matt Cassel (2005, 7th round, QB)
Yes you read that right. Cassel was drafted in the last round of the 2005 draft. The reason Cassel is on this list is because after Brady went down with a knee injury, he stepped up and led the Patriots to a 10-6 record and a chance to make a run in the playoffs. That’s a pretty special feat for a BACKUP quarterback to accomplish.
6. Malcolm Butler (2014, undrafted, CB)
We all know how Butler made a name for himself. He sealed the deal in Super Bowl 49 and instantly became a Patriots legend. But beyond that, Butler is guarding the opponent’s best receiver week after week and has the stats to show that he is an elite corner in this league.
7. Shaq Mason (2015, 4th round, RG)
Many people probably aren’t even familiar with who Shaq Mason is. Mason started 10 games his rookie year. 10. Not too many rookies get the call to start on the offensive line for the Patriots but Mason has proven he is an up and coming star in the interior. Mason, along with the other four starters, gives Brady a chance, and that’s all he needs.
8. Marcus Cannon (2011, 5th round, RT)
Cannon falls in a different boat than Shaq Mason. He had to wait his turn behind veteran Sebastian Vollmer. When Vollmer went down with an injury in 2013, Cannon got the call to start. Although Bryan Stork replaced him after Cannon was underperforming, that didn’t stop him from continuing to work hard. Cannon worked himself to get into the best shape of his life and was a key part of the Super Bowl 49 and 51 teams. He was named a second team All-Pro this past season. Young guys on the interior such as Mason and Cannon are a good reason this team will have success in the future.
9. Matt Slater (2008, 5th round, WR, Special Teams)
Although Slater doesn’t get a lot of clock on this offensive side, he is everything Patriots football is about. The amount of punts he has downed inside the 10-yard line is incredible. He’s one of the captains on the team… If that doesn’t show what kind of player he is I don’t know what will. Slater makes play after play on special teams and is a great example of what the Hoodie wants: players who do their job.
10. Malcolm Mitchell (2016, 4th round, WR)
Mitchell is another great example of a player who does his job. He is not asked to do a lot but when he’s called on, he makes plays. Mitchell was a key component on the fourth quarter drives in Super Bowl 51, making key catch after key catch. Mitchell is coming into his second year and will surely take on a bigger role this season. Watch for Malcolm Mitchell to make numerous big plays this season.
This is just a list of the ten players who were drafted very low, but made a huge impact on the teams they were on. All of these players embody what the Patriots are all about. They’re a group of misfits who come ready to work every day and produce on the field week after week. So as the draft approaches, trust in the Patriots coaching staff to pick the right guys and mold them into the system.
And to all the Patriot haters out there, just remember, they’re winning with players your team didn’t want.