New England Patriots: Top 10 Draft Picks of the Decade (2010-2019)

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Something resembling the NFL Draft is set for this Thursday, and with it starts a new decade and new era for the New England Patriots.  So, I decided to take a look back at the previous decade and identify New England's best draft picks during that span.  It's not necessarily the ten most talented players.  I'm also considering where they were drafted and what they have contributed, or did contribute, during their time in Foxboro.


Phot courtesy of ESPN.com
Honorable Mentions:

Malcolm Mitchell - 2016; 4th round - One of the biggest "what ifs" of the Brady/Belichick era.  It's a shame Mitchell had knee issues that he couldn't overcome.  He was one of the few rookie receivers who instantly developed a rapport with Brady, catching key passes in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl.


Jimmy Garoppolo - 2014; 2nd round - Garoppolo's most notable accomplishment as a Patriot was lighting a fire under Brady's ass which led to three more Lombardi trophies.  Had he actually become New England's quarterback, he would likely be on this list, but the fact that he didn't prevents him from making the top 10. 


Shane Vereen - 2011; 2nd round - A key part of the Super Bowl XLIX victory against Seattle, Vereen was a lesser version of Kevin Faulk and James White, but still a reliable target for Brady out of the backfield.  He caught 107 passes in his 4 seasons as a Patriot, despite minimal impact as a rookie.


Trey Flowers - 2015; 4th round - Now with the Detroit Lions, Flowers played just one game in his rookie season, but quickly became one of New England's top pass rushers over the next three seasons accumulating 21 sacks.  He had another 5.5 sacks, and 22 QB hits in the postseason, including 2.5 sacks and five QB hits in Super Bowl LI. 


Shaq Mason - 2015; 4th round - Another 4th round gem, Mason earned himself a 5-year contract extension before his rookie contract ended, so he must be doing something right.  Despite a down year in 2019, he's a key part of the offensive line moving forward and was a major part of the team's success running the ball during the 2018 Super Bowl run.


Top 10:

10. Marcus Cannon - 2011; 5th round - This is all about value.  A rotational linemen early in his career, Cannon has started at tackle for the past 4+ seasons, and has been a more than solid right tackle.  He was also named a 2nd team All-Pro in 2016.  Not bad value for a 5th round pick.

9. Joe Thuney - 2016; 3rd round

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Thuney is durable and reliable.  He's started in every single game since 2016 and is becoming one of the top guards in the league.  A 2nd team All-Pro last year, Thuney did not commit a single penalty.  Now, this may be the last season we see him in a Patriots uniform, and there's actually a good chance he gets traded during this year's draft.  It doesn't take away from the fact that he's been a key part of the offensive line during two Super Bowl-winning seasons.


8. Duron Harmon - 2013; 3rd round


This is more about longevity than anything else.  In seven seasons with the Patriots, Harmon has never missed a game due to injury.  He may not be considered one of the top safeties in the game, but he's been dependable and reliable for New England for the past seven years.  He has 21 career interceptions (17 in the regular season and four in the postseason) and some have come in some pretty big spots.


7. Chandler Jones - 2012; 1st round 


Though he's found better individual success with the Arizona Cardinals, Jones was still an effective pass rusher in his four seasons with the Patriots.  He had 11 sacks or more in two of those seasons, and all together recorded 36 sacks with New England.  As he's showing in Arizona, with a little more freedom as a pass rusher, he can be one of the best in the game.  The Patriots' defensive strategy and priorities may have limited Jones' impact, but he was still one of, if not their best, pass rusher from 2012-2016.


6. Jamie Collins - 2013; 2nd round 

Collins' athleticism brought a new trait to New England's linebackers in 2013.  With Mayo and Hightower solidifying the middle, Collins was expected to wreak havoc off of the edge, and he did.  In addition to his eye-popping feats of athleticism - i.e. leaping over the offensive line to block kicks - Collins quickly became a playmaker for this defense.  He led the team with 115 tackles in his second season in the league.  Then in 2015, despite missing four games, Collins led the league in forced fumbles with five, had 89 tackles and was named 2nd team All-Pro.  Then after a brief hiatus in Cleveland, Collins returned last year and posted career highs in sacks and interceptions.


5. Nate Solder - 2011; 1st round


Solder anchored the most important position on the offensive line for six seasons.  He was a starter for seven years, but actually started at right tackle as a rookie as Matt Light was still on the roster.  He was a left tackle in college, then started 13 games at right tackle as a rookie, only to transfer back to the left side of the line the following year and stay there.  Pretty impressive if you ask me.  The goal with drafting an offensive lineman in the first round is to have somebody reliable that you can "set and forget".  Put him in the lineup and that position is secure.  That was the case with Solder until he joined the Giants in 2018.

4. Devin McCourty - 2010; 1st round

McCourty felt like a home run after he was a second team All-Pro. and finished tied for 2nd in the league with seven interceptions in his rookie year.  However, that was his peak as a cornerback.  The next few years he was serviceable, until he reinvented himself as a safety.  Since then, he's been the vocal leader of the secondary and a defensive captain since 2011.  As the seasons have passed, he's become a leader in the locker room and a guy that the younger guys turn to for guidance.  Guys like that are extremely valuable, especially in a place like New England where the culture, and getting guys to buy in, is a key part of their sustained success.  So you can debate whether his on-field production is first-round worthy, but his off-field importance is invaluable.


3. Dont'a Hightower - 2012; 1st round

The second of two first round picks in 2012, Hightower has become a vital part of the Patriot defense, and one of the unquestioned leaders of the unit.  He was a great complement to Jerod Mayo as a rookie.  Then as Mayo battled injuries in the final seasons of his career, Hightower quickly became a key cog in the linebacker corps.  He's come up with some key plays in big games, and was well worth the first round selection.


2. James White - 2014; 4th round

Here's a fun fact about James White.  In 90 career games - regular season and playoffs - he has lost just two fumbles.  They both came last year; in the home loss to Miami and in the playoffs against Tennessee.  Both of them came on laterals on the final play of the game.  How about that?  White does not have one legitimate fumble in his entire NFL career.  Aside from amazing ball security, he was one of Brady's most trusted targets before...well, you know.  He's become one of the top receiving backs in the NFL, and everybody knows how integral he was in Super Bowl LI.  White is currently fourth among active running backs with 320 receptions, and the best running back Belichick has ever drafted.


1. Rob Gronkowski - 2010; 2nd round

This is a no-brainer.  After Tom Brady, Gronk is probably the best pick of the Belichick era.  A top-5 talent that the Patriots got in the second round; talk about a steal.  Injury concerns caused the drop in Gronk's draft stock, and injuries were a big part of his Patriots tenure.  However, when he was on the field, he was clearly the top player at his position.  He retired with the third most touchdowns among tight ends despite having played significantly less games than his counterparts (79 TD's in 115 games).  The two tight ends with more career touchdowns played 100+ more games than him.  Five seasons with double digit touchdowns and four 1,000 yard receiving seasons.  An unstoppable force at times, Gronk is easily New England's best pick of the last 10 years.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: New England Patriots: Top 10 Draft Picks of the Decade (2010-2019)
New England Patriots: Top 10 Draft Picks of the Decade (2010-2019)
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