For Bill Belichick, the Patriots draft boards are a dynamic piece of art, perpetually moving, often unlocking lines of code only the New England head coach can see. In 15 drafts, he’s used his unique value system to make 54 trades, picking up Super Bowl standouts like Matt Light, Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, and Devin McCourty in the process.
But do the Patriots deserve a reputation for fleecing corroborating franchises on draft day? Has the impact of the players they’ve brought into the league exceeded that of the athletes selected with the picks they abandoned?
A spin through Belichick’s draft history reveals the answer. New England has been proactive when it comes to moving picks, moving up and down across draft boards to find the prospects it values. This includes finding Pro Bowl talent through trades everywhere from the first to fifth rounds.
Here’s the full breakdown of every Patriots draft day trade to involve Belichick — and one that came beforehand to bring the veteran coach to Foxborough.
The first Patriots draft pick deal to involve the future Hall of Fame coach was the one that sent him to Foxborough. Belichick was groomed to be the Jets head-coach-in-waiting under Bill Parcells, but his coronation press conference turned out to be the stage for his resignation. Instead, he would become Pete Carroll’s replacement in New England — but at a price. Since Belichick was still under contract with New York, commissioner Paul Tagliabue set the compensation for acquiring him at a first-round pick.
The Jets traded the pick, No. 16 overall, and their second-round selection to San Francisco for the No. 12 pick. At 12, they selected Shaun Ellis, a two-time Pro Bowler at defensive end.
Out: A partial share of Shaun Ellis — shares, in this case, mean a pick traded was later packaged with other assets and used to acquire a player.
Winner: Patriots. Ellis was a nice pick. Belichick has five Super Bowl rings.
2001: New England makes five draft day trades; winds up with Tom Brady’s best left tackle
This one gets complicated. The Patriots traded the 39th pick (Kendrell Bell) for the 50th (Dominic Raiola) and 112th (Carlos Polk) picks, then packaged the 50th and the 173rd (Jason Glenn, a pick previously acquired in 2000 in exchange for a seventh-round pick) together for the 48th to select Matt Light.
But that’s not all. New England also traded the 69th pick (Eric Kelly) for the 86th (Brock Williams) and 119th (Jabari Holloway) selections. Then they swapped the 112th and 139th (Zeke Moreno) picks for the 96th (Kenyatta Jones). Finally, they shipped out No. 149 (Mike McMahon) for No. 180 (Arther Love) and No. 216 (Owen Pochman).
In: Matt Light, Brock Williams, Kenyatta Jones, Jabari Holloway, Arther Love, Owen Pochman
Out: Kendrell Bell, Dominic Raiola, Eric Kelly, Carlos Polk, Zeke Moreno, Mike McMahon
Winner: Patriots. Raiola has been a steady starter at center through a long career, and Bell was a dynamite rookie who never lived up to early expectations with the Steelers. Light was a three-time Pro Bowler, one-time All-Pro, and anchor of an offensive line that won three Super Bowls.
2002: The Patriots actually trade up in the first round
Having swung and missed at draft gems like Holloway and Love the year before, Belichick and Co. moved up to grab their tight end of the future, Daniel Graham. Graham was a solid athlete whose breakout senior season at Colorado helped him rise up draft boards. To acquire him with the 21st pick, the Patriots gave up the 32nd (Patrick Ramsey), 96th (Dorsett Davis, later traded), and 234th (Greg Scott) selections. This would have been a windfall for Washington had it not spent those selections on a garbage plate headlined by Ramsey.
In: Daniel Graham
Out: Patrick Ramsey, shares of Ladell Betts, Cliff Russell, and Andre Lott
Winner: Patriots, barely. Graham peaked his third season in the league with seven touchdown receptions but never performed up to his draft slot. Then again, neither did anyone Washington selected.
2003: Future considerations pay off big time and a dynasty takes shape
This is cheating, as the Patriots first draft day trade came the day before the first round opened. But the team’s willingness to ship out the 78th overall pick in 2003 — originally acquired in a trade for veteran defensive back Tebucky Jones — would net it Bengals running back Corey Dillon in 2004.
Dillon wouldn’t be the only domino set in 2003 to fall the following year. Trading the 19th pick (Kyle Boller) to the Ravens would net All-Pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfork 12 months later, along with starters Eugene Wilson and Dan Klecko. The Pats also moved up in the first round for the second year in a row, albeit not by much. They sent the No. 14 pick (Michael Haynes) and the No. 193 (Marques Ogden) to the Bears to select Ty Warren, who would spend the next seven seasons as a fixture on New England’s defensive line.
That wasn’t nearly enough to sate Belichick’s thirst for impact players. He traded away a fourth-round pick to move up and grab Bethel Johnson in the second, then he re-acquired the selection when cornerback Asante Samuel fell down the draft board. All things considered, trades in 2003 wound up acquiring seven starters for 2004 and beyond.
In: Corey Dillon, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Bethel Johnson, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson, Dan Klecko, Dan Koppen, Kliff Kingsbury, Ethan Kelley
Out: Wade Smith, Kyle Boller, Michael Haynes, Marques Ogden, Bennie Joppru, Seth Wand, Bruce Nelson, Bryant McNeal, Ben Claxton, Donnie Nickey, Todd Williams
Winner: Patriots. New England got multiple All-Pros. Its trade partners topped out at Kyle Boller.
The 2003 deals gave the Patriots the capital to acquire Dillon, Wilfork, and Samuel — and kept Belichick relatively satisfied when it came to brokering deals in 2004.
2005: Patriots trade back to build depth
New England made a handful of smaller draft day moves, the biggest of which involved moving its second-round pick (No. 64, Adam Terry) to the Ravens for two third-rounders and a sixth. But the team wound up missing out on the chance to draft Greg Jennings the following year. Later, the Patriots would add Matt Cassel after trading off a sixth-round pick for a pair of seventh-rounders.
In: Ellis Hobbs, Garrett Mills, Matt Cassel, Ryan O’Callahan, a share of Chad Jackson
Out: Adam Terry, a share of Greg Jennings, Dan Orlovsky, Jonathan Goddard
Winner: Patriots. Hobbs and Cassel both provided important value for the team, and the pain of the Jennings deal wouldn’t hit until the following year.
2006: Welcome to the Chad Jackson era
Want to reflect on a time when Belichick absolutely botched a draft day trade? Then 2006 is the year for you. New England sent its second-round pick and the third-rounder it had acquired from the Ravens the year prior to Green Bay for the 36th overall pick. The Patriots grabbed Florida wideout Chad Jackson with their choice. The Packers took Greg Jennings and Jason Spitz. Spitz spent three years as a starting offensive lineman in Wisconsin, while Jennings caught 53 touchdown passes in seven seasons with the franchise.
Jackson finished his pro career with 14 total receptions.
In: a share of Chad Jackson
Out: a share of Greg Jennings, Jason Spitz
Winner: Packers. By so much. So, so much.
2007: Filling the roster with All-Pros
Belichick went back to trading down and amassing future picks in 2007, setting up the foundation for one of the league’s greatest seasons. The headliner here is the fourth-rounder the team sent to Oakland in exchange for Randy Moss, who went on to set an NFL record with 23 touchdown catches the following season (Bowie, the draft pick for whom he was traded, went on to play five games in his professional career). However, the franchise’s wheeling and dealing also brought in two other Pro Bowlers who would prove essential to the team’s success.
New England traded the 28th overall pick (Joe Staley, who proved to be absolutely worth it) for a 2007 fourth-rounder and a first in 2008. When the 49ers tanked the following season, it gave the Patriots the No. 7 overall pick that year. Belichick traded down once more from there, acquiring the 10th and 78th picks that spring, where future captain Mayo was selected.
One day later, a series of late round moves led to the 2008 selection of Matthew Slater. In nine seasons with the team, he’s been named a special teams Pro Bowler six times.
In: Jerod Mayo, Shawn Crable, Randy Moss, Ron Brace, a share of Matthew Slater
Out: Joe Staley, Mario Henderson, John Bowie, Sedrick Ellis, Carl Nicks
Winner: Patriots, though Joe Staley and Carl Nicks are a great consolation prize.
2008: See 2007
All the Patriots’ moves in the 2008 draft involved compensation they had received through prior years. New England moved the third-rounder it had swiped in the Henderson deal to gain a pair of picks from the Chargers. Belichick would go on to trade each of those picks for middling returns.
In: a share of Ron Brace, a share of Matthew Slater
Out: Jacob Hester
Winner: Patriots. The Patriots were spreading around house money and setting up moves for the future, even though their headlining move was unsuccessful. Brace never panned out for New England, while Hester was a useful fullback in San Diego — even if he didn’t live up to his third-round billing. The move that pushes this in Belichick’s favor is the trade that allowed him to pick up Slater, who remains the teams’ kickoff and punt defense ace.
2009: A butterfly effect of trades
Over a two-day span in 2009, the Patriots made seven trades. Players included in these deals, all as future draft picks, were Michael Oher, Clay Matthews, Mike Mitchell, Darius Butler, Lamarr Houston, Jared Cook, Julian Edelman, and, eventually, even Rob Gronkowski. Let’s see if a table isn’t the best way to sort this out:
Patriots’ 2009 NFL Draft Trades
|No.||Patriots Trade||Patriots Receive|
|No.||Patriots Trade||Patriots Receive|
|1||1(23) - Michael Oher||1(26) - Clay Matthews|
|5(162) - Jamon Meredith|
|2||1(26) - Clay Matthews||2(41) - Darius Butler|
|5(162) - Jamon Meredith||3(73) - Derek Cox|
|3(83) - Brandon Tate|
|3||2(47) - Mike MItchell||2(40) - Ron Brace|
|4(124) - Louis Murphy|
|6(199) - Stryker Sulak|
|4||3(73) - Derek Cox||7(232) - Julian Edelman|
|2010 - 2(44) - Lamarr Houston|
|5||3(89) - Jared Cook||2010 - 2(47) - Daryl Washington|
|6||Ellis Hobbs||5(137) - Jason Phillips|
|5(141) - Kenny McKinley|
|7||5(137) - Jason Phillips||4(123) - Rich Ohmberger|
|5(141) - Kenny McKinley||6(198) - Jake Ingram|
|8||2010 - 2(44) - Lamarr Houston||2010 - 2(35) - Rob Gronkowski|
|2010 - 6(190) - Travis Goethel|
|9||2010 - 2(47) - Daryl Washington||2010 - 2(58) - Ben Tate|
|2010 - 3(89) - Armanti Edwards|
|10||2010 - 2(58) - Ben Tate||2010 - 2(62) - Brandon Spikes|
|2010 - 5(150) - Zoltan Mesko|
|11||2010 - 3(89) - Armanti Edwards||2011 - 2(33) - Ras-I Dowling|
In all, 11 deals were struck resulting from New England’s 2009 draft class, and the ripple didn’t stop until 2011. Nineteen players and picks wound up in the Patriots’ crosshairs, but only eight could become roster regulars by 2012. In the end, the team turned nine picks from Rounds 1-3 into 12 and added key championship components like Edelman and Gronkowski in the process.
In: Darius Butler, Brandon Tate, a share of Ron Brace, Julian Edelman, Rich Ohmberger, Jake Ingram, a share of Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes, Zoltan Mesko, Ras-I Dowling
Out: Michael Oher or Clay Matthews, Jamon Meredith, Mike Mitchell, Louis Murphy, Stryker Sulak, Derek Cox, Jared Cook, Ellis Hobbs, Jason Phillips, Kenny McKinley
Winner: Patriots. Two high-profile whiffs — Brace and Ras-I Dowling — kept this from being a landslide win for the Pats.
2010: Building off 2009’s deals
The picks accrued the year prior gave Belichick more ammunition for 2010, leading to a limited array of unique activity. The team did make a pair of big moves in the first round, dropping from No. 22 (Demaryius Thomas) to No. 24 (Dez Bryant) and then from No. 24 to No. 27. Its reward for passing up a pair of Pro Bowl wide receivers? Three-time All-Pro safety Devin McCourty, who the team took in the first round, and tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is famous for being a great football player and nothing else.
The Patriots acquired two picks in a deal with the Jaguars the year before — a seventh-round pick (232nd) in 2009 that they used for Edelman and a second-round pick (44th) in 2010 for their third-round pick (73rd). New England used the 44th pick and a sixth-round pick (190th) in a deal with the Raiders to move up to 42nd and get Gronkowski, who saw his draft status slip because of injury concerns.
The other deal not to have its genesis in 2010 was a swap of seventh-rounders, notable only because one of the players involved was named Selvish Capers.
In: Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Thomas Welch
Out: Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas, Erik Cook, Selvish Capers.
Winner: Patriots. All three first-round options were hits. Hernandez was a great player but abhorrent human being. But they got Gronk.
2011: The Patriots trade down four times, reap the rewards
New England traded back when it came to its original first-, second-, third-, and fourth- round picks in 2011. Jettisoning those four selections netted six in return, and the Patriots ended up with starters Stevan Ridley, Shave Vereen, Marcus Cannon, and one year later, Chandler Jones for their efforts. That’s pretty good!
In: Stevan Ridley, Shave Vereen, Marcus Cannon, Tavon Wilson, Malcolm Williams, Markell Carter
Out: Mark Ingram, Brandon Harris, Joe Barksdale, Taiwan Jones, Brian Rolle
2012: Two home runs in the first round
The Patriots traded the 2012 first-rounder they acquired in the Ingram deal for a better first-rounder. They used that to select Chandler Jones, who developed into the team’s top pass rusher before being traded for a second-rounder last spring. They beefed up their defense even more by trading the 31st (Doug Martin) and 126th (Jared Crick) to Denver to select All-Pro Dont’a Hightower.
New England could have beefed up its defense even more but traded with the Chargers to duck out of the second round. Green Bay picked up 2016 NFL interception leader Casey Hayward with the 62nd selection, while the Patriots whiffed with the third-rounder they picked up (Jake Bequette) and turned the fifth-rounder that came with it into a trio of depth players headlined by Olympic rugby star Nate Ebner.
In: Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette, Nate Ebner, Alfonzo Dennard, Jeremy Ebert
Out: Kevin Zeitler, Doug Martin, Jered Crick, Casey Hayward, Terrell Manning, Brandon Thompson
Winner: Push. The Patriots got the two best players in the deal, but a Zeitler-Martin-Hayward combination is one hell of a draft haul, too.
2013: Trading out of the first round nets three starters
New England sent Minnesota the 29th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, where the Vikings took All-Pro kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson. In exchange, they received four selections: Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Josh Boyce, and a seventh-rounder who would later be packaged with Jeff Demps in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. Everyone but Boyce would go on to be a key contributor to a Super Bowl winning team — in Ryan and Blount’s cases, twice.
But hey, Patterson returns kicks better than anyone else in the league.
In: Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Josh Boyce, a share of LeGarrette Blount
Out: Cordarrelle Patterson
Winner: Patriots. By a lot.
2014: A quiet year
Belichick only made one draft day trade in 2014. He sent his team’s third-round pick to Jaguars for fourth- and sixth-rounders. Ultimately, that boiled down to a Brandon Linder for Bryan Stork and Jon Halapio deal. Linder is currently Jacksonville’s starting center; Stork and Halapio are no longer in the NFL.
In: Bryan Stork, Jon Halapio
Out: Brandon Linder
2015: In which the big acquisition is a long snapper
2015 had more action than the year prior, but the parties involved weren’t much more exciting. New England traded back twice, getting an array of picks that included offensive guard Tre’ Jackson and long snapper Joe Cardona. A.J. Derby looked like he’d be a solid pickup as well, but the tight end lasted just four games before being traded to the Broncos.
In: Joe Cardona, Darryl Roberts, Tre’ Jackson, A.J. Derby
Out: Brett Hundley, Xavier Cooper, Hayes Pullard
Winner: Patriots. Jackson started nine games in 2015 before missing the 2016 season due to injury. Cardona is an anonymous long snapper, which means he’s doing his job well. Cooper and Pullard have combined for four starts in their careers, and Hundley is a solid backup quarterback in Green Bay. All things considered, the edge goes to New England.
2016: Trading back for Super Bowl contributors
New England took the second-round pick it acquired from trading away Chandler Jones and shipped it to the Saints, who took safety Vonn Bell with the 61st selection. In return, the Pats got third- and fourth-round picks who each played a major role in Tom Brady’s fifth Super Bowl title — Joe Thuney and Malcolm Mitchell. Later moves also netted developmental WR Devin Lucien and a fourth-round pick this spring, which will almost certainly be traded for another hodgepodge of picks.
In: Joe Thuney, Malcolm Mitchell, Devin Lucien, 2017 fourth-rounder
Out: Vonn Bell, Blake Countess, Jordan Lucas, Scooby Wright, Quinten Jefferson, Kenny Lawler
Winner: Patriots. Bell started 14 games as a rookie and is a solid prospect. Thuney is a starting offensive lineman, and Mitchell looks like the rare New England draft pick who could succeed as an NFL wide receiver.
That’s the full history of Patriots trades under Bill Belichick. Too long? Didn’t read? Here’s a handy chart to simplify things:
New England Patriots' Draft Day Trades Under Bill Belichick
|Year||No. of trades||Trades down||Best player in||Best player out||Did the Patriots win their deals?|
|Year||No. of trades||Trades down||Best player in||Best player out||Did the Patriots win their deals?|
|2001||5||3||Matt Light||Dominic Raiola||Yes|
|2002||3||1||Daniel Graham||Patrick Ramsey||Yes|
|2003||7||3||Vince Wilfork||Kyle Boller||Yes|
|2005||3||2||Matt Cassel||Adam Terry||Yes|
|2006||1||0||Chad Jackson||Greg Jennings||Absolutely not.|
|2007||3||2||Randy Moss||Joe Staley||Yes|
|2008||3||2||Matt Slater||Jacob Hester||Yes|
|2009||7||4||Rob Gronkowski||Clay Matthews||Yes|
|2010||6||4||Devin McCourty||Dez Bryant||Push|
|2011||4||4||Marcus Cannon||Mark Ingram||Yes|
|2012||4||2||Dont'a Hightower||Kevin Zeitler||Push|
|2013||2||1||Jamie Collins||Cordarelle Patterson||Yes|
|2014||1||1||Bryan Stork||Brandon Linder||No|
|2015||2||2||Tre Jackson||Brett Hundler||Yes|
|2016||3||2||Joe Thuney||Vonn Bell||Yes|
New England subjectively won 12 of the 15 years in which Belichick made draft day trades. The Patriots made 54 deals, 33 of which involved trading for higher picks. That propensity to accrue picks in later rounds has been even stronger this decade. Since 2010, 16 of the team’s 22 deals — or 73 percent — have involved the Patriots giving up the higher selection in exchange for multiple picks later that draft or a higher selection the following year.
If history is any indication, Bill Belichick will make three trades on draft day, two of which give the Patriots more selections in later rounds. Odds are pretty good they’ll come out on the winning end of those deals, too.