The Legacy of Patriots’ Top-Five Draft Picks: A Complete History

Complete history of Patriots’ top-five picks in NFL Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

An entire generation of New England Patriots fans will experience the excitement of their team making a top-five pick for the first time in April.

The Patriots own the No. 3 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, and assuming they don’t trade it, that pick will be their first in the top five since 1994.

The Patriots didn’t have many good teams in the four decades that preceded Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady’s arrival in 2000, and yet the franchise made just eight top-five picks in the common draft era (1967 to the present).

Despite a lack of top-five selections over that span, the Patriots still did well on several of these picks and even got a couple Hall of Fame players.

Here’s a recap of every top-five Patriots draft pick from the common draft era.

1994, 4th pick: Willie McGinest, LB, USC

This pick is one of the best in Patriots history. McGinest played a key role on three Super Bowl-winning teams (2001, 2003, 2004) for the Patriots as an excellent pass rusher. His 16 playoff sacks is still a league record. McGinest played in New England from 1994 through 2005, before retiring after the 2008 season. He was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2015.

His most iconic Patriots moment came in Week 13 of the 2003 season in a last-second goal-line stand to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts. It’s one of the greatest regular season games in team history.

1993, 1st pick: Drew Bledsoe, QB, Washington State

Bledsoe helped the Patriots transform into a respectable franchise after it won just nine games in the three previous seasons combined. He helped lead the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI in 1996, where they lost to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

Bledsoe eventually lost his starting job to Tom Brady after suffering a chest injury against the New York Jets in Week 2 of the 2001 season. Although he never won a Super Bowl as the starting QB in New England, his memorable performance in place of an injured Brady during the 2001 AFC Championship Game was pivotal in the team’s first championship run.

Drew Bledsoe is the last Patriots player selected with a top-three draft pick.

1984, 1st pick: Irving Fryar, WR, Nebraska

Fryar is the only wide receiver the Patriots have ever selected with a top-five pick. He played in New England from 1984 through 1992, totaling 5,726 receiving yards and 38 receiving touchdowns in 129 games. Fryar was even better after leaving the Patriots, tallying two 1,000-yard seasons with both the Dolphins and Eagles before retiring after the 2000 campaign.

1982, 1st pick: Kenneth Sims, DE, Texas

Sims finished fifth in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting and played a key role on the 1985 defense that helped lead the team to its first Super Bowl appearance. However, a broken leg suffered during the regular season prevented Sims from playing in that Super Bowl loss to the Chicago Bears.

Sims played just three games in 1986, one in 1988 and retired after the 1989 season (after playing 15 games). He spent his entire eight-year career with the Patriots. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

1976, 5th pick: Mike Haynes, CB, Arizona State

Haynes was a fantastic cornerback and punt returner who made nine Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, too.

Haynes joined the Los Angeles Raiders during the 1983 season and helped them win Super Bowl XVIII with one interception and two pass breakups in a 38-9 victory over the Washington Commanders.

1973, 4th pick: John Hannah, Guard, Alabama

Hannah is the best guard of all-time and maybe the best offensive lineman in league history. Many experts consider Hannah the second-best player in Patriots history behind Tom Brady. Hannah was selected to 10 All-Pro teams (seven first team) and nine Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

It’s hard to find many — if any — Patriots draft picks better than this one.

1971, 1st pick: Jim Plunkett, QB, Stanford

Plunkett was a highly regarded prospect out of Stanford and had some good moments for the Patriots, but the team struggled to win games during his tenure (23-38 record when he played). A shoulder injury limited him to just five games in 1975, resulting in Steve Grogan taking over as the starting quarterback.

Plunkett was traded to the 49ers the ensuing offseason. He eventually landed with the Los Angeles Raiders and was the starting QB for two of their Super Bowl-winning teams. He also won Super Bowl XV MVP.

1970, 4th pick: Phil Olsen, DT, Utah State

Olsen unfortunately never played for the Patriots. He suffered a knee injury during the 1970 College All-Star Game a few months after being drafted by New England. He ended up signing with the Los Angeles Rams as a free agent in 1971. The Patriots got a 1972 first-round draft pick as compensation.

Olsen played just six NFL seasons, his last coming in 1976 with the Denver Broncos.

2024-02-27 00:26:00
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