It says a lot that picking No. 15 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft is such a disappointment for the New England Patriots.
If you’re concerned about how well the Patriots will fare given their recent first-round history, which includes drafting N’Keal Harry with their first pick in 2019, here’s some good news:
The Patriots have only had four top-20 picks during Bill Belichick’s time in Foxborough, and he hit on all four of them. Each signed a second contract with the team and contributing to at least one Super Bowl title.
Here’s a recap of those draft picks and their Patriots careers.
Richard Seymour, DE
6th overall, 2001
Bill Belichick’s inaugural first-round pick with the Patriots remains the best he made, and that’s saying a lot.
A Hall-of-Fame finalist this year (and three-time finalist overall), Seymour was one of the linchpins of Belichick’s early championship defenses. In fact, the longtime Pats coach has called Seymour and dominant nose tackle Vince Wilfork the two best defensive linemen he’s ever coached.
During eight seasons with New England, Seymour started 105 of the 111 games he played, racking up 39 sacks and 64 tackles for loss. In his letter to the Hall of Fame committee advocating for Seymour’s inclusion in Canton, Belichick touted Seymour’s abilty to play anywhere on the defensive line and even dominate on special teams.
“It is extremely uncommon to see a player of his size, at any position, be capable of doing so many things so well,” he wrote.
As if the three Super Bowl rings he won in Foxborough weren’t enough, Seymour added five All-Pro selections (three First-Team), seven Pro Bowl nods, and a spot on the Hall-of-Fame All-2000s team.
Even if Seymour never makes the Hall-of-Fame, he’ll go down as one of the best players in Patriots history and one of its biggest slam dunks in the draft outside of Tom Brady.
Ty Warren, DE
13th overall pick, 2003
Warren holds a rare and rather pertinent distinction in Patriots lore: he’s one of the few players New England has ever traded up for in the first round of the NFL Draft during Belichick’s tenure. The Patriots moved up one spot, swapping with the Chicago Bears, who were also looking for defensive linemen, to snag the Texas A&M star.
Warren rewarded the Patriots immediately. He played in all 16 games as a rookie and all but one game over his next four seasons. He earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2007 and signed a five-year contract the same year, but injuries limited him his next three seasons and eventually led to his release in 2011.
Still, he was known as one of the most underrated players at his position while in New England, racking up 20.5 sacks, 37 tackles for loss, and 41 quarterback hits during his time in Foxborough. He also helped the Patriots win two titles in 2003 and 2004 playing alongside Seymour and company.
Jerod Mayo, LB
10th overall, 2008
Before he became the Patriots linebackers coach back in 2019, Mayo was quite the linebacker himself. He ended up being one of the more solid players in an underwhelming 2008 first round, with New England taking him 10th overall after trading back from the seventh overall pick.
Mayo played his entire eight-year NFL career in Foxborough and was a tackling machine when healthy, leading the Patriots in tackles in each of his first five seasons and even led the league in tackles once (2010).
He’s just the second Patriot ever (along with cornerback Michael Haynes in 1976) to win the AP’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He made two Pro Bowls (2010, 2012) and one AP First-Team All-Pro (2010) in addition to winning a Super Bowl in 2014.
It says a lot, too, that Belichick valued Mayo’s ability and knowledge so highly that he added him to his coaching staff a few years back, making him a gift that keeps on giving to the organization.
Nate Solder, OT
17th overall, 2011
With longtime left tackle Matt Light nearing the end of his career, the Patriots nabbed the mountainous Solder in the first round of the 2011 draft. He started at right tackle in New England’s Super Bowl loss that season after injuries hampered Sebastian Vollmer.
Once Light retired, Solder jumped in and took over the left tackle spot from 2012 to 2017. Aside from an injury-shorten 2014 season, he never played fewer than 91 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, and was on the field for every offensive snap in 2012.
He protected Tom Brady’s blindside in three Super Bowls, winning two rings — even catching a touchdown pass in the title win over the Seattle Seahawks — before leaving the team after its Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, signing a four-year $62 million contract with the aforementioned Giants.