Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/24/12

The New England Patriots were born in 1960 and this column will focus on all the drafts since 1974. I have watched the team since 1975 (I was a whopping 4 years old) but have vivid memories of all 10 players I have selected. After sorting through the franchise media guide and The Sporting News Draft Encyclopedia, I picked 5 offensive and defensive players (without trying to go 50/50), 4 players from the 70s, 3 from the 80s, 2 from 90s and 1 VERY obvious selection from the 21st century. I have one underlining criteria: If you are a Hall of Famer, you made the list. I don’t care if you were the 4th overall pick or the 199th.  Here is my list- in chronological order by draft class year-with explanations on the choices.

 

Offensive Guard John Hannah-1973-1st Round (4th overall), Alabama

Before the arrival of another player in 2000 that we will discuss later, generally considered the greatest Patriot of all time. Arguably the greatest guard in NFL history, the 9 time All-Pro, started 183 games from 1973-1985, missing only 5 games due to injury. Voted #24 by the NFL Network’s top 100 players of all time, only Cincinnati Bengals OT Anthony Munoz, #12, was ranked ahead of him among offensive linemen. One of the best run blockers in NFL history, #73 anchored the ’78 New England offensive line that set the single-season rushing record with 3,165 yards, a record that still stands. Key member and leader of the first Patriots team to reach the Super Bowl in 1985, Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. 

 

Linebacker Sam Hunt-1974- 15th Round (374th overall), Stephen F. Austin

Tremendous value pick at his draft spot, starting 82 of 84 games played for the great Chuck Fairbanks Patriots teams of the mid to late 70s. Teamed with Steve Nelson (1974-1987) to give New England one of the top inside linebacker tandems in the league, the tandem helped the Pats lead the AFC in run defense in 1977. Ran back an interception 68 yards for a TD vs. Tampa Bay in 1976. Earned All-Rookie honors from Pro Football Weekly and Football Digest in 1974.

 

Quarterback Steve Grogan-1975- 5th Round (116th overall), Kansas State

One of the more popular players in franchise history, known for his toughness and leadership, loved by both fans and teammates, I wore his #14 Jersey as a youth.  Started out as a run-first guy but due to injuries and his own improvement, became an outstanding passer, setting most of the team’s passing records during his 16-year career (1975-1990).  QB-ed the incredible 1976 team and set a then NFL record with 12 rushing touchdowns, he ran for 35 in his career. Kick started the ’85 team when he took over for injured Tony Eason and won 6 straight before suffering a broken leg.

 

Cornerback Mike Haynes-1976-1st Round (5th overall), Arizona State

One of the best all around football players ever to wear a Patriots uniform, he made 6 Pro Bowls in his 7 seasons in New England (1976-82).  A great kick returner, he became the first player in franchise history to return a punt for TD in his rookie season. During that incredible campaign, he intercepted 8 passes, ran back two punts for touchdowns and Haynes was voted defensive rookie of the year.  Traded to the Oakland Raiders after the ’82 season, he won a Super Bowl XVIII in 1983, intercepting a pass in the game.  Inducted in the 1997 Pro Football Hall of Fame. How good was Mike Haynes? I cried when the Patriots traded him!!!

 

Outside Linebacker Andre Tippett-1982-2nd Round (41st overall), Iowa

One of the greatest linebackers in NFL history and a 2008 Inductee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, #56 terrorized opposing offenses for 12 years (1982-1993). Andre was a complete player who lined up at strong side linebacker but his bread and butter was sacking the quarterback, setting an NFL record for the most in a two-year period with 35 from 1984-85. Tippett was named AFC Defensive Player of the Year when he posted 16.5 sacks and led the Pats to Super Bowl XX.   A New England fixture, he currently serves as the team’s Executive Director of Community Affairs.

 

Free Safety Fred Marion-1982-5th Round (112th overall), Miami,Fla.

Underrated and unheralded 5th round pick who started 113 of 144 games played for New England during a decade with the Patriots (1982-1991). An excellent deep pass defender who made the Pro Bowl as well as 1st team All-Pro  and intercepted 7 passes (189 return yards) for the AFC Champions in 1985. Totaled 29 picks during his career and always seemed to make big plays in big games. Marion  was a member of the Patriots' All-1980s team and voted onto the club’s 35th and 50th anniversary teams.

 

Cornerback  Ronnie Lippett-1983-8th Round (214th overall), Miami,Fla.

Another key member of the Patriots' mid to late 80s defenses, he teamed with Raymond Clayborn (1977-1989) to give New England one of the top starting corner units in the entire NFL. Started 111 of 122 games as well as 4 playoff contests. Grew up in Florida but had a bad experience when he visited the Miami Dolphins' training camp as a U of Miami student. That incident spurred him to intercept Dolphins' Hall of Fame Quarterback Dan Marino 7 times among his 24 career INTs during the great Patriot-Dolphins battles of the 80s.  Had two huge interceptions of Los Angeles Raiders' QB Marc Wilson during the Patriots' 27-20 upset in the 85 AFC Playoffs.  

 

Tight End Ben Coates-1991-5th Round (124th overall), Livingstone College

A non-descript selection in the 1991 Draft, his life and career were changed forever with the hiring of Head Coach Bill Parcells and the drafting of Quarterback Drew Bledsoe after the 1992 season. The trio worked well in 1993, when Coates caught 53 balls for 629 yards and 7 touchdowns. However, in 1994 he had one of the most productive years among Tight Ends in NFL history when he caught 96, 1174 and 7 TDs. #87 was selected for 5 straight Pro Bowls and was named 1st team All-Pro in 1994-1995. From 95 to 98, he caught 84,62,66 and 67 and was a big part of the Patriots' team that lost Super Bowl XXXI, where he scored a touchdown.  In 9 years with New England, he caught 490 balls for 50 touchdowns. An underrated blocker, Coates was a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators league wide.

 

Wide receiver Troy Brown-1993-8th Round (198th overall), Marshall

Among the players on this list, No one got more out of their ability than Troy Brown. The man I consider Mr. Patriot did everything for this team from 1993-2007, playing wide receiver, defensive back and dominating on all aspects of special teams.  Retired as the clubs career leader in receptions, he was huge for 1st year starter Tom Brady in 2001 when he caught 101 balls for 1199 yards and 5 TDs helping him earn a Pro Bowl berth while leading the team to their first Super Bowl Championship. His punt return TD in the 2001 AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh was the winning score, giving him 3 for the season.  When the team’s secondary was riddled with injuries in 2004, he volunteered to play defense and ended up finishing 2nd on the team with 3 interceptions. Caught the decisive 23-yard pass from Brady that set up kicker Adam Vinatieri’s last second field goal leading the Patriots to a stunning 20-17 upset over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. A member of 5 Patriots teams that reached the Super Bowl, he was selected to the New England All-2000s and 50th Anniversary teams.  

 

Quarterback Tom Brady-2000-6th Round (199th overall), Michigan

When the NFL Network has a Top 10 show and you are the #1 draft steal of all time, you tend to make my list. Quite simply, the greatest draft selection in the history of the league. Tom Brady has led New England to 5 Super Bowls in 10 years as the starting quarterback, Brady, The #199th pick in 2000, and  John Elway, #1 Overall in the 1983, are the only QBs to start 5 Super Bowls. Elway did it in 17 seasons. BRADY- TEN!!! Has simply done it all  during his career, winning with a defensive oriented clubs, pass first teams and made many wide receivers millionaires.  Threw an NFL record 50 TDs while leading the Patriots to the first and only 16-0 regular season in NFL History in 2007, Brady and his childhood idol Joe Montana are the only players to win the NFL and Super Bowl MVP twice. #12 became the first Unanimous winner of the MVP award in 2010. (He got 49 of 50 1st place votes in 2007).  Has thrown for 39,979 yards, 300 touchdowns and 115 interceptions in the 161 NFL games (159 starts). In 22 playoff games, he has passed for 5285 yards with 38 TDs and 20 interceptions.  Among QBs with over 100 starts, Brady has the highest win percentage all time and he and Head Coach Bill Belichick have won an NFL  record 124 regular and 16 post season games in tandem.  The two have also set the standard for Super Bowl appearances at 5.  Before the 2011 season, the NFL Network polled players in the league to rank the top 100 players in the sport. #1? TOM BRADY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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