The Patriots have had their fair share of awful draft picks over Bill Belichick's time. Missing on multiple first-rounders and often just trading down or out of the draft entirely. However, poor drafting has not led to a lack of success. The Patriots do an incredible job of scouting players that project to go undrafted. Recently this has been their top advantage over other teams. Bill keeps finding these impact players when no one else can. Considering how poor they evaluate early-round talents, this is surprising. Here are some of the undrafted rookies over the past handful of seasons and their achievements.
J.C. Jackson is only in his third season and is on the Pro Bowl ballot (Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
To start, let's talk about the undrafted Malcolm Butler. He is no longer with the team, but he will be remembered in New England as a Super Bowl hero forever. His goal-line interception got him his elite status. His consistent play kept him there. Butler slipped off most scout's radar due to his lack of agility. He was not the fastest, the strongest, or the quickest. However, Butler could play cornerback and go one on one with the best receivers in the league. Malcolm had multiple great years with the Patriots and will go down as the best player that we got from that 2014 class. Our best picks in that draft were James White in the fourth round and Jimmy Garappolo in the second round, who are both solid NFL players, but neither reached the heights of Malcolm Butler.
While Butler may be the highlight, two other cornerbacks, not selected on draft night, have proven to be valuable assets. Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson are both current day corners for the Patriots and were in this group. Evaluators felt J.C. and Jonathan could not play corner at the NFL level. They must love proving those scouts wrong because week in and week out, Jackson and Jones are part of the best secondary in the league. J.C. currently leads the league in interceptions with a mind-boggling seven on the year. Jones has been slot corner, which allows Gilmore and Jackson to handle the duties outside the numbers.
Undrafted Rookie JJ Taylor (Photo By: JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)
The offense has had its fair share of talent taken after the draft as well. Jakobi Meyers, the Patriot's number one receiver with Edelman out, has led the team in receiving yards per game and receptions. He was signed after last years draft with another second year stand out player for the special teams, Gunnar Olszewski. Both players have brought a lot to the table this season. Many people may forget about fullback Jakob Johnson, but just like the rest of these guys, he has been vital in making this running game top five in the NFL. He has a knack for creating holes and lead blocking that the team missed without James Devlin, who also happened to be an undrafted player.
This season, like every other, the Patriots got a couple of incredible players off the board as well. They have not all made their mark yet, but soon they will. In the Thursday Night Football game against the Los Angeles Rams, undrafted rookie Myles Bryant got an incredible interception rolling over and ripping the ball out of the Rams receiver's hands. A standout play in a game where the Patriots could not get anything going. A couple of weeks prior, when the Patriots were still figuring out their running game, undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor stepped up. He may be only 5'6", but this short king can sure fly. On 16 attempts, he's run a very efficient 4.4 yards per carry for a total of 70 yards. The Pats have been stealing guys like this for years. Over the next few seasons, these guys will develop into the great talents as they always end up being.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan