With the NFL inching celebrating its 100th season, football fans are feeling all sorts of nostalgia as the league celebrates a century’s worth of historic games, legendary players and numerous memorable moments.
Fans in New England have experienced the whole spectrum in the numerous decades the Patriots have spent as part of the NFL. Between incredible Super Bowl wins, crushing Super Bowl defeats, near-perfect seasons, and other years that fans wish they could forget, the team has seen it all.
Through all of that, the franchise has seem some all-time greats in NFL history don a red, white and blue uniform, with a wide-ranging cast of players that any franchise would scratch and claw to start their team with.
In honor of that, I talked to Patriots reporters and NFL writers from around the region to get their thoughts on one simple question: who they would pick to start their own franchise in a draft of all-time Patriots, knowing what they know now about each player?
However, just like any real NFL team, the 22 participants in this experiment had to be kept in order. In this case, that just so happened to be in the form of a random draft order.
Each reporter was forced to deal with their pick placement to find the diamond in the rough to start their team with, hoping those before them didn’t steal a Drew Bledsoe or Randy Moss right out from under them.
Without further adieu, here are the results of the 2019 New England Patriots All-Time Draft:
1. The Swing of Things’ Austin Bumpus selects: Quarterback Tom Brady
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I gave myself the number one pick. Unlike my fantasy football draft last year, I didn’t fall into the top spot out of randomness, as some may wish. This pick placement was by design as I looked to get Tom Brady off the board to make things more interesting for everyone else.
If you’re not hoping to take a six-time Super Bowl champion with countless postseason records and numerous MVP honors under his belt as the cornerstone for your franchise, then I’d likely question your ability to run a franchise in The Swing of Things’ Football League (SOTFL doesn’t have a nice ring to it, but it’ll catch on).
>>RELATED: Pick-Six: Tom Brady’s top career moments
2. Boston 25’s Butch Stearns selects: Offensive lineman John Hannah
“If I’m going to take an all-time Patriot to “start my franchise,” I want someone who is going to be in the debate for the greatest at his position. And John Hannah is not only the greatest at his position during his era, but he’s in the debate for the greatest at his position of all-time. I know guard isn’t traditionally considered as one of the most important positions on a football team, but Hannah was so good that he set a tempo and a tone for his entire offense.”
3. NESN’s Doug Kyed selects: Wide receiver Randy Moss
“It almost seems unfair to pick Moss, since he only was on the Patriots for three-and-a-half seasons, but he counts, right? With plenty of talented players left on the board, we liked Moss’ ability to completely dominate a defense and take over his offense. No NFL cornerback could keep up with Moss’ speed and compete with his size when he was at his prime.”
4. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe selects: Linebacker Andre Tippett
“I’m taking Andre Tippett because I’d want an all-time caliber pass rusher to lead the defense. As much as I considered Ty Law, Rob Gronkowski and Stanley Morgan, I felt like Tippett would be the greatest difference maker as a franchise starter.”
5. Yahoo! Sports’ Shalise Manza Young selects: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe
“For some, he’s seemingly become a footnote to history, the answer to a trivia question: Which quarterback’s injury led to Tom Brady become the New England Patriots’ starter? But Drew Bledsoe deserves better. The No. 1 pick in 1993, Bledsoe helped turn the Patriots’ fortunes, from also-ran franchise to postseason regular.”
6. CBS Boston’s Dan Roche selects: Tight end Rob Gronkowski
“I’ll take Rob Gronkowski with my pick. Arguably he’s the greatest tight end in NFL history. Could do it all: run blocking, pass catching, and relentless in the red zone.”
7. ESPN’s Mike Reiss selects: Cornerback Mike Haynes
“Shutdown corners are hard to find, and Haynes was also a dynamic return man. His excellence is reflected in his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Patriots Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame.”
8. Boston Herald’s Kevin Duffy selects: Cornerback Ty Law
“This is a tough one. Really wish Moss wasn’t off the board.
I’ll go Ty Law here. The four most important positions when starting a team are probably quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end, and cornerback. Law is the best player available at any of those positions. His competitiveness and longevity make him the pick for me.”
9. The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin selects: Defensive lineman Richard Seymour
“I’ll take Big Sey, Richard Seymour. He was an absolute menace on the defensive line and was one of the best in the NFL for nearly a decade. He’s probably the next Patriot to get inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
10. Boston 25’s Tom Leyden selects: Linebacker Willie McGinest
“During a time when the franchise had to start from square one, the Patriots started with Drew Bledsoe on offense and Willie McGinest on defense. He was everything you could have wanted in a linebacker – versatile, smart, instinctive and ferocious with a leadership ability you can’t coach.
Given my spot in the draft, Willie is my choice, though I also considered Matt Light, since you can’t go wrong with a left tackle, and Gino Capelletti, who represents a different era but was able to do so much for the Patriots of the AFL days and still ranks among the best players in franchise history.”
11. NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry selects: Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork
“This is tough. Give me Vince. I would’ve loved to go with Rodney Harrison. He is a game-changing player in any era. But Vince Wilfork’s longevity and high-end play — he was one of the best defensive players in the league at his peak — make him the best choice here. You could make the argument for guys like Darrelle Revis (or even Stephon Gilmore), who played more important positions and did it damn well for a season or two for the Patriots. But I like everything Wilfork brings to the table here, including his consistency over a long period.”
12. Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels selects: Running back Curtis Martin
“He’s a Hall-of-Fame running back who retired as the fourth leading rusher in NFL history. He would give a franchise a star player and his ability on the ground would hopefully help with the uncertainty at quarterback.”
13. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi selects: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo
“Who else? I think he can be a franchise quarterback. They aren’t easy to find. Lightning fast release, smart guy, natural leader. Just gotta stay healthy.”
14. NESN’s Zack Cox selects: Cornerback Darrelle Revis
“I know he only played one season in New England, but the chance to draft arguably the best corner of his generation is too good to pass up.”
15. CBS Boston’s Levan Reid selects: Tight end Ben Coates
“Before there was Gronk, the Pats had Coates, and he was the original bruising tight end for New England. Needed to be double teamed at all times and his catch radius was ridiculous. Great blocker and had a nose for the end zone.”
16. The Athletic’s Nick Underhill selects: Offensive lineman Bruce Armstrong
“Every quarterback needs his blind side protected. Armstrong was as good as anyone at the task. He made six Pro Bowls, with his career ending right before things started getting good here.”
17. WEEI’s Ryan Hannable selects: Wide receiver Wes Welker
“Some people forget just how good Welker was with the Patriots. The slot receiver had five, 1,000-yard seasons totaling 7,459 yards, which are the third-most receiving yards in Patriots franchise history. Also, he has the five best seasons in franchise history in terms of receptions with his best being 123 in 2009. While building a team around a slot receiver isn’t the greatest idea, Welker is the exception.”
18. Patriots PA announcer and WEEI contributor John Rooke selects: Running back Sam Cunningham
“My answer’s very easy. The first person I’m going to start with has got to be an offensive player. I would’ve looked at Tom Brady, Curtis Martin, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski. I would’ve looked at all those guys because, like trying to build a fantasy team, you need guys who can score points.
To me, the best running back that I ever saw, during his time in New England, was Curtis Martin. Short of that, another guy that I thought was really good before he got hurt was John Stevens. He’d be another guy, in his prime, I may have thought about.
I’ll go with Sam “Bam” Cunningham. He was a part of a Patriots team that still has the record for single-season rushing yardage by an NFL team, so I’ll take that.”
19. MassLive’s Andrew Callahan selects: Linebacker Tedy Bruschi
“A relentless playmaker, Bruschi impacted both the run and pass at a high level, while bringing necessary leadership to the middle of New England’s all-time best defenses.”
20. CLNS Media’s Alex Barth selects: Safety Rodney Harrison
“The fact they made it to me without anybody asking if Bill Belichick is draft eligible is a little surprising, but since I’m told he’s not, I’m going to go with Rodney Harrison. Some people would say it would make more sense to go with a higher-impact position, such as a left tackle like Matt Light, but as was talked about plenty during his Patriots Hall Of Fame induction, Harrison is a franchise-cornerstone kind of guy both on and off the field.
On defense, he gives you a high football IQ guy on the back end who can facilitate communication and set the tone physically. He is also a tremendous tone-setter and leader in the locker room and on the practice field. On top of all of it, his clutch gene and ability to elevate himself in big games rivals the best the NFL has ever seen from a defensive player. In these ‘who would you start a team with’ arguments, I often imagine that your first pick is going to set the identity and mindset of your team, and in that case I can think of no better way to start my roster than with Rodney Harrison.”
21. CBS Boston’s Michael Hurley selects: Offensive lineman Logan Mankins
“The fact that Logan Mankins spent nine years with the Patriots but somehow didn’t win a Super Bowl will go down as one of the great sports injustices of all time. The man redefined the word “toughness,” playing on a torn ACL for an entire season – a year that stretched all the way through the Super Bowl. He played in that Super Bowl after tearing his MCL in his other knee in the divisional round. He was, of course, more than just tough. He was damn good. Seven Pro Bowls, a First-Team All-Pro, and five Second Team All-Pro spots show that he was among the very best linemen in the game during his career. He is without question the best Patriot of the Belichick era to lack a Lombardi.”
22. The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride selects: Quarterback Steve Grogan
“Patriots Hall of Fame quarterback was as tough as nails — who doesn’t love a quarterback the wore a neck roll? Grogan would stand in the pocket until the last split second to make the throws. He was loved by his teammates for his leadership and toughness. He also rushed for more than 2,000 yards and his career and was a master at the bootleg fake. Also, his deep spirals to Stanley Morgan were beautiful.”
Follow Jim McBride on Twitter @GlobeJimMcBride