Worst Patriots Draft Picks of the Bill Belichick Era

Cyrus Jones
Cyrus Jones / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

The 2023 NFL Draft is quickly approaching. This means, among other things, that Bill Belichick gets to try his hand at drafting again. The legendary head coach has had... mixed success in that area. In fact his rate of failure in this department is significantly higher than in all his other football-related endeavors. That is part of why it's so notable. Belichick has also presided over more drafts than any GM in the league, making this one of those situations where his longevity works against him. Paired with the nature of the draft in that it is very difficult to find good players, the failures pile up when enough picks have been made.

With all the caveats now made about drafting being really hard, it is still objectively funny to look back on some of Belichick's biggest whiffs. Even the most brilliant football mind ever can get things very, very, very wrong! It makes us all feel a little bit better, and who doesn't like to point and laugh at Billy B after his eight Super Bowl victories? It's cathartic.

A note before we do just that-- everybody has a different definition of a "bust," but generally speaking in the draft a bust has to be drafted in the first or second round because there are actually high expectations for those players. Teams are glad to get any production at all from their picks starting in Round 3 and if they never produce nobody really cares. So when we look at the worst picks Belichick has ever made, we are not going to include the kicker he took in the fifth round who never got off the practice squad (although Justin Rohrwasser was indeed a terrible pick) or the fourth-round linebacker who ended up in a different uniform after one season. Instead we will highlight the legitimately damaging misses, the sort of picks that will haunt Belichick's perfectionist mind forever. Since busts also usually take some time to marinate the picks are all from 2019 or earlier as it would be unfair to declare anyone who has played (at most) three NFL seasons a bust at this point in time.

So, without further ado, here are the 10 worst picks of the Bill Belichick era for the New England Patriots.

Dominique Easley (2014, 29th Overall)

Tyrod Taylor, Dominique Easley
Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots / Jim Rogash/GettyImages

Easley was not a bust because he was inept at the game of football but rather because he had very well-documented injury issues that the Patriots simply chose to ignore and it burned them. He tore his ACL twice in college and Belichick apparently believed that wouldn't be a problem at the professional level, which was incorrect. Easley suited up for 22 games in his first two years as a Patriot, ending both seasons on the injured reserve before getting cut in 2016.

If New England took this risk in the second round it would've stung less. But they went with the first round and could've ended up with a five-year contributor on the defensive line like DeMarcus Lawrence (selected five picks later). Instead they got a guy who couldn't get over his injuries and was out of town before Year 3.

Chad Jackson (2006, 36th Overall)

Chad Jackson, Quintin Demps
Chad Jackson / Drew Hallowell/GettyImages

If future football historians are searching for the exact moment Belichick forgot how to draft wide receivers, the Chad Jackson pick in 2006 seems like the answer. In the five drafts Belichick presided over leading into the '06 affair, he had only selected three receivers-- Deion Branch, David Givens, and Bethel Johnson. The first two worked out far better than anybody could've ever hoped and Johnson was a solid return man for a while (which is why he is not on this list). Jackson was the first true receiver bust Belichick ever suffered.

The Florida product was extremely productive at the collegiate level and ran a 4.3 40-yard dash at the Combine, so you can see why the Patriots were enticed. In fact, they even traded up to get him-- a foreign concept now that we have more of a track record for Belichick's drafting tendencies. Jackson just never put it together thanks to a rash of injuries suffered over his first two years as he totaled all of 14 catches for 171 yards in a Patriots uniform.

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Duke Dawson (2018, 56th Overall)

Duke Dawson Jr.
Duke Dawson / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

This cornerback from Florida was a fairly hyped high second-rounder who flopped hard. Dawson, a great college corner, hurt his hamstring early in his rookie season and was put on the IR until November. He was a healthy scratch for the rest of the season. Next August, one year and four months after Dawson was selected by the Patriots, he was traded to the Denver Broncos.

It is really quite rare for a top-60 pick to never suit up for the team that picked him without some kind of extreme injury or circumstance. As far as we know, Dawson didn't have some debilitating behind-the-scenes issue. He was just so bad Belichick never trusted him to be part of the active roster. Dawson is now a member of the Steelers and boasts two passes defended to his name as his career highlight.

Ras-I Dowling (2014, 33rd Overall)

Ras-I Dowling, Kendall Wright
New England Patriots v Tennessee Titans / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

Dowling had absolutely nothing going for him as a football player other than having a sick name. The highest second-round pick Belichick has ever had to work with went completely to waste as Dowling never made it through a complete season in a Pats uniform due to injury. In total he suited up for all of nine games in New England.

The top of the second round is considered a great spot to find players who should've gone in the first round and Belichick managed to find the guy who shouldn't have been picked at all. He was probably blinded by the excellent football name that was Ras-I Dowling. Or he was just a big fan of Ra's al Ghul.

Isaiah Wynn (2018, 23rd Overall)

Isaiah Wynn, Mac Jones
New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Unlike a few of his counterparts on this list, Wynn actually made it to the end of his rookie deal, which is a point in his favor. Things are not great otherwise. Wynn had exactly one good season out of five in New England; he dealt with injuries every year but 2021 and was terrible when trying to fight through those injuries.

The fact that Wynn has one quality year of play elevates him above most of this list but Belichick picking a tackle in the mid-first round and getting only one season of production out of him is a bad use of draft assets. Wynn is undeniably a bust and ranks higher than most here due to the importance of the position he plays and where he was drafted.

Aaron Dobson (2013, 59th Overall)

Tom Brady, Aaron Dobson
Aaron Dobson / Streeter Lecka/GettyImages

Dobson's career stats are not horrible in a vacuum (53 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns in 24 games played) but they aren't good for a second-round pick. Moreover, he garnered the nickname "Dropson" for a reason, recording a 54.1 percent catch rate as a pro, and basically disappeared after his rookie season.

One year of below average production is not what the Pats were hoping for and certainly qualifies Dobson as a bust. As with many of the picks on this list the Dobson selection looks a lot worse with the benefit of hindsight as he went before Travis Kelce and Keenan Allen.

Cyrus Jones (2016, 60th Overall)

Cyrus Jones, Patrick Chung, Breshad Perriman, Breshad Perriman, Patrick Chung, Cyrus Jones
Cyrus Jones / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

This is a pretty classic Belichick pick in every sense. Jones went way higher than expected and comes from Alabama, where Friend of the Patriots Nick Saban works. Jones then was unable to make a positive impact in any way and in fact was overall a net negative as a Patriot given his case of butterfingers he suddenly came down with after turning pro; Jones fumbled five times as a rookie and once more in his third season before he was unceremoniously dumped on the Baltimore Ravens.

This was not the first time Belichick used premium draft capital to pick a guy he wanted to play special teams but this is when it worked out the worst for the Patriots.

Jordan Richards (2015, 64th Overall)

Jordan Richards, Tyrod Taylor
Jordan Richards / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages

Jordan Richards, to me, is the ultimate Bad Belichick Draft Pick. His selection came out of absolutely nowhere and baffled pretty much everybody watching. Most analysts had him going late on Day 3 if he got drafted at all as a smart safety who lacked size, athleticism, and every other physical intangible you'd want. Belichick said screw it and drafted him anyway. The Stanford product then became a below-average special team contributor before getting thrown into Super Bowl LII thanks to the unexpected benching of Malcolm Butler. Richards got burnt to a crisp and was never heard from again.

The Richards pick was of the few instances in Belichick's coaching career where literally everybody thought "Huh, that seems like a mistake" and they were all correct. Not quite as damaging as these other picks given where Richards was selected but an all-time bust of a choice from Belichick.

Terrence Wheatley (2008, 62nd Overall)

Devery Henderson
New England Patriots v New Orleans Saints / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

Wheatley battled through injury during his college career to earn two First-Team All-Big 12 and a second-round selection by the Patriots. Unfortunately his injury problem never went away. Wheatley only managed to get on the field for less than half of his rookie season before hitting the IR. In his second year he made it a few weeks further before getting sidelined again.

He lasted all of 11 games in a Patriots uniform total before he got cut and has the honor of boasting the lowest career stats out of everybody on this list-- two passes defended and four tackles. Total. From a second-round pick. Not great, Bill!

N'Keal Harry (2019, 31st Overall)

Tom Brady, N'Keal Harry
N'Keal Harry / Kathryn Riley/GettyImages

The most infamous of Belichick's recent whiffs, Harry ranks among the greatest busts in franchise history for several reasons. There's his draft position, going in the first round and getting traded before his fourth year under contract. There's his actual play-- over his three years in New England, Harry averaged 19 catches and 200 yards per season. And then there's the context of this pick, the most damning of all.

It came in 2019 as the Patriots were trying to convince Tom Brady to stick around. The core that had just won the Super Bowl was pretty much washed and everyone knew it. Belichick needed to nail this draft to give the franchise legend one last run at a championship. He very well might've done it if he had picked AJ Brown or Deebo Samuel or DK Metcalf, all of whom were available at that slot. Instead he went with Harry, who would do nothing of note with the team and effectively act as the final nail in the coffin on the Brady era of the Patriots.