Tom Brady (sixth round pick #199)
They're not the super star first round picks, or even highly touted second rounders. The majority of the 2011 Patriots roster is a band of brothers who weren't considered among the best. Yet, this rag tag bunch has managed to make it to the Super Bowl. Kevin Saleeba takes a closer look at how the Patriots team came to be.
How the 2011 Patriots Were Built
By Kevin Saleeba
Feb 4, 2012
Unheralded is a good term to
describe the 2011 AFC Champion New England Patriots.
The Patriots were not built
with a majority of highly touted first round picks or high priced free
agents. In fact, more than half the roster, 28 to be exact,
are undrafted free agents or cast-offs from other teams and the
majority of these players helped the Patriots get to the Super Bowl.
“Guys like that who weren’t
drafted or were signed off the street,” explained Patriots coach Bill
Belichick during one of this week’s Super Bowl XLVI press conferences.
“Whatever they’ve gotten, they’ve earned.”
Some of the key contributors
include players like linebacker Rob Ninkovich, a former Saints fifth
round pick, was signed as a free agent in 2009; running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2008, who was an undrafted free agent; and running
back/kickoff returner Danny Woodhead was signed after the Jets cut him
out of 2010 training camp.
The Patriots have only five
players on the active roster who were first round draft picks and nine
second round picks. The rest of the drafted players include two
selected in the third round, two in the fourth, four in the fifth, one
in the sixth, and three in the seventh round.
“It doesn’t matter if you were
drafted in the second round, the fifth round, or not drafted at all,”
said Belichick. “Ten years in the league, one year in the league, we
are going to play the best players.
“One thing we tell all of the players at the beginning of the year,” he
said. “I don’t care how you got here; it’s what you do when you get
here. They did it better than someone else. That’s why they got the
opportunity. Whoever keeps doing it the best; is going to play more.”
the Patriots Were Built
Running back Kevin Faulk was selected in the second round (46th
overall). Started three out of seven games this season with 17 rushes
for 57 yards and caught seven passes for 34 yards.
Quarterback Tom Brady was selected in the sixth round (199th overall).
Finished 2011 with 5,235 yards passing and 39 touchdown passes for 300
in his career. He was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl.
Offensive Tackle Matt Light was selected in the second round (48th
overall). He started all 16 regular season games and two playoff games
at left tackle in 2011.
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was selected in the first round (21st
overall). He started all 16 games and made 74 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and
two interceptions and one touchdown on a fumble recovery this season.
Offensive guard Logan Mankins was selected in the first round (32nd
overall). Was selected All-Pro second team this season after starting
15 games and two playoff games at left guard.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was selected in the fourth round (118th
overall). He hit 28 out of 33 field goals and was perfect on extra
points for 143 points this season.
Receiver Wes Welker was acquired from a trade with Miami for a second
and seventh round draft picks. He earned his fourth consecutive Pro
Bowl selection this season after leading the league with 122 receptions.
Offensive lineman Dan Connolly was signed to the practice squad on
Sept. 12 as a free agent after being released by the Jaguars. Started
11 out of 13 games on the offensive line in 2011 and saw action at both
guard and center.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo was selected in the first round (10th overall).
He led the team in tackles for the fourth consecutive year with 103
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was signed as an undrafted free
agent on May 2. He had 11 rushing touchdowns in 2011.
Receiver Matthew Slater was selected in the fifth round (153rd
overall). He was selected to his first career Pro Bowl as a special
teamer this season with 17 special teams tackles.
Linebacker Gary Guyton was signed as an undrafted free agent on May 2.
He started six of 13 games with 46 tackles this season.
Offensive lineman Ryan Wendell was signed as an undrafted free agent on
May 2. He played in 14 games this season, starting two games at center
and one game at left guard.
Safety Patrick Chung was selected in the second round (34th overall).
Played in eight games due to injury and had 67 tackles and one sack
this season. He also had five tackles in the AFC title game.
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich was signed as a free agent after being
released by New Orleans. He started all 16 games with 62 tackles, 6.5
sacks, and an interception return for a touchdown in 2011.
Cornerback Kyle Arrington was signed as a free agent to the practice
squad on Sept. 9 after being released by Tampa Bay. He was added to the
53-man roster on Nov. 8. He tied for the league lead with seven
interceptions this season.
Defensive lineman Ron Brace was selected in the second round (40th
overall). He played in seven games with three tackles and a forced
fumble this season.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer was signed as an undrafted free agent on April
30. He was active in all 16 games as Brady’s backup and saw action in
three games with one completion for 22 yards.
Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was selected in the second round (58th
overall). He played in six games, starting five at right tackle in 2011.
Receiver Julian Edelman was selected in the seventh round (232nd
overall). He played on offense, defense, and special teams all
throughout 2011. He had 14 tackles, five special team tackles, 28 punt
returns, 12 kickoff returns, four receptions, and four rushes.
Defensive back Devin McCourty was selected in the first round (27th
overall). Played at both corner and safety and had 94 tackles and two
Running back Danny Woodhead was signed as a free agent on Sept. 18
after being released by the Jets. He rushed for 351 yards on 77 carries
(4.6 avg.) and a touchdown this season.
Safety Sergio Brown was sign by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent
on April 29. He played in 15 games and two playoff games this season
and made 30 tackles and nine tackles special teams.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski was selected in the second round (42nd
overall). Set an NFL tight end record with 1,327 yards and 17
Receiver Deion Branch was acquired in a trade with Seattle for a fourth
round pick. He was originally drafted by the Patriots in the second
round (65th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft. He had 51 catches for 702
yards and five touchdowns this season, including a 61-yard touchdown
reception in the Divisional round of the playoffs against Denver.
Linebacker Dane Fletcher was signed as an undrafted free agent on April
29. In 10 games, he recorded 37 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble
recovery, and five special teams tackles this season.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes was selected in the second round (62nd
overall). He started eight games with 47 tackles. He also had an
interception in the AFC title game.
Linebacker Tracy White was acquired on Sept. 5 from a trade with
Philadelphia for future draft considerations. He played in 15 games,
including one start, with 14 tackles.
Defensive lineman Kyle Love was signed as an undrafted free agent on
April 29. He started 13 of 16 games with four sacks and 55 tackles in
Tight end Aaron Hernandez was selected in the fourth round (113th
overall). He caught 79 passes in 2011 for 910 yards and seven
Punter Zoltan Mesko was selected in the fifth round (150th overall). He
became the Patriots all-time leader in punting average (44.8) in 2011.
Defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick was selected in the seventh round
(247th overall). Started five of 10 games this season and had 20
tackles and two sacks.
Defensive lineman Gerard Warren was signed as a free agent on April 24
after being released by Oakland. He was originally selected in the
first round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He played in
12 games with 16 tackles and one sack in 2011.
Offensive lineman Nate Solder was selected in the first round (17th
overall). He played in all 16 games starting 11 at right tackle and two
at tight end.
Linebacker Mark Anderson was signed as a free agent on Aug. 5. He
recorded his second career 10 sack season in his first season with the
Patriots, including a sack in the AFC title game.
Long snapper Danny Aiken was claimed off waivers from Buffalo on Sept.
4. He played all 16 games this season including both playoff games.
Defensive back Sterling Moore was signed to the practice squad on Oct.
5 after being released by Oakland. He was added to the 53-man roster on
Dec. 23. He made two game saving pass defenses in the last drive of the
AFC title game. He played in six games in 2011. He also had two
interceptions this season.
Running back Shane Vereen was in the second round (56th overall). He
played in five games with 15 rushes for 57 yards and one touchdown this
Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis was signed as a free agent from the Jets
on Aug. 8. Originally a first round pick of the Jets (12th overall), a
compensation pick from the Patriots in exchange for signing Bill
Belichick as head coach away from the Jets in 2000. He started 10 of 14
games with 18 tackles, one sack, and three quarterback hits this
season. He also had a sack in the Divisional round of the playoffs
Receiver Chad Ochocinco was acquired on July 29 following a trade with
Cincinnati for an undisclosed draft pick. He had 15 catches for 276
yards and a touchdown.
Running back Stevan Ridley was selected in the third round (73rd
overall). He rushed the ball 87 times for 441 yards and one touchdown
Safety James Ihedigbo was signed as a free agent on Aug. 19 from the
Jets. He started 12 of 16 games with 72 tackles (50 solo) in 2011.
Cornerback Antwaun Molden was claimed off waivers on Sept. 1 after
being released Houston. He had 28 tackles and two interceptions in 16
games in 2011.
Quarterback Ryan Mallett was selected in the third round (74th
overall). Was active, but did not play for one game this season.
Defensive back Nate Jones was signed as a free agent on Nov. 30 after
being released from Dallas. Played in five games with one start and had
Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon was selected in the fifth round (138th
overall). He played in seven games this season on the offensive line
and on special teams.
Linebacker Niko Koutouvides signed as a free agent on Aug. 14 from
Tampa Bay. He played in eight games, including one start with eight
tackles and nine tackles on special teams.
Defensive back Malcolm Williams was selected in the seventh round
(219th overall). He played in two games with one special teams tackle.
Center Nick McDonald was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 5 after
being released by Green Bay. He was added to the 53-man roster on Dec.
3. He started two of four games at center in 2011.
Fullback Lousaka Polite was signed as a free agent on Dec. 27. Saw
action in both playoff games this season.
Offensive lineman Donald Thomas was signed as a free agent on December
14 after being released by Detroit. He played in 10 games, including
one start at left tackle.
Receiver Tiquan Underwood was signed as a free agent on Aug. 29 after
being released by Jacksonville. He played in five games and caught
three passes for 30 yards.
Right guard Brian Waters was signed as a free agent on Sept. 4 after
being released by Kansas City. He was selected to his sixth Pro Bowl
during his first season in New England. He started all 16 games at
right guard this season.
“Obviously, those guys all have talent,” Belichick said about his
players. “But I would say they work hard. They are dependable. In the
end, that is what you want from a football player. You want somebody
you can count on. Those guys have proven over time that we can count on
them. They are on the team, and they are a productive group.”
Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots
Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive
knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your
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