|Vote: Who was the best fourth-round pick in Patriots history?||04.11.11 at 12:26 am ET|
With the NFL draft on the horizon, we’re going to look back at the Patriots’ best draft picks by round, with the four best selections the franchise has made in each round. We’ve already put the eighth, seventh, sixth and fifth rounders under the microscope. Today, we’ve got the fourth rounders, a group that includes three impact players and another that went on to bigger and better things with another franchise. In all, nine Pro Bowl appearances and an MVP award highlight this group. Vote for your favorite:
Aaron Hernandez: 2010, 113th overall. Listed as a tight end but playing more like a wide receiver, this rookie was a matchup nightmare in his first season in the NFL. A Florida product, he ended the 2010 season with 45 catches for 563 yards and six touchdowns. He was occasionally overshadowed by his fellow rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, but Hernandez made a tremendous impact in his first full season in the league, and figures to have an even bigger role in the offense going forward.
Stephen Gostkowski: 2006, 118th overall. Charged with unenviable prospect of replacing the legendary Adam Vinatieri, the Memphis product has become one of the best young kickers in the NFL, reaching the Pro Bowl in 2008 and notching first-team All-Pro status to boot. Gostkowski has hit 113-of-134 career field goal attempts, and his 84.3 percent accuracy rate is the highest in Patriots history and sixth-best in NFL history.
Asante Samuel: 2003, 120th overall. The Central Florida product saw plenty of action his first two seasons, but became a full-time starter in 2005 and soon evolved into one of the most feared corners in the league, picking off a combined 16 passes in 2007 and 2008. However, his lasting legacy with the Patriots may be the way things ended for him in New England — a potential game-ending interception at the end of Super Bowl XLII went through his hands. And in the following offseason, hours into free agency, he signed a big deal with the Eagles. (As a side note, it’s hard to believe that Dan Klecko was taken three spots in front of Samuel at No. 117.)
Rich Gannon: 1987, 98th overall. The Delaware product was selected by the Patriots in 1987. But after a conversation with coaches who said he might work out better at a different position, he made it clear in no uncertain terms he was not interested in doing anything other than playing quarterback. That led to a trade to Minnesota just days after the draft. Gannon’s faith in himself would be well-founded — he played 17 seasons in the NFL and ended up passing for 28,743 yards. A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, he was the NFL MVP in 2002.
Just missing the cut: Jarvis Green, (2002, 126th overall); Scott Zolak (1991, 84th overall); Johnny Rembert (1983, 101st overall); Don Blackmon (1981, 102nd overall).
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