In a way, this is the easiest historical draft pick of the New England Patriots to select as the “best” for the position. Tom Brady was a sixth round draft pick—#199 overall—taking the job from a former number one overall pick and becoming the only quarterback in franchise history to win one, let alone three, Super Bowl championships. In addition to that, he set NFL single season records for touchdowns and led the team to the only undefeated 16 game season in NFL history. It would be hard to find a draft pick better than that on any team for any position.
That said, in the spirit of creating a lively debate, the question becomes: Who was the New England Patriots’ best draft pick at quarterback OTHER than Tom Brady?
The Patriots did not have a long track record of drafting quarterbacks. Multiple Super Bowl winning quarterback Jim Plunkett was drafted number one overall in the 1971 NFL Draft but his success took place after leaving New England. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton was drafted in the fifth round of the AFL Draft but never took a snap in New England, instead heading to the NFL. Number one overall pick Jack Concannon was a local hero from Boston College but spurned New England and the AFL for the NFL.
In the 1970s, the Patriots drafted quarterback Steve Grogan in the fifth round in 1975 and long-time backup Matt Cavanaugh in the second round in 1978. Grogan held the team passing records and was the primary starter for many years. While Cavanaugh went on to a long career as an offensive coach and coordinator, Grogan eventually shared the job with 1983 NFL Draft first round draft pick Tony Eason.
While Eason and Grogan led the Patriots to the Super Bowl, the pick of Eason is mostly remembered due to New England passing on Miami Dolphins’ legendary quarterback Dan Marino to pick Eason. After a number of disappointing quarterbacks (including drafting and trading Rich Gannon, who they tried to move to another position and who later went on to lead Oakland to the Super Bowl and win a regular season NFL MVP at quarterback), the Patriots found first overall pick of the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft arrived in New England.
Quarterback Drew Bledsoe arrived in New England as the hope of a dispirited fan base after many years of losing and controversy. Along with head coach Bill Parcells and new owner Robert Kraft, Bledsoe gave the team instant credibility. Year after year, the gunslinging quarterback with the big arm put up big numbers and led the team to respectability. After suffering an injury in Week 2 of 2001, Bledsoe lost his job to the upstart sixth round draft pick Tom Brady, and the rest is history.
In regards to the second best quarterback draft pick in New England Patriots NFL Draft history, it basically comes down to Steve Grogan and Drew Bledsoe. Grogan was the better draft value (fifth round pick) and remains a New England institution. He was respected for his mobility and toughness. However, with Bledsoe, the team gained instant respectability and for the first time in franchise history had a quarterback that was counted among the best in the NFL.
For fans of the Patriots who do not remember the dark days of the past, it seems difficult to imagine the Tom Brady-led Patriots as a franchise without a star quarterback. While Brady is the runaway winner of the best draft pick in franchise history, the second best pick at the quarterback position goes to quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Like this story? Read why the Pats need a new quarterback.