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Mac Jones trade further highlights a brutal Patriots draft trend

Mac Jones trade further highlights a brutal Patriots draft trend originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has said himself that the most successful NFL teams are built through the draft. So, perhaps it's no surprise that New England's recent struggles have correlated with a very spotty NFL Draft track record -- particularly at the top.

Mac Jones is the latest major draft investment who didn't pan out in Foxboro, as the Patriots reportedly are trading the 2021 first-round quarterback to the Jacksonville Jaguars for an expected sixth-round pick.

Jones was expected to be New England's QB of the future when the team drafted him 15th overall out of Alabama in 2021; instead, he regressed in back-to-back seasons after a strong rookie campaign and was benched in favor of backup Bailey Zappe in 2023.

Jones is far from the Patriots' only high-profile draft miss in recent years, however. In fact, New England is batting well under .500 in the last five drafts when it comes to Day 1 and Day 2 picks.

Of the 18 players the Patriots have selected in Round 1, 2 or 3 of the last five drafts (2019 through 2023), only seven are still on the active roster. And as of Monday, Christian Barmore is the only Day 1 or 2 pick from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 drafts who is still with the team.

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New England's track record could improve slightly if safety Kyle Dugger, who is currently on the transition tag, decides to stay in Foxboro, or if pending free agents Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche re-sign with the team in free agency. But that's still shockingly little return on the Patriots' premium draft assets over a five-year span.

The first round in particular has been very hit-or miss in New England. Here's a look at the team's eight first round picks over the past decade (since 2014):

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To be fair, only two of these picks are inside the top 20, and Gonzalez appears to have potential as a No. 1 cornerback. But it's still remarkable that none of these first-rounders played past their second contract in New England, with N'Keal Harry and Jones both being traded for pennies on the dollar (a seventh-round pick and a sixth-round pick, respectively.

With that context, it's no wonder the Patriots have gone 29-38 with just one postseason appearance in the last four seasons. And this track record surely factored into New England's decision to part ways with head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick, who had final say on all draft selections.

Now it's up to new head of personnel Eliot Wolf to reverse this trend, and he has a golden opportunity to do so: The Patriots own the No. 3 pick (their highest since 1993) and three picks inside the top 70 of the 2024 NFL Draft.