Commentary

How the 2011 Patriots were built

Roster breakdown shows this team is heavy on second-rounders, young draftees

Updated: February 1, 2012, 12:31 PM ET
By Mike Rodak | ESPNBoston.com

In 2010, the Patriots turned a page by adding 12 players through the draft, including six picks in the first four rounds. It was arguably the best draft in the Bill Belichick era, and set the tone for the retooling of the roster that has taken place since the 2009 season. Of the 65 players on the active roster or injured reserve, 39 players, or 60 percent, joined the team in the past two seasons.

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
David Butler II/US PresswireRob Gronkowski is one of 11 second-round picks on the Patriots and among 14 players on the roster drafted over the last two years.

As a whole, this is a Patriots team built primarily through the draft. Nearly half of the team (30 players, or 46 percent of the roster) are New England draft selections, including 14 over the past two seasons. By contrast, only 13 players on the entire roster were acquired as unrestricted free agents, including several in-season pickups such as running back Danny Woodhead (2010) and defensive back Nate Jones (2011).

Of the 11 first-round draft picks of the Belichick era, five are still on the roster, including two offensive linemen (Logan Mankins, Nate Solder) and one defensive lineman (Vince Wilfork). However, there are 11 second-round selections still on the roster, and despite recent second-round busts such as Chad Jackson and Darius Butler no longer being in New England, the second round remains the bread and butter of Belichick drafts. Offensive lineman Matt Light, tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Brandon Spikes, wide receiver Deion Branch and safety Patrick Chung are all part of this group.

However, no third-round selections before 2011 remain on the team, while only three fourth-round picks -- tight end Aaron Hernandez, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and guard Rich Ohrnberger (on injured reserve) -- are still with the team.

Supplementing the large influx of draft picks over recent seasons are 11 players (17 percent of the roster) who were signed by the Patriots as undrafted free agents. This includes running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, reserve offensive lineman Ryan Wendell and defensive lineman Kyle Love. As effective as the practice squad has been for the Patriots in filling in-season holes, only four players on the current roster originally joined the Patriots through their practice squad (beginning their careers elsewhere). Among this group are two starters -- cornerback Kyle Arrington and center Dan Connolly -- as well as rookie Sterling Moore.

Here's a look at how each player on the 2011 Patriots was acquired:

Mike Rodak covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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