By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The New England Patriots are taking one hell of a gamble on Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Well, the gamble is on the person and the person alone, as the Patriots acquired the 27-year-old Gordon for a mere conditional fifth-round choice in 2019. That pick only leaves the Patriots’ hands should the 6-foot-3 Gordon, who has missed 55 of his last 61 games, dress for at least 10 of New England’s 14 remaining games in 2018. If he does not, it’s the Patriots that will actually gain an asset, actually, by way of a seventh-round selection sent to Foxboro from the Browns.
And if history has told you anything, it’s that the Patriots really aren’t overextending themselves for Gordon. At all.
In 2018, the Patriots used their fifth-round draft pick on linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley.
That, at least through one summer and two regular season contests, seems like a good move on their part.
But Bentley’s drafting ended a stretch that saw the Patriots trade their fifth-round pick (and more) in back-to-back years.
In 2017, the pick was traded to Kansas City for tight end James O’Shaughnessy. Seemingly buried on the Patriots’ tight end depth chart, O’Shaughnessy failed to make New England’s roster out of training camp, and was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars. So, they effectively got absolutely nothing out of that trade. The Patriots had previously traded a fifth-round pick in that draft to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for linebacker Barkevious Mingo, too. Mingo would play in 16 games for the Patriots, but recorded just four tackles as a Patriot. The year before that, Belichick moved the team’s fifth-round pick to Seattle in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round draft pick and fourth-round selection in 2017. Those picks were used to select wide receiver Devin Lucien in the seventh round, and Deatrich Wise Jr. in the fourth round the following year.
Barring some sort of unlikely breakthrough from Lucien, Wise is the only keeper to emerge from that group.
The Patriots had two fifth-round selections in 2015, and used those on Joe Cardona and Matthew Wells. Cardona has found a home in New England as the club’s preferred long snapper, and recently inked a four-year extension with the Patriots. Wells, meanwhile, was flipped to the Chicago Bears for Ryan Groy shortly after being drafted. Groy was waived by the Patriots out of training camp that same summer, and Wells currently plays in the Canadian Football League.
But a three-year stretch from 2011 through 2014 is where the Gordon comparables get actually interesting.
In 2013, the Patriots swung a trade for then-Eagles defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga in exchange for their fifth-round pick in 2014. That trade came as a result of the Patriots losing Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly to injury, and after a game in which the Dolphins gashed the Patriot run defense for over 150 yards on the ground.
Sopoaga never quite found his footing with the Patriots, though, and had just one tackle in six games in town.
The Patriots also moved a 2013 fifth-round pick for Albert Haynesworth. An overpaid disaster in Washington, Haynesworth was most of Belichick’s most controversial pickups, and — shockingly — it did not pan out. Haynesworth was rarely seen on the field (practice or playing), and his time in town ended after just three months of an attempted reinvent.
The Patriots also moved their 2012 fifth-round pick that same summer with their acquisition of Chad Ochocinco. The 6-foot-1 Ochocinco tried his best, but was a nightmarish fit with the Patriot offense, and finished his lone season with the Patriots with career-lows in catches (15), receiving yards (276), and touchdowns (one). It would be the final season of his NFL career.
The Patriots seemingly went 0-for-3 on these attempted low-risk, high-reward plays.
Then again, that’s exactly what you’d consider fifth-round draft picks.
Considering the small sample on Bentley and your inability to truly evaluate what the Patriots have right now, you have to go all the way back to 2011 to find the last time the Patriots drafted a fifth-rounder of any legitimate significance. That was with the selection of offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, though 93-game NFL veteran tight end Lee Smith was also drafted by the Patriots in that fifth round (Smith failed to play a single game for the Patriots). Go beyond that and you’ll see that six of the last 13 players the Patriots have drafted went on to play fewer than 11 games in the NFL.
Meaning the risk of losing a fifth-rounder for 10 games of the ultra-talented Gordon is a deal the Pats do every day of the week.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.