The Patriots found a way last decade to avoid ever becoming a rebuilding team and simply reloading when they needed to. April's draft has recently become the reason for their continued success with home-grown talent all over the field in 2010.
When the Pats decided to send RB Laurence Maroney to the Broncos, they got a fourth-round pick in return. In the 2011 NFL draft, the Pats will have two first-round picks (one from Oakland), two second-round picks (one from Carolina), a third-round pick and two fourth-round picks.
The reloading continues.
Six of their 2010 draft picks have been significant contributors so far this season. CB Devin McCourty is starting after CB Leigh Bodden landed on injured reserve. McCourty was on the field for every play in the Patriots' season opener.
TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have been on the field often, and not just to block. Both have been utilized as receivers, with Hernandez leading the team in receiving in Week Two and Gronkowski hauling in a TD reception in Week One.
OLB Jermaine Cunningham seems to have recovered from his ankle injury, and he played well in the Week Two game against the Jets. The Patriots expect him to be the edge-setter for the future. ILB Brandon Spikes, Cunningham's college teammate and fellow second-round pick in 2010, has been starting and making his presence felt in the middle of the defense. Starting P Zoltan Mesko was a fifth-round pick in 2010 and has been great in his first two games.
The '09 draft, in which the Patriots did not have a first-round pick because of "Spygate," did not fail in reloading the squad. CB Darius Butler, SS Patrick Chung, ORT Sebastian Vollmer, DRE Ron Brace, DL Myron Pryor and WRs Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman are all products of that draft.
The Patriots are starting to have the look of a college team that has the ability to redshirt a great recruiting class only to unveil their skill to the league the next season. But this year, the Patriots' rookies are so good they have been starting or seeing significant action. Of their 22 starters in Week Two, seven of them were products of the last two drafts.
While the Patriots' average age is the oldest in the AFC (27.2 years), they are having no problem mixing young and old, with head coach Bill Belichick putting the best players on the field.
Now, with another early-round pick, the Patriots have seven picks in the first four rounds of the 2011 NFL draft. Their scouting department as been tremendous the past two drafts, selecting guys who can contribute right away. The names and faces are new, but the success on the field isn't changing.