Hidden gems are key to Patriots success

Why are the New England Patriots the class of the NFL?

Quite simply, it’s because of a string of excellent personnel decisions by the front office, mainly coming in the later rounds of the draft, along with in trades and free agency.

This season, the Patriots' two leading rushers, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, and leading receiver Wes Welker were all undrafted out of college. And of course, they have a sixth-round QB, Tom Brady, delivering the ball to them.

These four players have had a hand in every offensive touchdown for the Pats this year. Green-Ellis, Woodhead and Brady are the only three Pats to have a rush touchdown, and of course Brady has thrown all the Patriots touchdown passes.

2010 Patriots Leading Receivers
How Acquired

While the Pats weren’t the team to initially sign Welker out of college, give them credit for trading for him following a 67-catch “out of nowhere” season in 2006.

For good measure, a rookie fourth-round pick (number 113 overall), Aaron Hernandez is second on the team in receptions. Fred Taylor is the only skill position player on offense who was a first-round pick, and that was by the Jaguars back in 1998.

After 12 games this season, no Patriot who has more than 10 catches with the team was drafted in the first round. Randy Moss, a 1998 first-round pick who is no longer with the team, had nine catches and three touchdowns in three games with New England before being traded to the Minnesota Vikings.

Yet this same organization used second-round picks on Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson, who combined to catch 43 passes in a Patriots uniform during their brief careers. And a first-round pick on Laurence Maroney, who is no longer with the team. Go figure.