Although they didn't have a draft pick in 2000, the Patriots have had solid first-round picks since '01. The following slideshow will look at how they have "struck gold", unlike some other teams (I'm looking at you Oakland). Since Belichick's reign in New England, the Patriots have had a nose for good NFL players coming out of college, and have yet to pick a "bust". Laurence Maroney (pictured) has only recently come out of his shell, but otherwise the first round selections have all been solid contributors to a consistent Patriots team.
Seymour was drafted 6th overall, and lived up to his expectations. Known as a solid, productive player, Seymour was the anchor who began the dominance of a defensive front that became stronger each season, and occasionally played fullback next to bruiser Corey Dillon during the beginning of his career, which ended after a knee injury in 2005. Seymour has gone to the Pro Bowl five times over his career, and has three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots.
Graham has been the least productive of all the Patriot rookies this decade. He began as a pass-dropping, absentminded receiver, and a weak blocker. Good coaching and overall better play following his sophomore season allowed him to reach the top tier of tight ends in the league, but after being named team captain in 2006, Graham was signed by the Denver Broncos, and has largely been forgotten as a pass catcher.
Warren, drafted 13th overall (via trade), started four games his rookie season, and continued to improve, starting all 16 games each season from 2004-2007. One of the most underrated players in the league, Warren drew (rare) praise from coach Bill Belichick, who praised his work ethic and leadership. Warren's season-high 7.5 sacks and 84 tackles are comparable to the most highly-touted of defensive ends in the NFL.
Weighing in at a morbid 323 lbs., the nose tackle out of Miami was the first of two 1st round New England draft picks in 2004. Wilfork is a monster in the middle, and almost always warrants a double team. His surprising open field speed is an added bonus, as the Miami alum's huge girth and wingspan clogs up the middle of the field, effectively stopping opponents' running backs in their tracks.
Most people reading this know of Ben Watson from his electrifying performance on MNF to open the season against Buffalo. What most don't know is the athletic and mental prowess with which Watson plays game in and game out. A prolific run blocker, Watson's hands rival those of Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, and Jason Witten. Not only can he catch, the superhuman-like athlete, weighing in at 255 lbs., can bench over 500 lbs., half of his body weight. Watson usually doesn't put up gaudy stats, due to Tom Brady's abundance of targets, but has become on of the constants on an ever-changing Patriots team.
There isn't much to say other than that Mankins has seamlessly become part of a Pro Bowl - worthy offensive line for the Patriots.
A bit of a quandary, Maroney began his NFL career in a timeshare with Corey Dillon, a one-two punch that Belichick called the best running back corps he had ever coached. However, after Dillon's retirement, Maroney struggled in his new feature back role, and was near the bottom of the league in just about every major statistical category for running backs. The 2009 season has shown an increase in both playing time and productivity for Maroney, the high point being the snow game against Tennessee, in which he rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown.
The second Miami Hurricane drafted by New England in the first round, Meriweather has seen a solid increase in his playing time since his inaugural season. His biggest play so far has been the bone-jarring hit he put on Buffalo return man Leodis McKelvin, effectively winning the game for New England.
2008-2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year pretty much says it all. Mayo came in and immediately started for the Patriots, his outstanding play and high football IQ making him a leader in the locker room.
The Patriots traded away their chance at having a 1st round pick, instead taking four 2nd round picks.