New England Patriots Draft Trade Follies: The Greg Jennings & Clay Mathews Story

Aaron DodgeAnalyst IMarch 26, 2011

On February 6th, 2011 the New England Patriots' legacy was preserved by just six points.

Ben Roesthlisbeger and the Pittsburgh Steelers walked away in defeat on Super Bowl Sunday, and in turn ended any debate as to which franchise could lay claim to title of most recent dynasty.

The Steelers had the opportunity to take home their third Super Bowl trophy in the span of just six years, which would have effectively challenged the Patriots title of All-Decade Team.

New England, with Super Bowl wins in 2001, 2004, and 2005, would have been surpassed by Pittsburghwho could have collected three Vince Lombardi Trophies since the Patriots' last Championship.

The Green Bay Packers made it a moot point, defeating Pittsburgh 31-25, and reclaiming the trophy named after their iconic head coach and returning it to the original "Title Town". There were many delighted fans in New England that night, but I couldn't help but wince knowing the recent trade history between the Patriots and Packers.

Pittsburgh's loss may have been a silver lining in terms of legacy, but Green Bay's victory was an even darker cloud, considering who currently sits on their roster.

Allow me to take you on a sprawling assessment of the recent trade history between these two franchises dating back to 2006.

On the first day of the 2006 NFL Draft New England orchestrated a trade with Green Bay to move up 16 places from the 52nd overall selection to the 36th. To do this, the Patriots paired their 3rd round pick (the 75th overall) and their second rounder (the 52nd overall) and sent them to the Packers.

Bill Belichick and co. had their eyes on the immortal Chad Jackson, a wide receiver out of Florida. The pick, put simply, was one of the largest busts in recent memory for the Patriots. Jackson's selection in the second round could only be outdone in the mistake category by the selection of Laurence Maroney just fifteen picks earlier in the same Draft.

The failure of the Patriots' selections in 2006 was compounded by the fact that the Packers moved back in the Draft and were still able to select a Pro-Bowler at Jackson's position.

With the 52nd pick, Green Bay selected wide receiver Greg Jennings; ever heard that name before?

For comparison's sake, lets take a gander at the career production out of these two wide-outs.

Chad Jackson has "racked up" 14 career receptions for 171 yards with two career touchdowns spanning three active years in the NFL (he hasn't appeared in a game since 2008). 

Greg Jennings, on the other hand, racked up seven receptions for 152 yards and three touchdowns during the Packers Week 11 beat-down of the Minnesota Vikings in 2010. His numbers get even more impressive over the long-term considering he's averaged 75 receptions for 1,223 yards and eight touchdowns over the last three seasons.

It's scary to imagine what could have been with Jennings running routes in Foxboro over the last five years. The team could have even gone in a different direction than Randy Moss and Wes Welker in 2007. Regardless of what could have happened, this trade certainly did occur, and it certainly didn't work out in New England's favor.

This isn't the only recent heartbreaking draft day transaction between the two teams either.

Back in 2009, the teams struck up another deal involving first round selections. New England began the day with the 23rd overall pick and elected to move down the draft board by trading with the Baltimore Ravens, who were targeting offensive linemen Michael Oher.

The Patriots acquired the 26th and the162nd (5th rounder) overall selections in the deal, and worked out another trade with Green Bay.

They packaged those two picks acquired from Baltimore and sent them to the Packers in return for Green Bay's second rounder and both of their third rounders. With the 26th pick Green Bay selected outside linebacker Clay Mathews.

Two full seasons later, this deal stings as much as ever.

The Patriots were able to pick up promising players in Darius Butler, Brandon Tate, and Julian Edelman and also kept wheeling and dealing their picks. Eventually the team manipulated the later picks and acquired the pick they would use to select Rob Gronkowksi in the 2010 Draft.

Regardless of their relative success with the other picks, the missed opportunity to select Mathews was a major whiff.

In two short seasons he's taken the league by storm, earning two selections to the Pro-Bowl, an All-Pro selection, the NFC Defensive Player of the Year Award, and a Super Bowl ring. He's compiled 23.5 sacks over his first two yearsadding in eleven pass defenses, three forced fumbles, a pick, and a touchdown.

You'd literally have to combine the stats of current Patriots to equal Mathews' production in just two years, and I don't think it's too difficult to realize what the Patriots would have been capable of over the past couple of years, had they drafted a dominant pass rusher. Imagine what could have been with an elite young wide receiver on the roster as well.

The draft can be an absolute crap shoot, some years more than ever.

Patriots' fans can take solace in the fact that the team may have enjoyed its best draft in the entire Belichick era just last season with Pro-Bowl caliber players in Devin McCourty, Aaron Hernandez, and Rob Gronkowski.

The fact that the team owns so many early picks this season is more than enough reason to remain excited and optimistic.

Regardless of the amount of picks, here's to hoping New England stays at one of its early slots and finds an impact player. If they do choose to trade down, here's to hoping that they at least ignore any calls from Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers.


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