The New England Patriots entered the 2015 NFL draft with eight picks in hand, but ultimately came away with eleven selected players after making two trades during the event. When all was said and done, the then-reigning world champions brought the following men on board during the seven rounds of the draft:
Patriots 2015 draft class
|4||111||Tre’ Jackson||OG||Florida State|
|4||131||Shaq Mason||OG||Georgia Tech|
|6||178||Matthew Wells||LB||Mississippi State|
Of those eleven men, only two are still left on the team’s roster after the last week saw both first-round selection Malcom Brown (#32 overall) and fourth-round pick Trey Flowers (#101 overall) leave via unrestricted free agency: fourth-rounder Shaq Mason (#131 overall) and fifth-rounder Joe Cardona (#166) are the lone representatives of the Patriots’ 2015 draft class that can still be found on the team’s roster.
Both Mason and Cardona, of course, earned contract extensions to outlive their rookie deals. The Patriots’ starting right guard was signed to a five-year, $45 million extension last August that will keep him with the team through the 2023 season. By the time Mason’s deal with announced, Cardona’s was already two months old: the long snapper signed a four-year, $4.3 million extension with New England in June.
Brown and Flowers never got to that point and instead made it to the open market from which they were relatively quickly taken again: Brown, a de facto starter at defensive tackle for fours seasons, signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Flowers, who grew from a day-three selection into one of the NFL’s premier edge defenders, signed a massive five-year, $90 million contract with the Detroit Lions.
At least, however, both men played out their rookie deals and will thus contribute to the compensatory draft picks formula. The majority of New England’s 2015 draft class did not make it that far. Take the club’s second selection that year, safety Jordan Richards, who failed to developed into much more than a special teamer and was traded to the Atlanta Falcons ahead of the 2018 season for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2020.
Richards is one of two players who left the Patriots ahead of this year’s free agency to actually bring a return value to the club. The other player was tight end A.J. Derby, whom New England traded to the Denver Broncos during the 2016 season for a fifth-round draft pick the following year — one that was later re-invested into Buffalo Bills restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislee.
The other five drafted players were simply let go by the team: Geneo Grissom spent most of his Patriots tenure moving between the active roster and practice squad before ultimately ending up with the Indianapolis Colts. Tre’ Jackson started nine games in 2015 but was released after missing all of 2016 due to injury; he ended up with the Los Angeles Rams and is now a member of the AAF’s Orlando Apollos.
Darryl Roberts, meanwhile, spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve after hurting his hand in preseason. One year later, he was released during final roster cutdowns despite an encouraging performance in training camp. He was then claimed by the New York Jets and carved out a nice role with the team since. Last week, the former seventh-round draft pick signed a three-year, $18 million contract extension with the club.
The two remaining draft picks, Matthew Wells and Xzavier Dickson, never made it through roster cuts in 2015. One player that also did not do that was an undrafted free agent that made his way to the practice squad and later the active roster — and that is now the third player to still be on the team from New England’s 2015 rookie class: linebacker/safety hybrid Brandon King, one of the Patriots’ premier special teamers.
Playing exclusively in the kicking game, King appeared in 68 games since 2015 and last offseason earned a two-year, $2.6 million contract extension — before Cardona and Mason saw new deals come their way. He was still not the first member of the club’s 2015 rookies to get a new contract: that honor belongs to the fourth player still remaining from the group on today’s Patriots roster, center David Andrews.
Like King, Andrews made his mark as an undrafted free agent and actually began the year as a starter until the injured Bryan Stork returned to the lineup. One year later, he won the competition for the role and never looked back: the Georgia after starting 11 games during his rookie year, Andrews made 55 starts since and establishing himself as one of the NFL’s better young centers. Along the way, he earned a three-year, $9 million extension in 2017.
Together with special teamers Brandon King and Joe Cardona, and one of the NFL’s other outstanding offensive linemen, Shaq Mason, Andrews is still holding the flag of the class of ‘15 high. And even though Brown, Flowers and the rest of the players did not find long-term stability in New England, the team’s 2015 rookies were still an impressive group considering their track record: six of them played major roles on two championship teams, and four have signed second contracts with the organization. In today’s NFL that qualifies as a solid haul.
Author: Bernd Buchmasser