Saturday, February 24

14 Best Players In New England Patriots History, Ranked

The New England Patriots are (along with the Pittsburgh Steelers) the franchise with the most Super Bowl victories in NFL history. This is mainly thanks to Tom Brady, who stayed with the team for two decades and completely changed the history and identity of the team. In addition to Tom Brady, there have been several outstanding players who wore the Patriots uniform over the years and who also left their mark on the franchise. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best players in the history of the New England Patriots.


UPDATE: 2023/11/30 18:00 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS

The New England Patriots are in the middle of one of the worst seasons in team history in 2023, as they struggle to find a starting quarterback and can’t seem to find their footing in any aspect of the game. However, the odds are good that Bill Belichick will turn the team around, as this is one franchise with a legacy that few other teams possess. The team has icons from the past on offense and defense that have set records, won Super Bowls and MVPs, and some who are either in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or will be very soon.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless stated otherwise.


14 Wes Welker Was An Undrafted Superstar

New England Patriots (2007-2012)

Wes Welker Stats

Years

Rec

Yards

TD

New England Patriots

2007-2012

672

7459

37

Playoff Stats

2007-2012

88

866

5

Accomplishments

2× First-team All-Pro, 5× Pro Bowl, 3× NFL receptions leader, New England Patriots All-2000s Team, New England Patriots All-2010s Team, New England Patriots All-Dynasty Team

Wes Welker was always seen as undersized and scrappy, but when it came to Tom Brady’s weapons in his Super Bowl wins, no one was as clutch as Welker. He was only around for six seasons in New England, but when he was there, he was as dangerous a weapon as they had. After three years as a special teams wizard with 5,000 yards on 300 kick and punt returns, he moved into a slot receiver role and dominated.

Welker led the NFL in receiving in 2007, 2009, and 2011 and was second in 2008 and 2012. In his Patriots career, he averaged 112 receptions and 1,243 yards a season to become the Pats’ all-time leading receiver.

13 Willie McGinest Holds The Post-Season Sacks Record

New England Patriots (1994-2005)

Willie McGinest tackling Ben Roethlisberger.
Credit: © Matthew Emmons / USA Today

Willie McGinest Stats

Years

Tack

Sacks

Int

FF

FR

TD

New England Patriots

1994-2005

672

78

4

16

17

4

Playoff Stats

1994-2005

75

16

0

0

0

0

Accomplishments

3× Super Bowl champion, 2× Pro Bowl (1996, 2003), New England Patriots All-1990s Team, New England Patriots All-2000s Team, New England Patriots All-Dynasty Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

Willie McGinist played for the New England Patriots just as they became the dominant Super Bowl contenders, but that does not diminish what he did with the team. A linebacker, he played for the Patriots from 1994 to 2005 before finishing his career with the Cleveland Browns. He was a first-round pick by the Patriots in 1994 and ended up winning three Super Bowls with the team.

He was also named to two Pro Bowls and holds the record for the most postseason sacks with 16. He also held the record for the most sacks in a postseason game with 4.5 against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005. The Patriots added him to their Hall of Fame in 2015.

12 Drew Bledsoe Was A Star Before Tom Brady Came Along

New England Patriots (1993-2001)

Drew Bledsoe Stats

Years

Cmp

Att

Yds

TD

Int

New England Patriots

1993-2001

2544

4518

29567

166

138

Playoff Stats

1993-2001

129

252

1335

6

12

Accomplishments

Super Bowl champion, 4× Pro Bowl, NFL passing yards leader (1994), New England Patriots All-1990s Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

On almost any team, Drew Bledsoe would be considered a Hall of Fame player. However, Bledsoe had the bad luck of losing his job because of an injury. Before this happened, Bledsoe took over as quarterback for the Patriots after they selected him first in the 1993 NFL Draft, and he led them back to the playoffs after years of struggles. He led the Patriots to the playoffs four times in the seasons he was a starter.

He also took them to the Super Bowl in 1996, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers. However, he was injured in 2001 and lost his job to Tom Brady, who never gave it back. Bledsoe threw for more than 29,000 yards and 166 touchdowns with the Patriots.

11 Vince Wilfork In The Only Patriots Player Other Than Tom Brady To Win Super Bowls In Two Decades

New England Patriots (2004-2014)

Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots.
Credit: © Bob Breidenbach / USA Today

Vince Wilfork Stats

Years

Tack

Sacks

Int

FF

FR

TD

New England Patriots

2004-2014

517

16

3

5

12

1

Playoff Stats

2004-2014

81

3

0

0

1

0

Accomplishments

2× Super Bowl champion, First-team All-Pro, 5× Pro Bowl, New England Patriots All-2000s Team, New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots All-2010s Team, New England Patriots All-Dynasty Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

Vince Wilfork was a monster with the New England Patriots. He played for 10 seasons with them and went to five Pro Bowls. He was also part of two Super Bowl Champions. After the Pats took Wilfork with the first pick in 2004, he came in and dominated. He wasn’t a sack specialist, but he was a player who would disrupt any offense in the running and passing games.

He was immovable and no one could really get through him. It often took two offensive linemen just to slow him down. He even caused the “butt fumble” of Mark Sanchez. By the end, he had 561 tackles and 16 sacks with four forced fumbles and 12 fumbles recovered.

10 Ty Law Is The Patriots’ Career Leader In Interceptions & Interception Touchdowns

New England Patriots (1995-2004)

Ty Law of the New England Patriots.
Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports-USA TODAY Sports

Ty Law Stats

Years

Tack

Sacks

Int

FF

FR

TD

New England Patriots

2004-2014

638

4

36

3

4

6

Playoff Stats

2004-2014

46

0

4

0

0

1

Accomplishments

3× Super Bowl champion, 2× First-team All-Pro, 5× Pro Bowl, 2× NFL interceptions leader, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, New England Patriots All-1990s Team, New England Patriots All-2000s Team, New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots All-Dynasty Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

Ty Law had an NFL Hall of Fame-worthy career. He played 10 seasons with the New England Patriots, being an important piece in three Super Bowl victories. In a Pats uniform, Law had 36 interceptions, six of which ended in touchdowns, 537 solo tackles, and an approximate value of 87. Law was a five-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro as well. Ty Law was a tremendous player, and he earned the love and respect of New England fans.

9 Julian Edelman Is A Former Super Bowl MVP

New England Patriots (2009-2020)

Julian Edelman Stats

Years

Rec

Yards

TD

New England Patriots

2009-2020

620

6822

36

Playoff Stats

2009-2020

118

1442

5

Accomplishments

3× Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP (LIII), New England Patriots All-2010s Team, New England Patriots All-Dynasty Team

If we look at his regular season numbers, Julian Edelman was an average wide receiver, with three seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards, but never more than 1,200. In the playoffs, though, it was a different story, as Edelman was inspired and had impressive performances.

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As a matter of fact, Edelman recorded 1,442 receiving yards in the NFL playoffs, the second most all-time, trailing only Jerry Rice (2,245). “Squirrel” was a game-changing factor in each of the three championship rings he earned with the Pats.

8 Sam Cunningham Is The Patriots All-Time Leader In Rushing Yards

New England Patriots (1973-1982)

New England Patriots running back Sam Cunningham

Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Cunningham Stats

Years

Rush Yds

Rec

Rec Yards

TD

New England Patriots

1973-1982

5453

210

1905

49

Playoff Stats

1973-1982

110

5

42

0

Accomplishments

Pro Bowl, New England Patriots All-1970s Team, New England Patriots 35th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

For some reason, the New England Patriots have never had a phenomenal running back, and that’s why it’s hard to include a player from that position on this list. But if there is one running back who has a case to be among the best players in Patriots history, it’s Sam Cunningham. The California native rushed for 5,453 yards and scored 49 touchdowns in his nine-year career. According to Pro-Football Reference, Sam Cunningham’s approximate value is 70.

7 Stanley Morgan Is The Patriots All-Time Leader In Receiving Yards

New England Patriots (1977-1989)

New England Patriots receiver Stanley Morgan.
Credit: Dick Raphael-USA TODAY Sports

Stanley MorganStats

Years

Rec

Yards

TD

New England Patriots

1977-1989

534

10352

67

Playoff Stats

1977-1989

18

302

3

Accomplishments

2× Second-team All-Pro, 4× Pro Bowl, NFL receiving touchdowns leader, New England Patriots All-1970s Team, New England Patriots All-1980s Team, New England Patriots 35th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

Wide receiver Stanley Morgan had an excellent career. He played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and became a franchise icon. In a Patriots uniform, Morgan had 10,352 receiving yards, gaining 19.4 yards per reception and 57.5 yards per game. Morgan scored 67 receiving touchdowns and had an approximate value of 107. In addition, “Stanley Steamer” was a four-time Pro-Bowler.

6 Andre Tippett Is The Patriots Career Leader In Sacks

New England Patriots (1982-1993)

New England Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett..
Credit: Dick Raphael-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Tippett Stats

Years

Tack

Sacks

Int

FF

FR

TD

New England Patriots

1982-1993

75

100

1

0

19

2

Playoff Stats

1982-1993

0

1

0

0

0

0

Accomplishments

NFL co-Defensive Player of the Year, 2× First-team All-Pro, 5× Pro Bowl, Pro Football Hall of Fame (2008), NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, New England Patriots All-1980s Team, New England Patriots All-1990s Team, New England Patriots 35th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

NFL Hall of Famer Andre Tippett couldn’t be missing from this list. He certainly couldn’t help the Patriots win a Super Bowl, but this guy gave his best in every game. Tippett was one of the best linebackers of the 1980s and in his prime was arguably the best. Tippett recorded 100 career sacks, 19 fumbles recovered and 109 of approximate value. It is also worth mentioning that Tippett made five Pro Bowl appearances.

5 Steve Grogan Was The Patriots’ First Star Quarterback

New England Patriots (1975-1990)

New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan.
Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Grogan Stats

Years

Cmp

Att

Yds

TD

Int

New England Patriots

1975-1990

1879

3593

26886

182

208

Playoff Stats

1975-1990

48

95

571

3

7

Accomplishments

NFL passing touchdowns leader (1979), New England Patriots All-1970s Team, New England Patriots All-1980s Team, New England Patriots 35th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

Tom Brady made New England Patriots fans forget about all the other franchise quarterbacks, and rightfully so, but Steve Grogan was also a very good player. Grogan played for the Patriots from 1975 to 1990. With him as a starter, the team won 75 games and lost 60, threw for 26,886 yards, 7.5 yards gained per pass attempt, with 182 touchdown passes and 117 of approximate value.

4 Adam Vinatieri Holds The NFL Record For Most Points Scored

New England Patriots (1996-2005)

Adam Vinatieri Stats

Years

FG

FG%

Points

New England Patriots

1996-2005

263

81.9%

1158

Playoff Stats

1996-2005

26

76.5%

117

Accomplishments

4× Super Bowl champion, 3× First-team All-Pro, 3× Pro Bowl, NFL scoring leader (2004), NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, New England Patriots All-1990s Team, New England Patriots All-2000s Team, New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots All-Dynasty Team, Most Career Points Scored

Adam Vinatieri was undoubtedly one of the best kickers in NFL history, not just from a statistical standpoint, but because of all the memorable kicks he made in his career. The New England Patriots knew that any field goal or extra point was guaranteed because of Vinatieri’s accuracy, and that was pivotal in three championships. Vinatieri was the one who started the Patriots dynasty, when in Super Bowl XXXVI he drilled a 48-yard field goal as time expired, making the franchise’s first title a reality.

3 Rob Gronkowski Is One Of The NFL’s Greatest Tight Ends Of All Time

New England Patriots (2010-2018)

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Gronkowski Stats

Years

Rec

Yards

TD

New England Patriots

2010-2018

521

7861

79

Playoff Stats

2010-2018

81

1163

12

Accomplishments

4× Super Bowl champion, NFL Comeback Player of the Year, 4× First-team All-Pro, 5× Pro Bowl, NFL receiving touchdowns leader (2011), NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, New England Patriots All-2010s Team, New England Patriots All-Dynasty Team

Rob Gronkowski was a crucial piece for the New England Patriots in the 2010s. We are talking about Tom Brady’s main partner, one of the most decisive tight ends of the 21st century.

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Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady complemented each other for many years, they understood each other perfectly and that is why they are the quarterback-pass catcher duo with the most touchdowns in the history of the NFL Playoffs. In a Patriots uniform, Gronkowski recorded 7,861 receiving yards and 80 touchdowns.

2 John Hannah Is A Hall Of Fame Offensive Lineman

New England Patriots (1973-1985)

New England Patriots guard John Hannah
Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

John Hannah Stats

Accomplishments

7× First-team All-Pro, 9× Pro Bowl, Pro Football Hall of Fame (1991), NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, New England Patriots All-1970s Team, New England Patriots All-1980s Team, New England Patriots 35th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots No. 73 retired, New England Patriots Hall of Fame

John Hannah was one of the pioneers of the New England Patriots, one of the franchise’s first great players. He played his entire 13-year career with the Patriots, leaving an indelible mark. This guard was a nine-time Pro-Bowler and was named All-Pro seven times. Hannah finished his career with an excellent approximate value of 149. Unfortunately, he was unable to win a championship ring.

1 Tom Brady Is Considered The GOAT At QB

New England Patriots (2000-2019)

Tom Brady Stats

Years

Cmp

Att

Yds

TD

Int

New England Patriots

2000-2019

6377

9988

89214

649

212

Playoff Stats

2000-2019

1025

1626

11388

73

35

Accomplishments

7× Super Bowl champion, 5× Super Bowl MVP, 3× NFL Most Valuable Player (2007, 2010, 2017), 2× NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2007, 2010), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2009), 3× First-team All-Pro, 15× Pro Bowl, 5× NFL passing touchdowns leader (2002, 2007, 2010, 2015, 2021), 4× NFL passing yards leader (2005, 2007, 2017, 2021), 2× NFL passer rating leader (2007, 2010), NFL completion percentage leader (2007), NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, New England Patriots Hall of Fame, New England Patriots All-2000s Team, New England Patriots All-2010s Team, New England Patriots 50th Anniversary Team, New England Patriots All-Dynasty Team

The greatest player in New England Patriots history is undoubtedly Tom Brady, who is also considered the greatest NFL player of all time. Brady is an absolute legend, as he led the Pats to six Super Bowl victories.

That alone is enough to describe Brady’s phenomenal career, needless to say, he is the all-time leader in passing yards (89,214), touchdown passes (649), approximate value (184), and was a five-time Super Bowl MVP and three-time AP MVP. TB12 was born to be an icon. The New England Patriots fans were lucky to witness Brady’s greatness every week for 20 seasons.

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