New England Patriots History: Ranking the Top Quarterbacks, Overall Players, More

When you think of New England Patriots history, what comes to mind first?

Tom Brady throwing darts against a wide variety of opposing defenses en route to entry after entry in the NFL record books? Bill Belichick wearing his trademark hoodie and coaching up his squad from the sideline? Rob Gronkowski celebrating in the end zone after yet another touchdown?

Maybe it’s less player-focused. Your memories could instead center around the 11 Super Bowl appearances and six championships.

Well, we’ve got you covered with an ever-growing supply of rankings based on the Patriots’ exploits since their 1960 inception. In this article, you’ll find the following:

  • The top five New England Patriots quarterbacks of all time
  • The top five New England Patriots running backs of all time
  • The top five New England Patriots tight ends of all time
  • The top five New England Patriots wide receivers of all time
  • The top 10 New England Patriots defenders of all time
  • The top 20 overall New England Patriots players of all time
  • The top 10 New England Patriots of the last decade
  • The five worst trades made in New England Patriots history
  • The seven best free-agent signings of the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick era
  • Rob Gronkowski’s top five moments with the New England Patriots

To the rankings!

The top five New England Patriots quarterbacks of all time

Tom Brady ahead of a Patriots-Dolphins matchup in December 2019
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots warms up before a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 29, 2019 | Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Of course, Tom Brady will check in at No. 1. Who else would since the legendary signal-caller shattered basically every record in the New England Patriots’ history books?

But which men join him in the top five thanks to their prowess under center? Has Mac Jones done enough to make the cut during his young NFL career?

The top five New England Patriots running backs of all time

Curtis Martin during a Patriots-Steelers matchup in 1995
Running back Curtis Martin of the New England Patriots looks on from the field before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium on December 16, 1995 | George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Without a decent ground game, teams can struggle to score enough points. And while the New England Patriots’ most notable offensive players have typically produced through the air, the franchise has no shortage of standouts toting the rock.

From the brief tenures of Corey Dillon and Curtis Martin to the legends of old who spent far more time in Foxborough, we’ve got you covered with the men who did damage running the ball.

The top five New England Patriots tight ends of all time

Rob Gronkowski during a Patriots-Dolphins matchup in December 2018
Rob Gronkowski | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

You probably won’t be shocked to find Rob Gronkowski atop this list after he compiled 521 catches for 7,861 yards and a staggering 79 touchdowns in 115 regular-season games. And that’s not to mention his many postseason exploits.

But he’s not exactly the only notable name on the list.

Remember Ben Coates? Jim Whalen? Ben Watson? We do.

The top five New England Patriots wide receivers of all time

Randy Moss and Wes Welker during the Patriots-Giants showdown at Super Bowl 42
Randy Moss #81 and Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots in action during Super Bowl 42 against the New York Giants on February 3, 2008 | Sporting News via Getty Images

Yes, most of the players on this list happened to suit up as a target for a certain quarterback in New England Patriots history. (Hint: His name is Tom Brady.) But some featured wideouts like Stanley Morgan didn’t spend their entire careers — or any of them — catching passes from the future Hall of Famer.

All types of wide receivers are showcased here, ranging from the slot-based excellence of Wes Welker to the perpetual deep threat provided by the one and only Randy Moss.

The top 10 New England Patriots defenders of all time

Ty Law and Tedy Bruschi celebrate for the New England Patriots
Ty Law and Tedy Bruschi celebrate after one of Law’s interceptions of Peyton Manning | Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Defense wins championships. The New England Patriots have won six championships. You connect the dots.

Sure, a lot of the winning stemmed from the explosiveness of the offense, but Bill Belichick has also coached up one top-notch defense after another, even if the individual players have received less credit than they should. We’re striving to change that here, featuring everyone from Ty Law and Stephon Gilmore in the secondary to Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork on the defensive line.

The top 20 overall New England Patriots players of all time

Tom Brady drops back for the New England Patriots
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady against the Miami Dolphins | Robert Klein/Getty Images

In this two-part series that begins with Nos. 20-11 (linked above) and continues with the top 10, we combine all the various positional rankings to look at the best overall players in New England Patriots history.

Can anyone challenge Tom Brady for the top spot? Or is he truly in a tier of his own?

Spoiler alert: It’s the latter, but you’ll want to see who comes closest to reaching his solo perch.

The top 10 New England Patriots of the last decade

James White during a Patriots-Eagles preseason matchup in August 2021
James White of the New England Patriots looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 19, 2021 | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Though plenty of the leading standouts in New England Patriots history came during the early portion of the Tom Brady era or — gasp — before he ever suited up for the perpetual powerhouse, recent history has also featured one star after another.

Yes, Brady and Rob Gronkowski show up yet again but check out who’s featured alongside the tremendous passing-game duo.

The five worst trades made in New England Patriots history

Jimmy Garoppolo during a Patriots-Dolphins matchup in 2016
Jimmy Garoppolo of the New England Patriots throws a pass during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 | Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Though the New England Patriots have claimed six championships, they still haven’t been perfect. Even the best front offices make mistakes. Here, we’re highlighting the five worst trades made by the powerhouse organization.

Do you remember the failed Duane Starks experiment? How about the decision to move up and select Chad Jackson in the 2006 NFL Draft?

These rankings might be painful, but they also make the successes that much sweeter.

The seven best free-agent signings of the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick era

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in January 2022
Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Stephon Gilmore, Rodney Harrison, Matt Judon, Mike Vrabel, and plenty of other significant names in New England Patriots history have joined via free agency under the supervision of Bill Belichick. But which offseason signing is the best of the best?

This is a tough one, but justifiably so. The leading free-agency additions have had a monumental impact on the pursuit of championships in Foxborough.

Rob Gronkowski’s top five moments with the New England Patriots

Rob Gronkowski during a Patriots-Chargers playoff matchup in January 2019
Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots looks on during the third quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Los Angeles Chargers on January 13, 2019 | Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Some players in New England Patriots history may have been better, but few seemed to have more fun on the football field. To celebrate Rob Gronkowski’s tenure, we’ve highlighted his five best moments prior to departing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Oh, and fear not. We’ve got a video of each one.

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