Patriots and Giants Take Different Approaches to Building Super Bowl Squads

By Chris Malumphy

Some people think that New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick is a salary cap maven who recognizes that most high-priced talent isn't all that it's cut out to be. Others believe that except for an occasional player or two, Belichick thinks most players are fungible. It has also been suggested that Belichick just likes to show that he is smarter than everyone else.

Regardless of what anyone thinks, Belichick has put together a Super Bowl squad with eight undrafted starters, five on offense, including three at skill positions, and three on defense. Starting players come from schools as low profile as Chadron State, Hofstra, and North Texas. Undrafted starters include: wide receiver Wes Welker, center Dan Connolly, guard Brian Waters, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and running back Danny Woodhead, defensive tackle Kyle Love, cornerback Kyle Arrington and safety James Ihedigbo.

But Belichick also uses his top draft picks well. Of the 14 drafted starters on offense and defense, half were drafted in the first round. First round picks include: guard Logan Mankins, tackle Nate Solder, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, defensive end Shaun Ellis (originally picked by the Jets), linebacker Jerod Mayo, cornerback Devin McCourty and safety Eugene Chung.

Four other Patriots starters were drafted by the Patriots in the second round: tackle Matt Light, tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Deion Branch and linebacker Brandon Spikes. Only three of the starting Patriots were taken after the second round: quarterback Tom Brady (6th round), defensive end Brandon Deaderick (7th round), and linebacker Rob Ninkovich (5th round, originally selected by the Saints). Versatile tight end Aaron Hernandez is not on this list of starters, but he was a fourth round choice.

And unlike the Giants, as well as most other NFL teams, the Patriots expended draft picks on both kickers: punter Zoltan Mesko (5th round) and placekicker Stephen Gostkowski (4th round), demonstrating the value Belichick places on the most important special teams positions.

New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin have taken a more traditional approach. Only four of the 22 starters for the Giants were undrafted: wide receiver Victor Cruz, tight end Jake Ballard, fullback Henry Hynoski, and linebacker Chase Blackburn.

The Giants will start eight first round draft picks, including a whopping six on defense.

On offense, the Giants will start first rounders quarterback Eli Manning (originally drafted by the Chargers) and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. From the second round, the Giants send forth the middle of their offensive line in center David Baas (taken by the 49ers) and guard Chris Snee. Tackles Kareem McKenzie (Jets) and David Diehl come from rounds three and five, respectively. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was a seventh round selection. Two players not listed as starters here, but who may see considerable action, are running back Brandon Jacobs who was taken in the fourth round and wide receiver Marion Manningham who was drafted in round three.

Nearly the entire defensive starting unit is filled with high draft picks including first rounders: defensive tackle William Joseph, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, cornerback Aaron Ross and safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle (drafted by the Cardinals). Cornerback Corey Webster was taken with the 11th pick in the second round. Defensive end Justin Tuck was drafted in the third round, defensive tackle Cris Canty was drafted by the Cowboys in the fourth round and linebacker Michael Boley was taken by the Falcons in round five. Defensive end Usi Umenyiora, not listed as a starter here, was drafted in the second round.

Unlike the Patriots, both the Giants punter, Steve Weatherford, and placekicker, Lawrence Tynes were undrafted.

Note that four of the eight starting defensive lineman were first round picks while only two of the ten offensive interior linemen were drafted in round one. Of the four wide receivers, the top two (Welker and Cruz) were undrafted; Nicks was a first round pick and Branch is from round two. Of six linebackers, two were drafted in the first round, one in the second, two in the fifth and one was undrafted. The Giants start three first rounders and one second rounder in the defensive backfield. The Patriots counter with two first rounders and two undrafted defensive backs. Thus, five of the eight defensive backs were drafted in round one.

Of course, in the end, everybody looks to the quarterback: Eli Manning, who already has one Super Bowl ring for defeating the Patriots four years age, was the top choice in 2004. Tom Brady, who lost to Manning, has three Super Bowl victories and was one of the great draft steals of all time, lasting until round six, the 199th player overall in 2000.

Interestingly, Wikipedia points out that Giants teammates Usi Umenyiora and Lawrence Tynes are two of the three British-born players to have won Super Bowl rings, the other being Scott McCready who was a member of the Patriots practice squad in 2001.

2012 Super Bowl Starters
Patriots' Offense
Position Name Year Round Pick Player Team Position College
WRWes Welker2004     Texas Tech
LTMatt Light200121748Patriots TPurdue
LGLogan Mankins200513232Patriots GFresno State
CDan Connolly2005     Southeast Missouri State
RGBrian Waters1999     North Texas
RTNate Solder201111717Patriots TColorado
TERob Gronkowski201021042PatriotsTEArizona
WRDeion Branch200223365PatriotsWRLouisville
QBTom Brady2000633199PatriotsQBMichigan
RBBenJarvus Green-Ellis2008     Mississippi
FBDanny Woodhead2008     Chadron State
Patriots' Defense
Position Name Year Round Pick Player Team Position College
LEBrandon Deaderick2010740247PatriotsLBAlabama
LTKyle Love2010     Mississippi State
RTVince Wilfork200412121PatriotsDTMiami (FL)
REShaun Ellis200011212JetsDETennessee
SLBRob Ninkovich200652135SaintsDEPurdue
MLBBrandon Spikes201023062PatriotsLBFlorida
WLBJerod Mayo200811010PatriotsLBTennessee
LCBDevin McCourty201012727PatriotsDBRutgers
RCBKyle Arrington2008     Hofstra
SSJames Ihedigbo2007     Massachusetts
FSEugene Chung199211313Patriots TVirginia Tech
Patriots' Special Teams
Position Name Year Round Pick Player Team Position College
PZoltan Mesko2010519150Patriots PMichigan
PKStephen Gostkowski2006421118Patriots KMemphis
HBrian Hoyer2009     Michigan State
PRJulian Edelman2009723232PatriotsQBKent State
KRDanny Woodhead2008     Chadron State
LSDanny Aiken2011     Virginia
Gaints' Offense
Position Name Year Round Pick Player Team Position College
WRVictor Cruz2010     Massachusetts
LTDavid Diehl2003525160Giants GIllinois
LGKevin Boothe200667176Raiders TCornell
CDavid Baas2005213349ers CMichigan
RGChris Snee20042234Giants GBoston College
RTKareem McKenzie200131779Jets TPenn State
TEJake Ballard2010     Ohio State
WRHakeem Nicks200912929GiantsWRNorth Carolina
QBEli Manning2004111ChargersQBMississippi
RBAhmad Bradshaw2007740250GiantsRBMarshall
FBHenry Hynoski2011     Pittsburgh
Gaints' Defense
Position Name Year Round Pick Player Team Position College
LEJustin Tuck200531074GiantsDENotre Dame
LTWilliam Joseph200312525GiantsDTMiami (FL)
RTChris Canty2005431132CowboysDEVirginia
REJason Pierre-Paul201011515GiantsDESouth Florida
SLBMathias Kiwanuka200613232GiantsDEBoston College
MLBChase Blackburn2005     Akron
RLBMichael Boley2005524160FalconsLBSouthern Mississippi
LCBCorey Webster200521143GiantsDBLouisiana State
RCBAaron Ross200712020GiantsDBTexas
SSKenny Phillips200813131GiantsDBMiami (FL)
FSAntrel Rolle2005188CardinalsDBMiami (FL)
Gaints' Special Teams
Position Name Year Round Pick Player Team Position College
PSteve Weatherford2006     Illinois
PKLawrence Tynes2004     Troy State
HSteve Weatherford2006     Illinois
PRWill Blackmon2006418115PackersWRBoston College
KRDevin Thomas20082334RedskinsWRMichigan State
LSZak DeOssie2007417116GiantsLBBrown