The utter dominance of the New England Patriots over the past 20 years is unprecedented. Despite playing under a salary cap, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have led a stretch of dominance that has not been seen before in the Super Bowl era. The most recent decade has not been any different. Including the playoffs, the Patriots are 141-41. They have appeared in five Super Bowls, and have won three. 2010 was the only season that they did not at least make the AFC championship, and that team went 14-2. A good football team needs good football players, and the Patriots have had plenty of those throughout the decade. This is the New England Patriots 2010s All-Decade Team.
New England Patriots 2010s All-Decade Team: Offense
Quarterback: Tom Brady
This one is obvious. However you look at it, Touchdown Tom has cemented his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all-time this decade. Including playoffs, Brady was 138-40 as a starter. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 51,069 yards, 362 touchdowns, and just 99 interceptions. In the more advanced department, he is arguably even better. He accumulated 14,092 DYAR, averaging out to 1,409.2 per season. His overall Pro Football Focus film grade of 97.2 was the best in the business, edging out Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
The pure stats are not the only thing that Brady excelled at. In the regular season, he almost always came through in the clutch. In “clutch drive” situations (down by possession, 10 minutes or less left in the game, starting inside own 40-yard line), Brady led the team to a score 39 times, 51.8 percent of all drives. That percentage is by far the best in the league, with second place being the Saints at 46.4 percent. In the playoffs, things got even better. Brady had seven game-winning drives, six of which came in either the AFC Championship or the Super Bowl. Of the five Super Bowls Tom Terrific played in, he led a potential game-winning drive in four of them.
RB1: Dion Lewis
Lewis had a short but sweet career with the Patriots. His skill set fits perfectly with my idea of an ideal running back. He is a decent runner, but his value comes in the passing game. Lewis was dynamic after the catch in his short time with New England, and his elusiveness is unrivaled. After signing a futures contract with NE after the 2014 season, he burst onto the scene in 2015 and was catching balls left and right and had a special connection with Brady.
He had a decent return in 2016, but he truly reestablished himself in 2017. His 88.7 PFF grade was far and away the best for any qualified running back, and he led the league in rushing yards per attempt. Overall, his impact on the Patriots offense was immense. Overall, the Patriots were 32-4 with Lewis active, as opposed to 11-7 without him. In his Patriots career, he ran for 1,413 yards and caught 85 passes for 696 yards.
RB2: James White
After Lewis tore his ACL in 2015, White filled his shoes adequately. They are very similar players and that’s why they are ranked at one and two. However, White isn’t here based purely on regular-season merits. If that were the case, I would put Danny Woodhead over him. White has been a postseason hero for the New England Patriots. In Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady looked White’s way 16 times, and White caught 14 of those passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. He also scored two touchdowns on the ground, including the game-tying and game-winning scores in the Patriots wild comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons. Since White has been nearly as good as Woodhead in the regular season, his Super Bowl 51 performance puts him over the top.
Honorable Mentions: Danny Woodhead, LeGarrette Blount
WR1: Wes Welker
From 2010-2012, Welker caught 326 passes for 3,771 yards and 20 touchdowns, one of which being his historic 99-yard score against the Miami Dolphins. That averages out to 109 receptions, 1,257 yards, and seven touchdowns per season. Those numbers are absurd, and even more impressive when you consider that he was sharing targets with the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, the aforementioned Woodhead, and Deion Branch. The Patriots’ offenses in that stretch were dynamic, and Welker was a crucial part of their success. Unfortunately, Welker’s dominance is overshadowed by a crucial drop in Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants that might have cost them the game. Welker never got a ring, and the next player on this list is a lot more celebrated due to his playoff performances.
WR2: Julian Edelman
Similar to how White and Lewis have similar skillsets, Welker and Edelman are very similar players as well. Undersized, quick but not fast, and great after the catch. When Welker left NE before the 2013 season, Edelman was forced into his role, and he responded. Since 2013, he has 5,973 receiving yards, 16th in the whole league. He is nothing special in the regular season, but he is solid.
In the playoffs, however, Edelman is a completely different animal. His toughness over the middle seems to play better in January, and the results are there. The only receiver that has more postseason yards than Edelman’s 1,412 is the great Jerry Rice. He has been a key part of three Super Bowl runs, and there is no one that Tom Brady trusts more than Edelman in crunch time. Winning Super Bowl MVP last year was a cherry on top for Edelman, who is one of the most impactful postseason players the game has seen.
WR3: Brandin Cooks
While Cooks only played one season in Foxboro, it was a very good season. He caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. The speedster was an integral part of the Patriots passing attack that netted Brady his third MVP award. In terms of pure talent, he is probably the best receiver Brady has had this decade. Josh Gordon is right there with him, but I decided to role with Cooks, who was more efficient.
Honorable Mentions: Danny Amendola, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Brandon LaFell, Josh Gordon
TE1: Rob Gronkowski
This one, like Brady, is not up for debate. Gronk caught 79 touchdowns in just nine seasons, the most in Patriots history for any player. He, like Brady, made PFF’s all-decade team with a 94.4 grade, absolutely dusting Travis Kelce for the top spot. His per 16 game averages are insane. He averaged nearly 1,093 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 56 first downs every 16 games. Whenever Brady needed chunk yards, he looked for Gronk. His retirement in early 2019 was a sad occasion for all of Patriots Nation. The offense has not been the same without him.
TE2: Aaron Hernandez
While Hernandez did not exclusively kill it on the field, it would still be hard to put anyone over him. The undersized tight end was a dynamic playmaker on the field. Because he was so athletic, the Patriots would often use him in receiver and even running back roles. The Gronk and Hernandez duo was something that had not been seen in the NFL before, and they terrorized NFL defenses. In his career with the Patriots, he caught 175 passes for 1956 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Honorable Mentions: Martellus Bennett, Tim Wright
Left Tackle: Nate Solder
The first-round pick from Colorado was a consistently adequate protector of Brady’s blindside. Aside from one season-ending injury in 2015, he was very healthy and always performed pretty well in his seven seasons with the Patriots. The highlight of his tenure came against the Colts in the AFC championship game, in which he was declared eligible and caught a touchdown pass. He signed a blockbuster deal with the Giants and has played with them since.
Left Guard: Logan Mankins
The seven-time Pro Bowler was at his peak in the late 2000s, but he still performed admirably in his final four seasons with the Patriots. From 2010-2013, he made the Pro Bowl every year and was even First-Team All-Pro in 2010. It was a tossup between him and Joe Thuney, but I decided to go against recency bias and give it to Mankins.
Center: David Andrews
The undrafted center from Georgia has made quite the name for himself in New England. After an average rookie season, Andrews took over as the full-time starter in 2016. His leadership across the offensive line has shown up throughout his three seasons as a starter. His shining moment came in Super Bowl LIII, in which he soundly handled Aaron Donald, the best player in football, for the entire game.
Right Guard: Shaq Mason
After a terrible 2015 season in which he struggled mightily in pass protection, Mason has developed into one of the best guards in football. His solid pass blocking and elite run blocking compares with any other guard in the league. He made PFF’s All-Pro team in 2018 and is one of the more underrated players in football.
Right Tackle: Marcus Cannon
As the narrative has gone for most of the Patriots line, Cannon was awful in 2015. After line coach Dante Scarnecchia was brought back, he flourished. He made PFF’s All-Pro Team in 2016 with an 86.6 grade. His 2016 season was ultimately what gave him the edge over Sebastian Vollmer, but ultimately it is really close. Cannon’s 2016 just stuck with me, as 2016 is my favorite Patriots season ever, so he gets the edge.