5. BEST: IRVING FRYAR
Five-time Pro Bowl star Irving Fryar was a media darling during his years at the University of Nebraska, and he played with greats like Mike Rozier and Turner Gill. In 1984 he made NFL history as the first wide receiver to be drafted first overall. He went on to play with the Pats from 1984-1992, and a total of 17 years of pro football. There may have been some legal trouble in 2015 that may have cast a shadow on his name, but his skills on the field are too bright to be ignored.
A grand 363 of his 851 career touchdowns were scored with the Pats. His first 1,000 yard milestone was in 1991 with New England, and although his four subsequent similar achievements were with other teams, it was undoubtedly due to his growth as a player with the Patriots that he was able to display this kind of ability. In 1998 he caught the longest reception of his career, a whopping 80 yards! In 1996 he became the oldest player to ever score four touchdowns in a single game. He continued to set records and awe the crowds when he played for Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington, but his greatness was born in New England.
4. WORST: TONY SIMMONS
Although Simmons’ college ball career was impressive, this guy just didn’t have what it took to play pro. He left the University of Wisconsin with the school’s record for touchdown receptions (23) and was dubbed “Touchdown Tony.” Sounds promising, right? It wasn’t a surprise when he was chosen as a second round pick in the 1998 NFL draft, but his three seasons with the Pats were pretty sad.
In his time with the Pats he caught 56 passes for 981 yards and a total of six touchdowns. Each season saw his achievements and abilities steadily decline. It just wasn’t enough to garner the trust and excitement from coaches and make them want to nurture or encourage his talent. Especially when Belichick rejoined the team in 2000. It was clear that Belichick was less than impressed with Simmons’ performance; in December of that year the coach actually forced Simmons off the field because he “didn’t think he was practicing hard enough.”
Simmons, eager to improve and gain back favour with the Pats, spent the 2001 NFL Europe season playing for the Barcelona Dragons. He claimed to have learned much and was optimistic about his chances for the new season with New England, but it wasn’t to be.
3. BEST: JULIAN EDELMAN
Current Pats receiver Edelman played college ball for the College of San Mateo and then Kent State University where he was an insane offensive player. Although he wasn’t invited to the 2009 NFL Combine, he was drafted by and signed a contract with the Patriots, committing to four years with them. Four years has turned into eight, and he’s still going!
When he first joined the Pats, his assigned position was up in the air for a while. He was on the smaller side for a footballer, but he has more than proved his worth with his stellar receiving and punting. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week in 2007, and that same year he caught his 70th postseason pass, breaking the Patriots record that had been held by Wes Welker. In particular, his performance from 2013 on has been incredible: 105 season receptions in 2013, 92 in 2014, and 98 in 2016. And then there’s the 1,056 yards ran in 2013, 972 in 2014, and 1,106 in 2016. It’s almost as if he doesn’t know how to walk, only run.
2. WORST: DONTE STALLWORTH
Nobody could believe Stallworth’s catching abilities on the college football field. With the University of Tennessee he earned the name “Hands” and his 1,747 yards run put him in the top ten best the school had ever seen. After playing a few decent seasons as a pro with the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints, Stallworth joined the Pats in March of 2007.
His first stint with New England was only for one season, thanks to the stipulations in his contract regarding underperformance. Although he played every game that season, he managed only three touchdowns, 46 receptions, and 15.2 receiving yards per reception, making it his worst season to date. In 2012 when he re-signed with the Pats, it was a very rocky road; he signed in March, was released in August, and then signed again in December when Julian Edelman broke his right foot. Only eight days later, however, Stallworth himself sustained an ankle injury. He’d played one game! Talk about a disappointment.
1. BEST: RANDY MOSS
He’s had what some might call a checkered past, but man, can this guy play football. Lou Holtz actually said that Moss was “the best high school football player I’ve ever seen.” There were many, many college coaches who fought to have Moss play for them, despite the legal troubles he encountered in his younger years. In the end, he played for Marshall University. He had a stellar career with Marshall and ended up with at least one touchdown in every game he played for them.
Once traded to the Patriots, he caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards, and scored a record-breaking 23 touchdowns in his first season alone! It was during that same season that New England finished with a perfect regular season. In fact, it was the first 16-0 regular season record in NFL history. During 13 of those 16 games, Moss had at least one touchdown. In 2009 he tied the NFL record for catching touchdown passes when he grabbed his 141st ball.
When asked by an ESPN reporter about whether he had any regrets about playing for New England, he confessed that he still thought that “…when the game counted for us to really bring it home in the Super Bowl, we couldn’t bring it home.” This guy may have only played with the Pats for three full seasons, but he sure left his mark.