Tom Brady has had the most successful football career of any player in the history of the game. He has been able to win championships through difficult scenarios. But one position has almost always been there to help him succeed: the receiving unit. Patriots receivers have had some truly beautiful partnerships with Brady. Here we analyze and rank the greatest receivers Brady has worked with.
6. Troy Brown
If you starting thinking about receivers from the beginning of Brady's career, Troy Brown would be the first name in your mind. Brown retired from football as the Pats' all-time leader in receptions, second in yards, and top 10 in touchdowns. The reason why he is at the back of this list, is that most of that was not with Mr. Brady. He only played the back half of his career with Brady, yet those seven years were pretty spectacular. Despite the fact he was in his 30's, he still racked up 3,595 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns with Tom.
Brown was a huge part of Brady's first season, and could easily be considered the reason why Brady settled down so quickly. In the postseason, Troy caught a spectacular 253 yards. In the 2001 Super Bowl he went six for six (targets to catches) for 89 yards en route to the win. While after that season he started to decline, the next player on this list helped minimize the damage.
5. Deion Branch
Deion Branch spent his first four years with the Pats and Brady, accounting for 2,744 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. He won three rings before being traded to Seattle for a 1st round pick. He struggled with abysmal Seahawks teams, before being traded back for a fourth round pick. In his last few years with the Patriots, he added 1,553 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns with Brady. This pushes the totals to 4,297 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns in their partnership. He never won any individual awards, but did win the 2004 Super Bowl MVP award thanks to his 133 yards and 11 receptions. The next player on this list joined the Patriots when Branch left, and left the team when Branch rejoined.
4. Randy Moss
While one of the best wide receivers ever, Randy Moss isn't rated higher because his stay with the Pats wasn't long. It was quite a stroke of genius by Bill Belichick to grab Moss, as he gave up only a fourth-round pick for him in 2007. While he only played with Brady for 2 1/4 years, together they created 2,800 receiving yards and 39 touchdowns! Just imagine if they were together for four times as long! Unfortunately they were never able to win a championship together, getting close in the 2007 18-1 almost undefeated season. The Pats dealt Moss and a 7th round pick to the Vikings for a 3rd rounder in 2010, thus ending his short but sweet stay in New England.
3. Julian Edelman
Feisty and tough, Julian Edelman rose to success late in his career, yet he still has his name placed in Patriots and NFL record-books. His greatest value might be the fact that he is a postseason BEAST. Since he became a full-time player in 2014, Edelman's played in 12 playoff games and has more than 75 yards in 11 of those. He also is only second to Jerry Rice in playoff yards and receptions, plus tied for 43rd in playoff TD's. He even won last years Super Bowl MVP award for his 141 yard game.
His great return game has also been very valuable to the Pats, and has the fourth most punt return touchdowns among active players. His amazing partnership with Brady has allowed for Edelman to place 7th in Patriots history for career receiving yards, and 10th in receiving touchdowns. Jules is still playing his special brand of football, and is one of my favorite receivers of all time.
2. Wes Welker
Wes Welker came in at around the same time as Moss, but left a greater and longer impact. When he was acquired by the Pats, many thought they overpaid for him as they gave up a second and seventh rounder. But just look at his numbers in his six years in New England. Welker averaged 112 catches, 1,243 yards and six touchdowns a season! With Brady, Welker had over 6,250 yards and 34 TDs. His overall Patriots career records in those categories ranks 3rd for yards and 8th for touchdowns. Like Edelman, he was great in the playoffs despite the fact that he never won a championship. Welker's connection with Brady was so spectacular, it would take a hall of fame talent to top it. Enter Gronk.
1. Rob Gronkowski
When looking at the partnership of Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady, how could he not be first? Gronk is arguably the greatest red-zone threat in NFL history, and in my eyes Gronk is the greatest tight end in NFL history. Imagine if he wasn't injured half of the time, and if he played another four or five years! Even despite those nine injury riddled years, he's the all-time leading receiver for the Patriots since Brady was drafted, and his 79 touchdowns are far more than the player in second place. I can't say much more that hasn't already been said about this true NFL Star. If he stays retired, his 100 regular season games started will still be more than enough for the hall of fame.