Patriots Mythbusting: Belichick Can’t Draft

There’s a lot of myths that surround our evil team in the north, the New England Patriots. They have recording devices in opponents locker rooms. They mess with opposing coaches headsets. They illegally let air out of balls. They filmed opposing sidelines when filming opposing sidelines was not allowed. Or, my favorite, they use the lighthouse outside of the stadium to spy on teams. Basically all boiling down to the simple truth that Belichick is this immoral, ungodly devil spawn who runs a team of cheaters that deceived their way to the top of the NFL world…for 20 years. 

My favorite myth, though, is much more grounded. And while you may have an argument depending on your POV, it’s still generally a false statement: Bill Belichick can’t draft. Poppycock!

First of all, you need to understand something. The NFL Draft is, shockingly, not an exact science. There isn’t some magical formula cooked up in some top secret base that tells you whether Player X will be a stud and Player Y will be a bust. Coaches miss out on players all the time, not just that ok’d curmudgeon in New England. It’s high stakes, human gambling where you take a leap of faith based on measurements, 40 times, game tape and other ultimately pointless garbage and hope you picked the right door.

So, after completing extensive hours of research, I’ve decided to break down this idea that GM Bill “can’t draft”…whatever that even means. (Read: I saw an article posted by Zack Cox on NESN breaking down what rounds Belichick likes to draft certain positions in and it listed out every draft pick by he’s made which got me thinking…most of the guys aren’t half bad!)

KEY: A “hit” is simple, it’s a player that had a good-or-better career. Pro Bowls, production, etc. A “miss” is simple as well, it’s someone who hardly produced or was just flat out useless. Some players have barely seen the field due to injury or the ONE COVID year they were on the team. It’s a small sample size, but a decision had to be made. I also factor in the Rorschach Test element here. Basically, say a name and decide, within 2 seconds, if it’s a hit or a miss. Don’t overthink it.

Round 1

Hits: Sony Michel, Ben Watson, Daniel Graham, Isaiah Wynn, Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones, Ty Warren, Richard Seymour, Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Brandon Meriweather

Misses: Laurence Maroney, Malcolm Brown, Dominique Easley, N’Keal Harry

14 hits, 4 misses. So far, Bill can draft! Most of the hits are slam dunks. I know some of you may poo poo the fact that I have Michel there, but the guy can play. I fully expect him to prove that fact to everyone this season. And if you want to disagree with Meriweather, go ahead. But he was a good player in his time here and has 2 Pro Bowls under his belt. Also, Big Bang Clock.

And no, I will not give N’Keal Harry any benefit of any doubt. He’s a miss.

Round 2

Hits: Jimmy Garoppolo, Shane Vereen, Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Matt Light, Josh Uche, Jamie Collins, Brandon Spikes, Kyle Dugger, Patrick Chung, Eugene Wilson

Misses: Aaron Dobson, Chad Jackson, Bethel Johnson, Adrian Klemm, Ron Brace, Marquise Hill, Jermaine Cunningham, Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson, Cyrus Jones, Ras-I Dowling, Darius Butler, Terrence Wheatley, Jordan Richards, Tavon Wilson

The second round is a big bag of “meh” for the greatest coach of all time. 27 picks and 15 of them being misses. The only one I felt weird putting on that list was Joejuan because he’s so young, but I had to make a decision. He very well may turn into a hit, but as we stand right now, he’s a miss. He was drafted in the second round and hasn’t really seen the field. That’s a negative.

But talk about your 3 “blast from the past” wide receiver names huh? Jackson, Dobson and Johnson sounds like a second-rate Law Firm. And maybe they should’ve tried that career path because Dobson had butterfingers, Jackson is as unremarkable as they get and Johnson was solely a fast kick returner. When people say Belichick can’t draft a WR, these three names lend credence to that point.

But for as bad as he missed, he hit pretty hard too. Branch, Gronk, Light, Vollmer and Chung were all vital parts of championship teams. And while Collins and Spikes had their respective issues, they were both talented, productive picks. Add to that Uche and Dugger looking like budding stars, the second round could definitely be worse for GM Bill. Count: 26 hits – 19 misses.

Round 3

Hits: Jacoby Brissett, Damien Harris, Joe Thuney, Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon

Misses: Ryan Mallett, Kevin O’Connel, J.R. Redmond, Stevan Ridley, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, David Thomas, Yodny Cajuste, Antonio Garcia, Vincent Valentine, Derek Rivers, Jake Bequette, Tyron McKenzie, Shawn Crable, Ellis Hobbs, Brock Williams, Guss Scott

Given all the factors and potential skilled players available at this point in the draft, the third round may be Belichick’s worst. We’re talking last season of Game of Thrones level disaster here. My only reservation for the “miss” list was Ridley. But other than one good year and a cool visor, Ridley was a miss. It’s time we admit that. I thought about Asiasi and Keene for a minute, but when you produce less than 400 yards combined, you’re a miss.

The saving grace in this round is Thuney. The guy is one of the best lineman in the league. Winovich and Harris are very young as well, but they’ve shown enough I think to be classified as hits so far. Count: 33 hits – 38 misses. That round was a slaughter.

Round 4:

Hits: James White, Malcolm Mitchell, Aaron Hernandez, Cam Fleming, Shaw Mason, Deatrich Wise, Trey Flowers, Asante Samuel, Jarvis Green, Stephen Gostkowski

Misses: Jarrett Stidham, Rohan Davey, Cedric Cobbs, Josh Boyce, Jabari Holloway, Kenyatta Jones, Greg Randall, Hjalte Froholdt, Tre Jackson, Byron Stork, Rich Ohrnberger, Kareem Brown, Dan Klecko, Garrett Mills

The fourth round is going to need some explanation as I’m sure there are some eyebrows raised here. First off, Malcolm Mitchell was a hit. He was very talented and looked to be starting a very solid career. He had personal issues (and injuries) that took him out of the league unfortunately. Call it bias, but he’ll always be a hit to me because of his performance in the Falcons Super Bowl. Secondly, Cam Fleming was a vital rotational backup of TWO Super Bowl winning teams. That’s important in a Belichick system, and that’s a hit. And as for Hernandez…we’re talking ON the field, not off. He was a hit until it was revealed that he was a serial killer.

But the misses? Jesus, save for a few names, I don’t even know who most of those guys are. That’s not good. This is another round that gives the “GM Bill is getting in the way of Coach Bill” ammo. I mean is Greg Randall a real person? With all due respect, I didn’t know that name even existed. Count: 43 hits – 52 misses.

Round 5:

Hits: Matthew Slater, Marcus Cannon, Dan Koppen, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Zoltan Mesko

Misses: P.K. Sam, Lee Smith, Dave Stachelski, George Bussey, Clint Oldenberg, Ryan O’Callaghan, Byron Cowart, Jeff Marriott, Ryan Claridge, Hakim Akbar, Justin Rohrwasser

Listen, it’s tough to classify something a “miss” this late in the draft when no one expects you to hit big in the late rounds anyway. But the hardest choices require the strongest wills and I have a job to do.

The misses here are ugly. The two names that even ring a bell are Cowart and Rohrwasser. The latter because he just got released. Cowart hasn’t had much playing time and while he’s been okay when he’s on the field, a decision had to be made.

Matthew Slater is a future HoFer, Koppen was a ROCK in the championship years and Cannon is a very good lineman. Bentley has a ton of promise and the other three are just solid special teamers. Can’t argue any of them out of this category. Count: 50 hits – 63 misses. It’s getting away from us here..

Round 6:

Hits: Tom Brady, Justin Herron, Mike Onwenu, Ted Karras, Nate Ebner, Elandon Roberts

Misses: Kilff Kingsbury, Justise Hairston, Braxton Berrios, A.J. Derby, Arther Love, Conor McDermott, Jon Halapio, Ted Larsen, Dan Stevenson, Myron Pryor, Le Kevin Smith, Zach Moore, Jeremy Mincey, Cassh Maluia, Christian Sam, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Matthew Wells, Markell Carter, Bo Ruud, Justin Rogers, Jemea Thomas, Mike Richardson, Leonard Myers, Antwan Harris, Jake Ingram

The 6th round of the NFL Draft isn’t meant to breed superstars. It’s meant for depth pieces that, while still may turn into something, are picked to bolster the roster and fill the practice squad. That’s not a criticism to anyone picked in this round, but it’s the truth. So of course the misses are going to be more than the hits here. This is the definition of taking a flyer on a player and hoping he turns into someone whose at least serviceable.

That being said…ever heard of Tom Brady? Yeah, he was picked in this round. Belichick can’t draft, but yet he drafted the GOAT and kept him on the team knowing there was something there with this kid. Other coaches may have opted to NOT carry 3 quarterbacks on the roster and cut Brady. Who knows what either of those men’s legacies would be if that happened.

Also, Bo Ruud? What was he? An extra from Dukes of Hazzard who happened to find his way into the football field? What a name.

Count: 56 hits – 88 misses.

Round 7:

Hits: Matt Cassel, Julian Edelman, David Givens, Tully Banta-Cain, Patrick Pass

Misses: Danny Etling, Zac Robinson, Antoine Womack, Spencer Nead, Devin Lucien, Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Ebert, Ryan Izzo, Andy Stokes, Thomas Welch, Dustin Woodward, Mike Elgin, Cade Weston, Ethan Kelley, Michael Buchanan, Brandon Deaderick, Xzavier Dickson, Steve Beauharnais, Oscar Lua, Casey Tisdale, Ken Webster, Keion Crossen, Darryl Roberts, Alfonzo Dennard, Malcolm Williams, Christian Morton, Willie Andrews, Owen Pochman

On the surface this looks ugly, sure. But you tell me a coach with a good success rate in the last round of the draft. There are none. The fact that Belichick found one of the toughest, greatest slot receivers ever in this round is a miracle. Especially when that player was slated as a QB. David Givens is a blast from the past but definitely a hit. Also, did you know Matt Cassel made a Pro Bowl? Me neither.

The hits, as they usually are this late in the draft, are aplenty. We’re talking guys who hardly ever saw the field in their careers with names that have no business being NFL players. Ethan Kelley and Andy Stokes sound like the smart kids in class that grew up to develop some genius software that we all use but get no credit for it.

And remember Alfonzo Dennard? You’re lying if you say you weren’t one of the people screaming from the rooftops that this guy was THE next corner on the Patriots. Played three seasons and was never seen again. Got a ring though! As many people did due to the sheer dominance the Patriots had for 20 years.

Ah yes, then there’s Ryan Izzo. The “veteran” of the 2020 tight end room. He had some weird expectations thrust upon him that he was never going to live up to. He became the punchline of talk radio in Boston. Poor guy. Hope he makes a respectable career somewhere else.

Final Count: 61 hits – 116 misses

Out of 177 picks, Belichick has hit on 61 of them. That’s about 35%. Sure you can swap a few players from each column here and there, but at the end of the day, you can consider about one third of Belichick’s entire draft class a success. If a coach hits on one out of every 3 players he drafts, you take that all day and twice on NFL Sunday.

This obviously isn’t taking into account undrafted players which, in my opinion, is an even more impressive feat if you can hit on some of those guys. Brandon Bolden, Malcolm Butler, David Andrews, Adam Butler and J.C. Jackson were all undrafted free agents that Belichick saw talent in. And each and every one of them are very good at what they do.

And if you need more convincing that the greatest coach to ever do it knows what he’s doing on draft day, take a look at this.

DVOA is basically a tool used to evaluate a player’s value in the league based upon a league average baseline based on a certain situation. Without getting too technical and eventually confusing myself and you, the reader, that chart shows what teams are drafting good players and what teams aren’t. And would ya look at that, the Patriots are ranked second from 2000-2019. And as you can see, even if you take out Tom Brady, they’d only drop down to 10th. 

No matter what way you look at it, the scientific way or doing what I did and sorting players into each column by your own parameters, Bill Belichick is a Top 10 drafting GM at WORST. And that’s only if you take out his best player which wouldn’t make any sense anyway but hey, the haters bend over backwards to try to prove their blasphemous points. 

So the next time you hear one of your braindead coworkers or a talentless talk show host laugh and lecture you about how Belichick can’t draft and how he’s missed out on players, stay calm. That’s just their jealousy manifesting. Let them get it out. It’s tough to watch one coach run roughshod over an entire league for so long. It’s natural to lash out. There’ll be more of that this year, you can be sure of that. 


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