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Busting The Myth That Bill Belichick Can’t Draft

There is no shortage of criticisms and nitpicks when it comes to the New England Patriots and their demonized head coach Bill Belichick. And with former first round pick Sony Michel being traded to the Rams earlier this week for two late round conditional picks, the NFL world’s favorite incorrect myth has been given new life. People are once again shouting from their sad little rooftops that Bill Belichick can’t draft. And to that I shout back and say poppycock! If you disagree with me, which I’m sure many people do, I’ve done the homework for you. So allow me to surgically destroy this narrative so we can all finally move on with our lives. Or at the very least let you people find an actual valid criticism to throw at Coach Belichick.

But before I dive into every draft pick in the Belichickean Era, you need to understand something. The NFL Draft is, shockingly, not an exact science. There isn’t some magical formula cooked up in some Area 51 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. Even though you’d all like to think it’s solely that old curmudgeon up in New England that struggles drafting sometimes. 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. I broke down each pick by rounds and sorted every player into a ‘hit’ or ‘miss’ category. I even put a little key here so you all know what criteria I’m using. Let’s begin.

KEY:

A “hit” is simple, it’s a player that had a good-or-better career. Pro Bowls, production, etc. A “miss” is just as simple. 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. Basically, say a name and decide, within 2 seconds, if it’s a hit or a miss. Don’t overthink it. Oh, and I didn’t cover 2021’s draft because we haven’t even seen the guys play yet…but for the record, Mac Jones is a humongous hit.

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 considering his recent trade, but the guy can play. I fully expect him to prove that fact to everyone in St. Louis Los Angeles. 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 surprisingly 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. Maybe this year he turns that around.

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 (and amazing in Madden). When people say Belichick can’t draft a WR, these three names lend credence to that point.

But for as bad as he missed, his hits were truck sticks. Branch, Gronk, Light, Vollmer and Chung were all vital cogs of championship wheels. 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 because he was a favorite of mine. 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. I understand ‘COVID year’ and all that, but that excuse doesn’t work every time.

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 with the latter taking over as the starting RB. 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. Debate a wall. Secondly, Cam Fleming was a crucial 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, this is a collection of random players you seen on the sideline in Madden cut scenes. 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 was labeled a Nazi the second he got drafted. 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. And he made comments about “not welcoming back” Tom Brady, so it’s safe to say he’s not in many fans good graces.

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 misses, 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 on the back of NFL jerseys. 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, 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. As you can see, even if you take out Tom Brady, they’d only drop down to 10th.

With the amount of hits Belichick has in the later rounds has to carry some extra weight. In rounds where players aren’t supposed to be great, Belichick finds more diamonds in the ruff than anyone. At the end of the day, whose to say what’s a bust and what isn’t anyway? If a player contributes to a team while said team is winning, isn’t that a hit? You also need to take into account how each team views the draft. That alone makes this entire article and the idea of “hits or misses” kind of subjective when it’s all said and done. The goal in the NFL is to win, and the Patriots have done that better than every other team the last 20 years.

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.

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