Draft Grades – New England Patriots
We’re down to the last six. Three high grades and three low. Follow along today as we reveal No. 24, No. 26, and No. 30. With the Patriots, 49ers, Saints, Lions, Bucs, and Vikings left, at least one big upset remains. . .
No. 30 New England Patriots Grade: F
Here’s the part where I open myself up for an avalanche of sarcastic comments about how I obviously must know more about football than Bill Belichick. I don’t. Obviously. It’s easy to criticize the Jaguars or the Raiders, and though their fans will protest, nobody takes those protestations seriously. After all, the Jags and Raiders don’t win football games and this season plan to treat their diehards to Blaine Gabbert and Matt Flynn.
The Patriots are an entirely different animal. The Great One has forgotten more about football than I will ever know and probably by a ratio of a thousand to one (although when you look at the late career draft debacles of Bill Polian, forgotten might be the operative word).
It’s not Belichick’s football savvy that’s in question. The Patriots continue to innovate on the field, using a warp speed offense to humiliate foes in 2012. If they get better health from their tight ends, they probably win another Super Bowl. The draft is another story. Belichick has always been a notable exception, but it’s fair to wonder if even he might have too much on his plate. While not Polian-esque, the recent draft foibles make it worth questioning New England’s strategic approach or at the very least their tactical execution.
Starting in 2003, here are the WRs drafted by the Patriots: Bethel Johnson (pick 45, 2003), P.K. Sam (164, 2004), Chad Jackson (36, 2006), Matt Slater (153, 2008), Brandon Tate (83, 2009), Taylor Price (90, 2010), Jeremy Ebert (235, 2012).
Now in fairness, the expected value of those picks is pretty low, although you might have expected at least one of Johnson, Jackson, Tate, and Price to hit. This year the Patriots selected Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Both players should intrigue fantasy players, but neither was a good value where selected. Frank has taken a long look at Dobson and reached similar conclusions.
The Patriots have been applauded over the years for stockpiling picks, but they have the type of roster where a strong argument could be made for Thomas Dimitroff’s approach instead. It would be interesting to know if New England trades down in order to manage risk or because Belichick’s genius tempts them to believe they can consistently land stars late. Studies on the track record of ‘experts’ are unequivocal. Risk awareness based on humility tends to be sustainable, whereas overconfidence in matters oracular usually leads to swiftly deteriorating results.
If Dobson and Boyce both miss, the Patriots may change their future draft strategy. Or they may decide to run an offense comprised entirely of tight ends.