Belichick’s Doggy Draft
The New England Patriots will close the book on a 20-year chapter in their franchise history this season without Tom Brady under center. Unless you have been residing on Pluto over the last few months then you understand the Patriots did little to make Tom Terrific feel all warm and fuzzy about spending his twilight years with the team that drafted him in the sixth round in the 2000 NFL Draft. Well, I guess at the age of 43, he already has spent his twilight years with New England so we will call whatever he has left, his sunset seasons, and he will do so in a Bucs uniform.
Oh, and if it wasn’t gut-wrenching enough for Brady to fly south then imagine his pass-and-catch bro, Rob Gronkowski, joining him. Yes, Gronkowski opted out of retirement and the Patriots received a fourth-round pick from Tampa Bay to allow the Brady-Gronk reunion. And while whispers of a fractured relationship between Belichick and Brady had escalated to a dull roar in New England, watching Gronk join him in the Sunshine State was a move few some coming after he sat out last season in a year in which New England was devoid of anything resembling a starting tight end.
So, after the seismic shift in the Patriots’ landscape, it was time to see what the future would hold for the most successful franchise in NFL history in the form of the 2020 NFL Draft. Ironically, the NFL odds, found over at SportsbookReview, still indicated that New England was the team to beat in the AFC East at +120 with Buffalo a close second at +140 followed by the Dolphins and Jets both being offered at +600.
Patriots’ fans got a foreshadowing of how this draft would go when instead of seeing Belichick in front of a computer they were treated to his dog Nike. But it wasn’t just a quick ha-ha from Belichick, oh no, the pooch was dutifully seated in the chair in front of the computer the entire night. And based on the results, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Belichick left the drafting to his canine pal because that’s how head-scratching many of the Patriots’ decisions were from start to finish.
Bill Belichick has forged a legacy that will never be tarnished but he appears oblivious to the concept of value. We have seen him trade key pieces for what has appeared to be less than maximized value and have also witnessed the Evil Genius draft his man without considering he could have gotten his man further down the road and taken another impact player at the appropriate spot.
Case in point, Belichick traded out of the No. 23 overall spot to get the Chargers No.37 and No. 71. Okay, an even haul but the fact that LSU linebacker Patrick Queen and Oklahoma’s OLB Kenneth Murray (chosen with the No. 23 by the Chargers) were both still available to fill a hole that the Patriots desperately needed to be plugged gave cause for pause.
Needless to say, when Belichick did pull the trigger at No. 37, the air in living rooms all over New England was swallowed whole when it was announced the Patriots selected safety Kyle Dugger out of D-2 Lenoir-Rhyne. Wait, who? What? Was that a cruel joke? Couldn’t Belichick have traded up in the third round to get this guy? We found out later he will be used on special teams! Really? Belichick really killed the game this time. A second-rounder as a special team’s player in an area (defensive backfield) that is already stocked full and not in need of an immediate band-aid.
Belichick would trade up to select Michigan linebacker Josh Uche with the 60th pick overall (someone who he could have gotten in the third round) and then went back to the linebacking well with perhaps his only solid value pick of the night in Alabama’s linebacker Anfernee Jennings at No. 87. Another area of need was filled when he plucked tight ends Devin Asiasi of UCLA (91) and traded up to 101 to get another tight end in Dalton Keene of Virginia Tech.
In one last masterstroke, Belichick traded up in the fifth round to draft a kicker that nobody was talking about when he welcomed Marshall’s Justin Rohrwasser as the first kicker chosen. Again, really? Not the kicker from Georgia or the other one from Georgia Southern that all of the pundits had as the only kickers most likely taken in the draft. No, The Hoodie was sure someone would steal the kid from Marshall right underneath him just like he was certain they were going to snatch the prize from Lenoir-Rhyne early in the second round.
After this draft, some are convinced Belichick is hearing voices. Others believe he likes being the abject contrarian, reveling in confounding people with his atypical selections. Regardless, there is little doubt that Belichick’s tunnel-vision in getting the player he wants is paramount, value be damned.
Whether this Patriots’ draft class is a home run or a strikeout is really immaterial to the fact that Belichick is a lousy card player and as a result, the Patriots are one of just two teams (Cincinnati being the other) that have not drafted a Pro Bowl player over the last five years.
Belichick may find out rather quickly that those quirky choices will get far more scrutiny when TB12 is no longer around to keep New England on track as perennial Super Bowl contenders. Then we’ll see if Bill B remains as cavalier as he was on the night when Nike took the reins of the Patriots’ 2020 NFL Draft.