Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have come under fire in recent years (mostly by fans of other teams) for what some call “poor drafting.” Personally, I’d be careful how you toss that term around when talking about a team like New England before looking a little deeper into their recent draft history.
First things first – take a look at New England’s depth chart. Sixteen of their 22 starters on offense and defense were drafted by Belichick himself. Seven of those were first rounders. The only NFL teams who start more homegrown players than the Patriots are the Steelers and the Packers.
You’ve probably heard people say “you build your team through the draft.” Going back to 2004 (10 seasons), New England has won ten or more games every season, nine division titles, three conference championships and a Super Bowl.
Given those numbers, you could make the argument that no team does a better job of building through the NFL Draft than the New England Patriots.
Belichick and the Patriots do have a reputation for trading down or out of the first round, but if you look back again at the last ten seasons, New England has drafted ten players in the first round – obviously averaging out to one player per year. Of those picks, only Ben Watson, Brandon Meriweather and Laurence Maroney are no longer on the team.
Think about that.
Seventy percent of the players Bill Belichick has drafted in the first round over the last decade are not only still on the team, but still starters on a perennial title contender.
What does all of this mean?
Well, like a lot of teams, the New England Patriots are going to make some boneheaded picks of players that don’t make sense or pan out. They’ll get grilled for it — if for no other reason than they are the New England Patriots and everyone has come to expect them to set the bar when it comes to personnel moves. What that ends up doing is magnifying every Chad Jackson and Laurence Maroney while minimizing the perceived impact “out-of-nowhere” picks like Nate Solder and Devin McCourty.
You have this information. Tonight, I ask that you think about it while you watch the first round of the NFL Draft. Watch what Belichick and the Patriots do or don’t do. Pay close attention to who they pick and whether they move up or down to get him (or them). There is a good chance you’ve never heard of the player they select. Ignore that, and then watch the highlights as ESPN and the NFL Network break the pick down.
If the last decade is any indicator, there is about a 70% chance you’ll be watching highlights of a guy who fits perfectly into New England’s system and will be a permanent part of Belichick’s perennial NFL powerhouse for years to come.