Bill Belichick is in a rare spot for the 2012 draft
One of the biggest running jokes of the Bill Belichick era for the New England Patriots is that Bill Belichick does not ever use his draft picks. Basically, the Patriots have two picks in the first round, they will likely take three players in the second round and third round and turn one of those first round picks into a first round pick next year that will likely be turned into more second round picks.
It’s not bad management per say. The Patriots have done an outstanding job over the years in getting more than seven rounds worth of players in the NFL draft through the process of trading picks and getting more quantity out a single pick. The issue has become the idea that the Patriots have chased quantity over quality. Since 2006, the New England Patriots have drafted only about four true impact players who are still on the roster and part of the reason is because the Patriots constantly trade out of the first round instead of taking “best available player”.
After the jump, why the Patriots might be able to actually move up in the 2012 NFL draft instead of moving backwards
The reasoning for this over the years is the massive amount of money that first round picks in the NFL demanded. Unlike the NBA, the NFL for years had no such “rookie salary scale” that has kept NBA salaries somewhat in check. Instead, first-round picks often demanded money equal to or greater than veterans at the same position. There was multiple problems with this line of thinking:
- These players were rookies and had yet to proven a single thing in the NFL and had no business demanding such high salary prices.
- The contracts in the wrong situation could have been salary cap crippling.
What Bill Belichick did was approach the draft from a value stand-point. Instead of spending X amount of dollars on player A who may or may not pan out, he decided to spend X amount of dollars on players B,C, and D and hope that one or multiple of those players would work out. The issue with this is that the potential for a true impact player lessens by not picking in the first round.
Now the game has changed. The NFL implemented a rookie “slotting” system in the last collective bargaining agreement essentially granting a salary scale to rookies in the draft. In addition, the New England Patriots have attacked many of their needs through free-agency and have given depth and greater versatility to a team that lost the Super Bowl. With two picks in the first round of April’s upcoming NFL draft (picks 27 and 31 overall), the Patriots may have set themselves up to do something they have only done once in the Bill Belichick era.
The Patriots have a chance to trade up and get a best available player.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect for the Patriots. Signings of players such as Brandon Lloyd and Anthony Gonzalez has signaled that the Patriots don’t need a wide receiver in the draft and guys like Trevor Scott or Jonathan Fanene and targeting players like Luis Castillo has given depth to a defense lacking it a season ago. These signings have put the Patriots in a spot where they do not have to trade one pick for the right to three other guys because they already have the depth in the organization.
In addition, now that first round money isn’t what it used to be thanks to the slotting system, the Patriots can no longer find value in trading down because they have a general idea how much the 15th overall pick will make as well as the 21st overall pick and so on. They can plan this cap hit into their off-season budget knowing that can trade up for so and so guy and not have to negotiate a contract or deal with a hold-out. For once, the Patriots can use their scouting ability and go after a guy they see as “top of the class” and not have to worry about the ramifications.
Who could the Patriots target this year? Maybe someone like corner back Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama to boost the secondary. They could stick with the Southeastern Conference and get a rush guy like Melvin Ingram from South Carolina or maybe even give a little local love and trade up for Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and give Jerrod Mayo a beast of a partner to record hundreds of tackles a year. The point is that the rookie slotting system and the amount of draft picks available to the Patriots in this draft has made players that the Patriots would have never been able to acquire due to organizational customs some what available, as long as the Patriots are willing to pull the trigger on a move.
The Patriots have been building for a championship for a couple of years now and came just a few plays short last season. They have done this by having a mentality that any player can step in and be able to do the job of the player he replaced. This has been accomplished by finding value in the draft. With the Patriots just a few plays short of their fourth Super Bowl championship, now seems like the time they should go after a guy who can’t be replaced and someone who should be able to make an impact on Day 1 in a New England Patriot’s uniform.