Looking back on draft is an exercise I participate in far too frequently. In fact if it counted as actual exercise I'd be the healthiest motherfucker on the planet. NBA, NFL, even MLB drafts, that's an internet rabbit hole you can catch me diving down multiple times a week. Suffice to say the 2020 Patriots left me asking "Why?"; "How?"; "Who did this fam?"; more than any season in recent memory. Belichick's drafting has always been (wrongfully) panned. Local media had to figure out a rival for the Patriots over the last 20 years, and since no football teams decided to step up they landed on Bill the Coach vs. Bill the GM. Everyone loves Bill the Coach. Bill the GM became the fabricate foil. I need to say this up front because I'm not here to blame Bill the GM, rather, try and explain what makes me more comfortable with all this spending.
The Schefter tweet above is the line of thinking I'm seeing most skeptics toss around in wake of all these deals. "You don't win Championships in Free Agency." Yeah... I guess. I don't know. We didn't draft Stephon Gilmore. Or Rodney Harrison, Wes Welker, Ted Washington, Rosevelt Colvin, Danny Amendola, and on, and on, and on. This is where I've never understood the "Belichick is a bad GM" crowd. They say he can't draft and that he never, prior to yesterday, pays in free agency. I don't know where the fuck all the talent has been coming from for 20 years, then. Tom Brady helped a shit ton, I get that. Tom Brady didn't draft Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower in the same first round.
That's not to say Bill's been perfect by any stretch, it's an impossible job to never catch a loss. But the losses must be mitigated and offset by wins on the other side. The Patriots have nine picks in the 2021 Draft, I'm not expecting nine future Hall of Famers. I would, however, love five playable players. For how long or where is irrelevant right now, but you got nine picks to figure out how to get about a tenth of your roster situated. And a good tenth, too. Not just your last tenth of backups and guys that make you cringe when you see them on the field.
Right now, a lot of the talk is centered around Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, the two tight ends Belichick selected in the third round of last year's draft. Understandable, they showed nothing as rookies and the Patriots just doled out over $50 million guaranteed for two proven tight ends. I don't know that I'm ready to write off either, as both spent the majority of their rookie COVID campaigns inactive, but they're certainly not looking like home runs at the moment. But focusing on the 2020 Draft as the problem feels both short-sighted and wrong. Kyle Dugger was great, Josh Uche showed more than enough for me to be excited about his growth and development moving forward, and Michael Onwenu looked like an offensive line anchor to the point where Belichick was comfortable letting two starters walk this offseason already. The 2020 Draft was ok, it didn't kill the franchise and it didn't usher in the next generation. The 2017 Draft? Buddy,
Four picks. FOUR. That's simply too few picks. Especially when your earliest pick is 83rd. And then that pick doesn't even really play football. Derek Rivers (83rd), Antonio Garcia (85th), Deatrich Wise (131st), and Conor McDermott (211th). Rivers recorded 2.5 career sacks and was waived last season. Garcia never played in a single preseason game and was released a year after he was drafted, he plays in Saskatchewan now. Deatrich Wise just re-signed a four year deal that can earn him up to $30 million, pretty solid. McDermott was waived before the 2017 season. So out of that draft class, one young player. I wont even mention that the player selected between Rivers and Garcia was Chris Godwin. Nope. Not gonna do it. That would hurt as much as finding out the 96th pick we owned heading into the draft was traded to Detroit and ultimately landed them Kenny Golladay. I wont do that either.
The Patriots used their first round pick on a one year rental Brandin Cooks, who was traded for Isaiah Wynn. Doesn't look terrible on the surface, now reports are coming out that Cooks wasn't even acquired for Brady in the first place. Bit of a head scratcher there, but Wynn has been solid. So all's well that ends well, I suppose. The Patriots also swapped out a 2017 sixth round pick for Kyle Van Noy, I don't know anyone who wouldn't argue against that move. They traded their second round pick for Kony Ealy (yeesh) and the 72nd pick. They moved that 72nd overall pick to Tennessee for 83 and 124, and then package 124 with the 96th overall pick to get the 85th overall slot. To boil it all down: they traded their second and third round picks for Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, and Antonio Garcia. This is where you can get into a process vs. results conversation, but the end result is the results didn't pan out in the slightest here.
Bill traded another fourth rounder for Dwayne Allen and the 200th overall pick. A fifth rounder for Barkevious Mingo, another fifth for James O'Shaughnessy. And oh yeah, a fourth rounder was forfeited because of Deflategate. You didn't think you were gonna read this many words about the Patriots and not hear about Deflategate again, did you?
It was easy to not care about the 2017 NFL Draft in the moment. The Patriots were coming off the Falcons Super Bowl victory and had talent everywhere you looked. They traded for Cooks and brought in Gilmore. They went on to lose to the Eagles and not a single person alive blamed that loss on the lack of rookies injected into the roster. The follow up that loss with a win over the Rams. You go to three straight Super Bowls and people aren't parsing through a single draft class looking for holes, there aren't holes. The Patriots keep revamping, Josh Gordon is cleared to play, Antonio Brown forces his way to New England, are they gonna go undefeated again? No, actually, you're gonna lose to the Titans in the first round and Brady's going to leave. Now that the best quarterback of all time isn't there to help cover some of those holes, boy oh boy are they going to be exposed for the world to see.
The Patriots went into free agency and filled holes. Matthew Judon gives them what Derek Rivers couldn't. Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor are solid, compared to the guys we were trotting out the last year and a half they look like Moss and Owens. But they're solid, professional receivers that will help tremendously. Henry and Jonnu give the Patriots the tight end versatility they haven't had since Gronk and Marty B. Jalen Mills is going to be more important than I think people are ready to admit when you start looking at the short term future of this secondary. Godchaux and Anderson can hopefully stop opponents from repeatedly gashing us by running the ball down our throats.
Oh yeah, there's still NINE draft picks to be had. I feel like that's the key detail here the people pointing to past big spenders are missing. We're not the fucking Jets.