December 19, 2014

On The Clock: The Buzzword Is ‘Value’

logoby Dan Snapp
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Were he to ever waste a precious second worrying about what fans think, Bill Belichick would hate “In Bill We Trust”. The honor brings more demands than plaudits. Like he doesn’t have enough to worry about.

Belichick has spoiled us. And being the spoiled children that we are, we expect a treat each time we go to the store. So at draft time, there are certain entitlements to be fulfilled.

We insist the Patriots nail their first round pick every time, regardless of where in the round they’re picking. It’s their own damn fault, really. They reaped rewards with Richard Seymour, Daniel Graham, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Benjamin Watson, Logan Mankins, and Laurence Maroney (too early to know with Brandon Meriweather), so we’re well within our rights to demand the same each year.

Magnanimous as we are, we’ll offer some scant leeway. We’ll permit a second round screwup¬† from time to time, so long as it’s not habit-forming (and don’t think we forgot about the trades up for Bethel Johnson or Chad Jackson). It’s nice to see the early whiffs in the third round (Brock Williams, Guss Scott) rectified later with the Ellis Hobbs and Nick Kaczur picks. Not to nitpick, but when can we expect another David Givens seventh round surprise?

Fans are fickle. It’s the offseason, and there’s little else to talk about. So we obsess about the lean second day crop in ’04 or the “one-man draft” of ’07 (I know, I know: “two-man draft”).

The ’07 draft needs no justification. The Pats traded away a first, second, third, fourth and seventh round pick, and got in return the seventh overall pick this year, Wes Welker, a high third rounder, and Randy Moss. The underlying message from the team was clear: this draft stinks, but we still got value for our picks, and stocked up for what’s slated to be a great draft next year.

Next year is here, and expectations are running high. There should be no future considerations deals this year. From what the draft resources tell us, this is the draft to restock your offensive line, your cornerbacks, and to find another running back, so the Pats need to play their hand. The loss of the 31st pick severely hampers their leverage and flexibility to wheel and deal, but they’re still a player, what with the top ten pick and the extra third from Oakland.

So what will they do?

Everything about the way the team has drafted this decade screams, “Move down!” They have moved up twice in the first round – up 11 picks in ’02 to grab Graham, and up one pick in ’03 to nab Warren – but “value” is the Patriots buzzword. If the draft is as deep as we’re being told, and with such uncertainty on who the premium players are (and for such a high cost), the logical course is to trade into the teens, assuming a trade partner is there.

If no partner is in the offing, expect a big body at seven (Sedrick Ellis on defense, Brendan Albert on offense). As predicated last week, we don’t know the players well, but we can go on the Patriots’ patterns. Selecting that high, I think the Patriots will opt for the rare physical specimen, like they did in ’01 with Seymour.

The Jets are important, just not for the reasons people think. Much as Belichick and Eric Mangini detest one another, neither’s going to sacrifice what’s in the best interest of their team out of spite for the other. But since both are 3-4 teams in the top ten, they’re targeting the same people. Unless the Jets are eyeing quarterback Matt Ryan, the two teams will be fighting to race down, not up, the draft.

This draft has that “building a champion” feel, like the ’86 one where the 49ers found seven starters despite not having a first round pick, or the ’91 draft that netted Dallas eight starters. With seven picks in the top 103, this could be the draft that makes the Falcons. Same goes for Kansas City, with six picks in the top 100 after the Jared Allen trade.

For the Patriots, the ’86¬† 49ers analogy is an apt one. Joe Montana turned 30 that year, and that draft restocked the Niners for a second run. This is the Patriots’ opportunity to do the same for Tom Brady.

Comments

  1. The word should be NO! John Clayton reported on Sportscenter that Shaun Alexander expects to land in either New England or Indianapolis! I hope this is not true! I do not want a “dog” on this team.

  2. VaTaHaHa says:

    The spoiled children analogy is too, too apt. My fellow Pats fans are living down to their national reputation with all this whining about being “stuck” with a #7 pick in a draft with “no value” at 7 (Kiper-speak rules). As they say, Cry me a river. What’s so illogical about this discussion is that everyone keeps looking for “a steal” in the late rounds. I’d suggest that with the draft being the crap-shoot it is that it’s just as likely–no, more likely–that a team could find “a steal” at pick 7. I mean, if you find a pro-bowler after six teams at the top have passed on him, isn’t that just as good as finding a pro-bowler after every team has passed on him two or three times? Except for the drama, what’s the difference in the result?

    By the way, on past draft-picks, it should be noted that Brock Williams suffered a devastating injury in camp, that Chad Jackson has been battling injuries and the jury will not be in on him until THIS year, and lastly, the punchline that has become Bethel Johnson. His Pats career may not have been round 2 worthy, but before the guy gets permanently assigned to Hart Lee Dykes territory, let me issue a couple of reminders. One, he almost single-handedly beat the Colts in Indianapolis one crucial Sunday. And in another critical game against the Seahawks, he made a game-altering catch of such spectacular beauty that you would be hard-pressed to find its equal on a Randy Moss highlight reel. If you saw it, you will always remember it.

  3. I know exactly the catch to which you refer. And I agree, Bethel was crucial in his PR return role his rookie year. Up until he was traded, I thought that those returns justified the pick, but that was on the supposition that more would be coming. There was a certain point where you understood he wasn’t going to crack the lineup at receiver, but it was very disappointing that his return skills peaked his rookie year.

    A whole column could be devoted to the Patriots picks who came through at different times in the championship runs, and whether that justified the spots where they were drafted. J.R. Redmond with his performance in the Snow Game and his three catches in the final drive of Super Bowl XXXVI. Antwan Harris taking the lateral to the house against Pittsburgh, and prying the ball loose with his helmet on Ricky Proehl in the Super Bowl.

    As for Jackson, the injury excuse is legit. But he hasn’t done much with his opportunities when healthy, either, certainly not representative of the spot he was drafted.

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