One statement spelling out past and future draft strategies by Belichick

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England P...

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches the preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on August 28, 2009 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was going through ESPN and saw the Patriots Mailbag with Mike Reiss and something caught my attention with one of his answers. The question was about Belichick and trading up for an impact player.

“It sort of ties in to Belichick’s thoughts as relayed in Michael Holley’s “War Room” book about the Falcons trading up to No. 6 to draft receiver Julio Jones in 2011. Belichick didn’t endorse the move because he felt the difference between Jones and Jonathan Baldwin (a later first-round pick) wasn’t worth all it would take to move up.”

Now I can see what Belichick was talking about and sort of agree no doubt about it but I might also see where some of the Patriots drafts woes have stemmed from. Now both Julio Jones and Jonathan Baldwin were first round picks and both saw some significant time on the field but there were some clear differences in performance.

Jonathan Baldwin played 11 games, had 21 receptions for 254 yards and one touchdown. A decent season for a rookie wide receiver I must say.

Julio Jones played in 13 games, had 54 receptions for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. That is a great season for a rookie wide receiver.

While the Falcons did give up a lot to get Jones, I think it paid off in the end. As of right now I think the difference between the two is upside and other little things. Julio Jones, I believe, has a higher ceiling and has more upside than Baldwin has. Baldwin is no doubt talented, maybe as talented as Jones but I don’t think he has as high a ceiling as Jones honestly. Now the argument can be made that there were two completely different quarterbacks throwing to them. One is Matt Cassel, who is a slightly above average quarterback who benefited from backing up the great Tom Brady. Matt Ryan however is a first round pick who came to the Atlanta Falcons after they fell from grace because of the whole Michael Vick situation. Therefore, you would be right to make that connection and bring that up but either man could have ended up on the other team and I will argue that the results could be the same. Jones would still out perform Baldwin, even with Cassel as his quarterback.

Therefore, Belichick is right, sort of, and that giving up all of that might not have been worth it but comparing the two, right now it seems that the Falcons won. Would the Falcons, if they kept all the picks they had, and chose Baldwin and filled some other spots they really needed like defensive line, secondary and getting someone to eventually replace John Abraham, have made it to the playoffs? Maybe, maybe not but drafting Julio Jones did not hinder that at all, they still made it… granted they lost but they made it.

So is that why Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, Darius Butler, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite, Shawn Crable, Chad Jackson, Laurence Maroney, Tyrone McKenzie and some others haven’t worked out and why Jermaine Cunningham and Ron Brace are currently not working out? Did he see that they had just as much talent as someone else in the draft but that they had a little less of an upside? While a good strategy by the mastermind Bill Belichick sometimes you have to take that “higher upside” talent to be surrounded by the others. Therefore, you have some adequate young talent surrounding one or two superstars and now you have a team.

However, hey, who am I? Just a fan, someone who watches the games and has an opinion on things. I am obviously not a part of the NFL or any station that follows them, but this is just my opinion and what I see.

I will say that in the last few drafts he has made some key hits with Brandon Spikes, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourt (well, judge is still out with his horrible season last season but for now I’ll count him), and Zoltan Mesko. Judge is still out on the 2011 NFL draft class but so far some hits seem to be Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and who knows how Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Ryan Mallett turn out but right now, they seem to be a part of the Patriots’ future. Ras-I Dowling is a question mark for me because of his past with injuries and the fact that he ended up on Injured Reserve last season. Before going on IR, he was doing okay but you were, well I was, just waiting for him to end up on that list and he did.

Although, some key misses at least from 2011 was Brooks Reed who went to the Houston Texans and when Mario Williams went down him, Conner Barwin and J.J. Watt made it not so bad that they lost Williams to the Buffalo Bills this past off-season. Another I think was Torrey Smith WR who went to the Baltimore Ravens. I am not going to rehash all of the other misses from the other years because quite honestly, they have been talked about repeatedly and we all need to forget about them. I think it just seems that the Patriots miss more because Belichick piles up so many picks. I still think Brooks Reed and Torrey Smith were misses in time they’ll be in the same category as the others… under a file that just says, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

In my opinion in this 2012 NFL draft that is a little over a month away Bill has to be aggressive, or at least stand pat with his picks and not trade down. Bill, Nick and the powers that be will have the master plan and do what is best for the team but with Tom Brady getting older and his seasons numbered, I think it’s more important than ever to snag a playmaker or two sooner rather than later. However, with what he said I see him continuing to trade down unless he sees an incredible talent on the board that is a once in a lifetime type of talent.

With whatever criticism we all have of coach and General Manager Bill Belichick it comes with an understanding that he is one of the best in the game. He has made questionable moves but we’re lucky to have someone who can win constantly and run the office side of things for as long as he has and like I said still have an “elite” team. At least we don’t have a revolving door at coach and G.M. like some other teams in the NFL. Of course, you could say that Tom Brady is the person who makes sure the Patriots keep winning but Belichick is the one who brings the talent in. Brady can’t do it by himself… don’t believe me? Well 2006 seems to point that way and if they had better talent at that time, they would have won it all instead of the Colts.

It was an interesting mailbag check it out:

ESPN Patriots Mailbag with Mike Reiss

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Where do the New England Patriots go from here?

NEW ENGLAND Patriots Wallpaper

NEW ENGLAND Patriots Wallpaper (Photo credit: Axel.Foley)

After losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl you have to think, where do they go from here? Well it was obvious, to me anyway, that the Patriots have some holes that really need to be filled if they want to win another Super Bowl ring. The score of the game cannot blind them, yes, if they scored a touchdown then they would have won and ESPN and other outlets would be swamped with comparisons of Tom Brady and Joe Montana, and we would be trying to find a channel that was not talking about it and most likely failing. However, the Patriots defense could not stop the Giants on that last drive and even on other drives made some crucial mistakes and they lacked playmakers on that defense. The Giants had 114 yards rushing and 282 through the air and they won the time of possession battle. So where do the Patriots go from here?

So out of all of the Patriots free agents, a list can be found here, who comes back? Wes Welker I believe is a given, Deion Branch, Dan Connolly, Matthew Slater, I do believe will all be back. Who is on the fence? Andre Carter, Mark Anderson and BenJarvus Green Ellis– all had decent seasons and could be offered contracts that the Patriots don’t want to match or beat. Especially with Green Ellis who hasn’t fumbled yet, what team wouldn’t want that and by letting him go you make a commitment to the two young running backs that you drafted last season, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, they deserve to play more than they did last season and bringing back Green Ellis will just stunt any production I believe. The top priority is obviously Wes Welker but Matthew Slater is also on top of that list as well and as for Branch, well if he is willing to take a reduced role then we should sign him.

So what positions should be looked at in free agency? They need a pass rusher we all noticed the impact Andre Carter had so to have that consistently and from both sides would really make a difference. Defensive backs- they need better corners and safety. Bringing some impact defensive backs can really turn around a defense and a game. I’m not sure any team respects our corners and safeties. They also need an explosive Wide Receiver, only one who is strictly a deep threat but just an explosive WR that will get teams to respect the talent and notice he can be a deep threat. Even with the pending retirement of Brian Waters, I believe the Patriots are okay with the offensive line but grabbing a player or two in free agency or the draft would not hurt.

As much as we say it’s an offensive league, a defense still wins championships. Since 2004, every team who won a Super Bowl had at least a good defense, except the Indianapolis Colts but they were against the Chicago Bears who probably should not have been there. Maybe it’s not all about where you rank but more about the players you have and the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers this season I believe proved that but they shouldn’t be fooled, The Patriots deserved to be last especially when they released Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders without getting anything in return.

So who do the Patriots look at in free agency? Well this is a little tricky because they will look for talent but most likely not top talent because they will command big money. So with that being said who could be on the radar? Well you have Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne, something that former Patriots Willie McGinest pointed out. I know he’s a top WR but I have him because he played with Peyton Manning in a complicated offense, so you know he will grasp the playbook and know what is expected of him from another future Hall of Fame Quarterback Tom Brady. So what other names jump off the page? Well Defensive End Aaron Smith is one name, if healthy, can provide some energy and make an impact. Also obviously, Mario Williams would also be worth looking into but who knows if the Houston Texans will franchise tag him. Corners and safeties that could be available- Rashean Mathis, Marcus Trufant, Eric Wright, LaRon Landry, Chris Hope and Jordan Babineaux. Also some decent linebackers available, which could be on the radar as well. What should be watched is the situations in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Oakland because Pittsburgh and Philadelphia want to dump salary to make room for others and Oakland is going under a change in direction, strategy and everything since Al Davis passed away and is looking to release some “bad” contracts.

Some moves might be based on how they feel about Ras-I Dowling who was a 2nd round pick and was on injured reserve, also has a past of injuries. In addition, do they cut or keep Ron Brace, Jermaine Cunningham, Myron Pryor, and Chad “Ocho” Johnson and will they move Devin McCourty permanently to safety. This is certain though, Bill Belichick will make some moves, just as he did last off-season and with a whole off-season to teach the playbooks and system it will make a difference.

Key areas to improve- Cornerback, Safety, Defensive End, Outside Linebacker, Wide Receiver and Offensive Line.

Whom to target in the upcoming NFL draft? Safety Mark Barron from Alabama could drop to them since he has an injury and his time at the Scouting Combine will be limited. If he is still on the board at 20 or so, they should try to trade up and snag him. DT- Michael Brockers, DT- Dontari Poe, DE- Fletcher Cox, WR- Mohamed Sanu, OLB- Courtney Upshaw. It’s hard to predict what Bill will do in the draft but this is what I predict- Mark Barron will indeed fall to the Patriots at 27 but Bill will trade down for another second round pick and the Baltimore Ravens will pick Barron. Why? Well they will see someone else who maybe has the same skill set as Barron but with a lower ceiling and will be cheaper.

Franchise Tags can be applied- February 20th

Free Agency begins on March 13th

NFL Draft starts April 26th