New England’s Draft Day Dilemma

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There are many strategies employed across the 32 NFL teams when it comes time to make their NFL Draft selections each year: Hold the draft position and pick specifically to fill a need? Hold the draft position and take the best available player? Trade up to target a specific playmaker? Trade down and accumulate draft picks?

There is no one method that is the “best” for picking players. The teams that have the most success are not tied to one philosophy and adjust their draft philosophy based upon the strength and depth of the draft during a given season. Head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ front office has shown a proclivity for making the correct call and trading up, down and accumulating picks, or out of a draft and restocking for another year. With the continuity of Belichick in place since 2000, and the stable leadership of the Kraft family behind him the Patriots have an advantage in multi-year draft planning.

For example, in 2010 the New England front office determined that with a deep draft class of prospects accumulating picks was the desired result. Trading down twice the Patriots still snagged two-time Pro Bowl defensive back Devin McCourty. With a plethora of picks they also were able to bring in tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, linebacker Brandon Spikes, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, and wide receiver Taylor Price with their six picks in the first four rounds.

In contrast, in 2007 the Patriots front office recognized a weak draft class of prospects outside of the first round and used the draft picks available to them as chips to gather picks for subsequent seasons. The 2007 NFL Draft was very weak, with a noticeable lack of impact players, particularly once the top 40 prospects were off the draft board. New England traded four high draft picks (their second first round pick, a second round pick, a fourth round pick, and a seventh round pick) and netted wide receivers Randy Moss, Wes Welker and in 2008 selected linebacker Jerod Mayo. In addition, they stayed in the first round and picked Brandon Meriweather–a Pro Bowl player, whether deserving or not, in New England–and another pick was eventually turned into Pro Bowl special teams player Matthew Slater.

In recent years New England’s front office has displayed all aspects of draft maneuvering.