New England Patriots: In defense of Bill Belichick the general manager

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 01: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on with Cyrus Jones
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 01: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on with Cyrus Jones /

Bill Belichick doesn’t get nearly the respect or credit he deserves as general manager that he does as head coach of the New England Patriots.

People like to criticize Bill Belichick the general manager mainly because he’s made a habit of prioritizing proven quantity over perceived quality when it comes to draft picks during his Patriots tenure.

Despite the fact that New England almost always has their pick(s) coming low in the first round — if they even have a pick at all — the Pats still usually have a boatload of picks to make any given year in total, thanks to Belichick’s propensity for moving down and accumulating capital.

When you have such a strong system, you can afford to take a swing and a miss on occasion in the middle or later rounds. Belichick’s philosophy seems to be that the more potentially successful guys he throws against the professional football proverbial wall, the better chance that more of them will stick and prove they can ball out at the NFL level.

To be clear, Belichick also has drafted some phenomenal guys over the years — even in the first round, too.

Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, and Jerod Mayo were all taken by Belichick in the first round, and all went on to have incredibly successful careers with the Patriots.

Ty Warren, Benjamin Watson, Brandon Meriweather, and Nate Solder all were taken in the first round, too, and while none of those players occupy the same rarefied air as that first group, they all were dependable contributors to the New England dynasty for at least a solid stretch of time as well.

Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower were both taken in the first round, and each of them has gone on to make incredible and immortal plays for the Pats during their respective careers. Hightower is the unquestioned leader in the middle of the New England defense today, as is McCourty in the back-end of the secondary.

While he was traded prematurely, Chandler Jones was terrific for a few seasons with the Pats, and he’s gone on to great things with the Cardinals, too.

Really, the only picks that Belichick has made in the first round since he arrived in 2000 that clearly didn’t work out for the team — at least not to the degree that they should have as first-rounders — have been Dominique Easley, Daniel Graham, Laurence Maroney, and Malcom Brown. And of that group, only Easley is a certifiable bust.

Time will tell how Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn, and N’Keal Harry stack up. It’s obviously way too early at this point to draw any firm conclusions on those three offensive players, taken in the past two NFL Drafts by Belichick and the Pats.

Belichick has also found terrific value outside of the first round in his drafts as GM of the Patriots. Take a look at some of the players he’s selected over the years who went on to make meaningful contributions to the team (with the round they were taken in parentheses).

2000 NFL Draft – QB Tom Brady (6), FB Patrick Pass (7)

2001 NFL Draft – OT Matt Light (2)

2002 NFL Draft – WR Deion Branch (2), WR David Givens (7)

2003 NFL Draft – CB Asante Samuel (4), C Dan Koppen (5)

2006 NFL Draft – K Stephen Gostkowski (4)

2008 NFL Draft – ST/WR Matthew Slater (5)

2009 NFL Draft – S Patrick Chung (2), OT Sebastian Vollmer (2), WR Julian Edelman (7)

2010 NFL Draft – TE Rob Gronkowski (2)

2011 NFL Draft – RB Shane Vereen (2), G Marcus Cannon (5)

2013 NFL Draft – LB Jamie Collins (2), CB Logan Ryan (3), S Duron Harmon (3)

2014 NFL Draft – QB Jimmy Garoppolo (2), RB James White (4)

2015 NFL Draft – DE Trey Flowers (4), G Shaq Mason (4)

2016 NFL Draft – G Joe Thuney (3), QB Jacoby Brissett (3)

Next. No one has a clue who Patriots want in draft at QB. dark

It’s still too early to evaluate the Patriots draftees from the 2018 and 2019 classes, but if anything, this list of talent — both taken in the first round and in all the rounds after — should be more than enough justification for Bill Belichick’s prowess as GM in New England.