Mel Kiper puts two Patriots in the top ten of his 2009 NFL redraft. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Mike Reiss – It’s the NFL draft season, which means various analysts produce their “re-drafts” from the past, looking back on a draft and considering how it would unfold today based on the players’ performance.
As part of an ESPN.com Insider piece, Mel Kiper goes through the exercise for 2009, and the New England Patriots land two players in the top 10: Receiver Julian Edelman and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
Kiper passes along one conversation he had with an NFL general manager who called Edelman, “the toughest cover in the NFL right now.”
There’s a technique in the propaganda game that’s been used by totalitarian dictators from time immemorial. From the Roman emperors to Napoleon, from Stalin to Roger Goodell. It’s what’s known as The Big Lie. Say something often enough, say it loud enough, repeat it ad naseum and no matter how untrue it is, eventually it will become accepted as fact.
I bring this up to address one Big Lie that this article helps expose, and that is this myth that Bill Belichick is a terrible drafter. Specifically, that he can’t draft wide receivers.
I’m not the biggest Mel Kiper guy. He’s never once successfully predicted a Patriots draft pick (unlike your pal Jer, The Belichick Whisperer over here). In fact, even his first round predictions have been so consistently off base they betray a complete ignorance of the Patriots schemes, system and scouting methods. It’s like he just lists his draft board in order and wherever New England is selecting, he gives them the corresponding player at that number regardless of his system fit.
But I have to give Captain Hindsight credit where it’s due here. He does have a firm grasp of how well Belichick drafts with the benefit of years. And also I should point out that right after that 2009 draft he gave the Pats a grade of B+, though that was due largely to his love of colossal failures like Darius Butler and Ron Brace. So it’s one of those right pew, wrong church situations. But why quibble?
The fact is that the Patriots got two starters who are among the very best at their positions. Vollmer with the 83rd overall pick and Edelman with the 234th. Neither of whom was considered a good selection by anyone when the Pats made them. Vollmer was on practically no one’s draft board and the few who did have him considered him to be an enormous “reach” in the third round. Edelman was little more than a curiosity. A project who was unlikely to make it past the second roster cutdown, much less make the team. Now here we are in 2015 and they’re not only stars, they’re champions.
But the biggest fallacy of all is this notion that Belchick can’t draft receivers. Here we’ve got an anonymous NFL talent evaluator saying Edelman is the toughest guy to cover in the NFL. And yet Belichick gets no more credit for having the foresight and balls to draft a college QB and convert him into one of the most feared weapons in the league than he would if he found Edelman floating down the Nile in a basket.
The fact is Belichick’s track record for drafting wideouts is probably better than most GM’s in football. If he hasn’t hit any tape measure grand slams in that area, it’s got more to do with the fact he doesn’t take many swings than his lack of scouting acumen.
Consider the numbers. In his fifteen drafts with the Patriots, Belichick has selected the whopping total of 13 wideouts. THIRTEEN. Six of those were drafted in the 5th round or later. And two of those, Mathew Slater and Jeremy Ebert, were taken as Special Teamer WRINOs (Wide Receiver in Name Only). Of the remaining picks, he struck gold with Edelman, Deion Branch and David Givens, and the jury is still out on Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson, who remain on the roster. But he has yet to whiff on a high value, costly, truly damaging WR draft failure in his Patriots career. What he has done however is trade mid-round picks for studs like Randy Moss and Wes Welker, develop stars like Edelman and consistently maintain one of the best offenses in the league, year in and year out.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to America’s number one draft guru and that unnamed GM. Of course they’re just saying it now and I’ve been saying it all along. But after all there is but one Belichick Whisperer.