Curran: Patriots have changed the way teams draft


Curran: Patriots have changed the way teams draft

FOXBORO We can enumerate the New England Patriots draft misses. We can reel off their free agent busts.

But when it comes to player procurement, they will never be accused of being gun shy.

Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots work the draft, free agency, the waiver wire, and the undrafted free agent pool unlike any other team in the league.

The volume of players they run through their system is, in part, why they find success. Their roster always churns, players that fit being culled from those that dont.

Square pegs are discarded with a minimum of sentimentality, the simple epitaph of Just didnt work out attached.

For every Brandon Meriweather, there is a corresponding Jerod Mayo. For every Albert Haynesworth, theres an Andre Carter.

If a GM or coach with less clout and fewer wins operated with the same mix of fickleness and bravado Belichick and the Patriots do, theyd be hooted into conformity or excused when the misses piled up.

But Belichicks track record of success compels critics to attach a caveat to every second guess: He knows better than me . . .

The 2012 NFL Draft begins Thursday and the Patriots are again poised to be big players. The draft isnt the only pipeline onto the Patriots roster, but its the most hyped and scrutinized.

New England holds two picks in each of the first two rounds, then single picks in the third and the fourth. Aside from Andrew Luck and RGIII going first and second on Thursday night, the only other sure thing is that the Patriots will make deals.

What Patriot tactics have impacted the way the rest of the league shops for players? And where does the trail end for teams hoping to follow in Bill Belichicks personnel footsteps?

According to Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, the biggest impact the Patriots have had on the rest of the league is in changing how player intangibles are valued.

It's a copycat league and there's certainly no one right way to go about drafting, said Mayock. But when you have as much success as the Patriots have had, everybody in the league self-scouts . . . and they look at New England and there's position versatility.

"There's a premium put on football intelligence and IQ and work ethic. Everybody around the league looks at what they are doing, especially on the pure football side, the position versatility, the work ethic, the locker room. I think those are important things that the rest of the league has followed."

Nolan Nawrocki, draft expert for Pro Football Weekly, says Belichicks drafting style is an amalgam of what hes both created and copied.

If you ask Bill, he would even say hes borrowed philosophically from Jimmy Johnson, Bill Walsh, Al Davis, said Nawrocki. A lot of what the Patriots have established and done came from the blueprints of predecessors before him.

Having been in the NFL since 1975 and around the game all his life, theres virtually nothing Belichick hasnt seen before. When it comes to making bold moves -- draft-day trades for players like Randy Moss, the restricted free agent pursuit that landed Wes Welker, trading down to buy stock in the next years draft -- his hands dont sweat.

Mayock says that isnt the case everywhere.

Bill is a bit of a poker player who likes to move up-and-down the board based on what his value is; not what he perceives the rest of the leagues is. But he knows league value; that's why he's able to move around.

Different teams have different comfort levels, Mayock pointed out. Pittsburgh drafts extremely well every year. Kevin Colbert is great. But they don't really move up-and-down. They know what their needs are. They know what their board says and they go by it. I think a lot of teams take a look at New England and they get nervous about whether they can move up-and-down as efficiently as Bill can.

Both Nawrocki and Mayock agree that the fact Belichick is at the head of a tiny staff make it easier for the Patriots to be decisive.

When Bill is in his draft room, there are not many other people, says Mayock. There are not many other opinions. It's Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio and a couple other people and that's about it. So I think it's hard to emulate the New England model because there are not as many coaches that wear both hats and make the final decision.

Says Nawrocki, With his experience, very few people have had the exposure. Hes never gotten away from the tape, though. A lot of decisions makers are relying on people. He isnt. Hes seeing it. And he understands roster and scheme versatility. Where Bill has separated himself and what made him so great is he knows how to evaluate his own players. Nobodys better at identifying strengths and maximizing talent. I think he understands the league and understands all the avenues of player procurement around the league.

Nawrocki points to the tight end binge of 2010 and the trades for Moss and Welker (pre-draft) as being prescient moves.

What impresses me most is the trades, the way theyve used picks and stockpiled picks, says Nawrocki. Theyre very good at understanding perceived value of players and the real value and manipulating the draft board up and down while other teams will pick who they want where they are (in the draft order). Theres a value on taking a mobile approach to drafting and understanding where to put money into different positions. Dont think anyone looked at (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) and turned them into receivers and some of that is looking at the money for tight ends vs. receiver. Hes finding creative, outside-the-box ways to extract production from the roster.

Hes the best at it getting value for his picks, Nawrocki added. Not many teams can convert seven picks into 15 picks but Bills the master at it. His best moves have been in free agency and the trade market than through the draft. And in the draft, hes been better outside first round. But when theres an important decision to make, he doesnt screw it up. He does a thorough job.

And theres value in that.

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.

As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.

"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.

"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while feeling like Warren Beatty took the sneaky way out by handing that wrong Academy Award card to Faye Dunaway last night. Clearly he knew something was amiss and he let her step into it. Kind of a weasel move if you asked me.

-- An interesting letter from FOH (Friend of Haggs) James Mirtle about the pay wall involving The Athletic sports website in Toronto.

-- Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings dealing for Ben Bishop is about more than just an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick.

-- FOH Mike Halford has the Minnesota Wild going for it with their trade for Martin Hanzal, but also keeping him from the other teams in the West.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Penguins are in great shape after winning the Cup last spring, and it’s clear they’re in good hands after Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle opted not to sell the franchise.

-- Kyle Quincey is being held out of the lineup in New Jersey because of pending trades, and the wonder is who else in New Jersey might be getting dealt.

-- Gabriel Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche teammates know the trade deadline is coming. It would certainly be weird if they didn’t.

-- The San Jose Sharks feel fortunate for the timing of their bye week as it was clear that they needed a break.

-- For something completely different: Gronk was busy doing Gronk things at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.