Belichick rolls dice repeatedly in 2011 draft

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Belichick rolls dice repeatedly in 2011 draft

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - The list of 2011 Patriots draft picks needs a parenthetical warning to other NFL coaches at the bottom.

(This draft was conducted by a trained professional with five Super Bowl rings, 10 consecutive seasons finishing in first place and job security equal to the pope. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITH YOUR DRAFT.)

On Friday and Saturday, Bill Belichick drafted a promising cornerback who hasn't been able to stay healthy, a promising quarterback with significant off-field concerns, a promising offensive lineman withcancer and prospects in the sixth and seventh rounds that left armchair draft watchers scrambling to identify.

Belichick put his chips on all the numbers every one else chose to stay away from and now he'll let the wheel spin. And ifwhen he hits onone or two of them, it was all worth it.

Belichick, his personnel people and scouting staff are able to take not just a chance or two in a draft. They can take multiple chances. The reason? They are good at this time of year. And they are even better when the games start as the 2010 season showed when - despite a young and often porous defense and an offense being reshaped on the fly - they went 14-2 and blew out a significant number of opponents.

After closing Friday by taking the radioactive Ryan Mallett, Belichick came back with his first pick on Saturday and took Marcus Cannon, a player who began treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Thursday.

"A lot of players have medical situations going into the draft and each one is different," Belichick said when asked if he'd ever made a draft decision quite like the one he did with Cannon. "Each of us is unique and not everybodys injury is the same or does it heal at the same rate or the same way. Guys play different positions with similar injuries, so forth and so on. We could drop up examples ad nauseam, but the bottom line is you have a situation, you evaluate it and you make a decision on it.

"Whether you decide to take that player or you decide to pass on that player, then you make the decision at that time based on all the information that you have," he continued. "Some of those decisions end up being right; some of them dont. Thats the way the process works. We did what we thought was right at that point. Well see how it works out."

There's a lot to admire about the selection of Cannon.

From a football standpoint, he's a 358-pound guard regarded as a top-50 pick until a biopsy this spring revealed his malady. So viewing it from a "football value" standpoint, getting a player like that at 139 is a bargain, especially if Cannon returns to full strength and the lymphoma is cured.

From a human standpoint, well, it shows some compassion as well. Here's a young man that wasn't only dealing with a serious illness but the reality that a professional dream he'd worked toward was slipping away.

Belichick would certainly be uncomfortable being canonized for picking Cannon for that reason. But still.

And the fact that another player who battled and beat back cancer - Boston College's Mark Herzlich - went undrafted despite being theACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and playing at a decent level in 2010 makes the selection of Cannon seem that much more empathetic on the part of the Patriots.

There are a lot of unknowns in Cannon's future. The Patriots are willing to live with them.

The Patriots are willing to live with some risk, and that's not unique to Cannon. They are doing so with second-round pick Ras-I Dowling, a player who's been dogged by injuries. And they are doing so with Mallett. They've taken on a lot of question marks.

How, I asked Belichick, does he weigh the risk against the reward? At what point do the two match up?

"Historically, you can certainly look back at previous drafts and find somewhat comparable situations players coming off ACL injuries or players that missed the season the previous year and get an idea, maybe, of what the discount is on those players or players that have other issues that are somewhat similar," he explained. "Does that mean that somebody couldnt go away from that? Of course they could. Some players are off the board; Other players are in play on the exact same issue. Its just a question of what each team thinks.

"They have to make their own individual decision on that. I think you kind of get a sense of what the league-wide opinion on a player is and we certainly use that, although its very subjective," he continued. "Its no exact science . . . One team can do whatever they want to do. We see that. We saw it again over the last three days. Teams make picks that probably none of us expected, but based on what they want to do, they did it."

The Patriots wanted to roll the dice in 2011. They did. If they hit on all, some or none, Belichick isn't going to look back in anguish at what he should have done.

Belichick's father, Steve, once told me, "He's a very decisive person. When he's made a decision, he doesn't spend time second-guessing it."

There'snodoubtBelichick relishes doing things unconventionally. Whether that means running a defense with no defensive linemen, dressing like a hobo on the sidelines or taking players that other teams wouldn't touch with a 30-foot pole, if he believes it's the right thing to do, he does it.

Bill Belichick thought he could take on a ton of risk in the 2011 draft. And he did so. You and I might look back and cluck-cluck about mistakes made if they don't pan out.

He won't.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Reaction to weekend protests

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Reaction to weekend protests

0:41 - Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss the National Anthem protests across the NFL over the weekend and the reactions to players kneeling.

10:07 - Michael Hurley joins the BST crew to talk about the Patriots' thrilling last-minute victory over the Texans and how concerning the Patriots' issues on defense are.

18:13 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving and LeBron James' comments about one another during Media Day, including LeBron referring to Kyrie as "The Kid" instead of his name.

22:30 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Mookie Betts and Eduardo Nunez both leaving with injuries during the Red Sox's Monday night loss to the Blue Jays, and other concerns surrounding the team heading into the postseason.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Prescott, Cowboys pull away to beat Cardinals, 28-17

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MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Prescott, Cowboys pull away to beat Cardinals, 28-17

GLENDALE, Ariz. , Dak Prescott kneeled with his teammates and team owner before the game, flipped head over heels for a touchdown in the first half and capped his night with a 37-yard TD pass that proved to be the game winner.

The Dallas Cowboys erased last week's ugly memory on Monday night, with their young quarterback leading the way.

"He just kept battling," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.

"He kept making good decisions. Obviously he made some good plays, big-time throws, but as much as anything else he's got an amazing spirit and our players follow him."

The Cowboys (2-1), bouncing back from a 42-17 pummeling in Denver, began the game kneeling at midfield with owner Jerry Jones in a show of unity that followed widespread protests across the NFL of critical comments by President Donald Trump over the weekend.

After they kneeled, they stood and walked to the sideline and stood for the anthem.

"We planned and it was executed that we would go out and kneel," Jones said, "and basically make the statement regarding the need for unity and the need for equality."

Prescott, 13 of 18 for 183 yards, broke a 14-14 tie with a 37-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler with 11:52 to play.

"I immediately scrambled and when I scrambled Brice took the right angle and the right initiative going to the back of the end zone," Prescott said.

Arizona, with a spectacular catch by Larry Fitzgerald for 24 yards on a third-and-18 play, moved downfield but the drive stalled. Phil Dawson's 37-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-17 with 6:35 left.

Ezekiel Elliott, who gained 8 yards on nine carries against Denver and drew criticism for not hustling after a couple of late interceptions, was bottled up much of the game, but still gained 80 yards on 22 attempts, 30 on one play. He ran 8 yards for the final Cowboys touchdown.

The Cardinals (1-2), in their home opener, got a big game from Fitzgerald, who caught 13 passes for 149 yards, in the process moving ahead of Marvin Harrison into eighth in career receiving yards. The 13 receptions tied a career high.

"That's Fitz. It's Monday night," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "He's a money player. It was a great performance by him. It's a shame we couldn't play better around him."

Carson Palmer had a big first half, completed 15 of 18 for 145 yards and finished 29 of 48 for 325 yards and two scores. He was sacked six times, a career-high three by DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cardinals dominated the first half statistically, but were deadlocked with the Cowboys at 7-7. Arizona had a 152-57 advantage in yards and dominated time of possession 19:34 to 9:41.

Arizona took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards in eight plays. Palmer was 5-for-5 on the drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.

Before Dallas even had a first down, Arizona mounted a nearly nine-minute drive but a touchdown pass to Brown was negated by a holding penalty and Phil Dawson's 36-yard field goal try was wide right. It was the third mid-range miss for the 41-year-old kicker this season.

And the miss left the door open for the Cowboys to get back in it.

Prescott scored on a 10-yard run, flipping head-first over the goal line to tie it at 7-7 with 3:33 left in the half.

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