Belichick watched 'Bama-Clemson to root for Saban, see future NFL picks

Belichick watched 'Bama-Clemson to root for Saban, see future NFL picks

FOXBORO -- As a good friend of Alabama coach Nick Saban, Bill Belichick had a rooting interest in Monday night's national championship game between Clemson and the Crimson Tide. Even with a Divisional Round matchup with the Texans less than a week away, and even with the college title game finishing well after midnight, the Patriots coach was watching.

But Belichick wasn't watching strictly to support his pal Saban, whose team fell to Clemson late in the fourth quarter, 35-31. It was a chance to do a little advanced scouting on two of the most talented college rosters in the country.

"We'll see what it looks like in a couple of months, but I'd say there's a lot of good football players on the field," Belichick said. "Some of whom I knew about. Some of whom I need to find out more about. I remember watching that game last year and watching it probably, [had to] be at least 10 times in the offseason because there's so many players.

"The ones that played last year and didn't play this year or are being replaced by guys that are going to be a factor in the NFL that are now draft-eligible. And you get to see them against other players that are comparable. Whether they're draft eligible or not, guys playing in this game are pretty good. If they're not draft eligible this year, they'll be draft-eligible next year or soon thereafter.  

"Competitively it's a great game to watch. It was a great game to watch last year . . . Just from a competitive standpoint, two great teams, two great programs. Again, coming down to a play. You got a lot of points scored like that, it's a lot of plays, but in the end, it's one or two plays that go the other way, you get a different result. That's the level of competition we're talking about."

Down three points with two minutes remaining in the game, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson drove the Tigers 68 yards in nine plays and found receiver Hunter Renfrow for a goal-line score to win it.

When Belichick was asked about the game during his Tuesday morning press conference, he said it exemplified the type of game fans of pro football and college football alike can expect at this time of year.

"Games like that, any play can be a big play, whether it's a conventional play . . . or just a great player making a great play, or a situation play," Belichick said. "It's fourth-and-one . . . I mean in the end the national championship came down to a yard. We've been in that situation before. Both ways. 

"That's the kind of football you see this time of year. Whether it be the NC level or the NFL playoffs. You get a lot of games like that, that come down to one play, one yard defines an entire season. You gotta be prepared for that."

Breaking down some of the Patriots' best NFL Draft decisions

Breaking down some of the Patriots' best NFL Draft decisions

Michael Holley and Tom E. Curran discuss the drafts/draft traits that stand out from the last 16 years of New England Patriots drafts.

Jimmy Garoppolo stays put as quarterbacks go high, Browns make moves

Jimmy Garoppolo stays put as quarterbacks go high, Browns make moves

For all the questions that surrounded the top quarterbacks in the 2017 draft, an early run on signal-callers still occurred. The Browns sat it out -- even facilitating another team’s selection of a QB -- yet Jimmy Garoppolo stayed put. 

Garoppolo not being traded ahead of or during the first round should not have come as a surprise; Adam Schefter has insisted throughout the offseason that the Patriots would not trade him for anything. Yet for the prices that were paid for QBs Thursday night, it’s still fascinating to think of what New England could have gotten for their backup. 

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The madness started nearly immediately. After Cleveland took Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett to open the draft, the Bears moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 -- trading third-and-fourth-round picks this year and a third next season to San Francisco -- to take UNC’s Mitchell Trubisky. 

At No. 10, it was the Chiefs moving up to the Bills’ spot, going all the way from No. 27 and giving up next year’s first as part of a package to secure Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Two picks later, the Browns were on the clock with Deshaun Watson still on the board, but they opted to trade the pick to Houston, who gave Cleveland the 25th overall pick this year and their first-rounder next year before selecting the Clemson star. 

The Browns, who have long been viewed as a logical potential destination for Garoppolo, made two more picks in the first round, choosing Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers 25th and trading back into the first round to make Miami tight end David Njoku their third first-round pick of the night at 29th overall. 

While the Browns obviously spent plenty of draft capital Thursday, they still have not addressed the quarterback position beyond Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and trade acquisition (that’s a nice way of putting it; a more honest would be “salary dump acquisition”) Brock Osweiler. 

That leads Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot to believe that the Browns will still try to swing a trade for Garoppolo, who is entering the final year of his four-year rookie deal. Cabot writes that the Browns will “likely make a pitch for the Patriots backup,” though she too notes Scheffer’s insistence that Garoppolo isn’t going anywhere. The Browns now have two firsts and three seconds in 2018. 

The Patriots still aren’t slated to pick until the third round on Friday, when they’ll be on the clock with the 72nd overall pick.