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

Felger: Is the praise for Jacoby Brissett too good to be true?

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Felger: Is the praise for Jacoby Brissett too good to be true?

Three mid-week thoughts for your perusal . . . 

-- I was 100 percent behind the drafting of quarterback Jacoby Brissett. And then I read comments about the kid from Charlie Weis and Bill Parcells in Karen Guregian's excellent story in the Boston Herald on Tuesday.

Now I'm down to about 80 percent.

"He's a Curtis Martin-, Willie McGinest-, Troy Brown-type of player,'' said Parcells. "That's the kind of guy he is. That's what New England is getting. Those kind, those Tedy Bruschi types, those players who've been successful -- he's very similar in his personal life to those kinds of guys.''

"Let me tell you,'' added Weis, "this kid, from the time he was in high school, is the Pied Piper . . . He was definitely the leader of the pack. In the quarterback position, I think that's a critical factor. And that's what he was.''

Added Parcells: "He has zero personal issues.''

So why would glowing reports cause me to like the pick less? File under: Too good to be true.

I read those quotes and get the feeling I'm being sold something, which shakes my confidence a bit. Plus, it's a little too much on the intangible element. Character is certainly important at the position. In fact, it's crucial. But if intangibles were the only thing that mattered, Tim Tebow would have been an NFL QB. And we all know how that turned out.

Bottom line: I still like the pick. I still want the Pats drafting and developing quarterbacks. I just smell a bit of bull crap.

-- Chris Mannix nailed it regarding what it would take for the Celtics to lure Kevin Durant to Boston.

"Boston's ability to lure him is going to come down to who else they can get. You can't walk into a meeting with Kevin Durant and say, 'We've got Isiah Thomas and 97 draft picks; we're going to be good in a few years','' he told Toucher and Rich Tuesday morning. "Kevin doesn't want to hear that . . . What he wants to hear is that we're ready to win now . . . They have to come to the table with a Jimmy Butler, with a Bradley Beal, with an Al Horford. They can't just come with Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge and a bunch of draft picks.''

In other words, the pieces on the current roster aren't nearly as good as they looked in the regular season. And, no, Thomas is not a franchise player. And, finally, don't get too attached to those picks, no matter where the ping pong balls land.

-- I wonder if the Bruins look at the current landscape in net across the NHL playoffs and consider how wise it is to pay their goalie, Tuukka Rask, $7 million a year.

Still alive are guys like the Islanders' Thomas Greiss ($1.5 million cap hit), the Blues' Brian Ellliott ($2.5 million), the Sharks' Martin Jones ($3 million) and Penguins rookie Matt Murray ($620,000). Out are 8 of the top 10 highest-paid goalies in the league, a list including Henri Lundqvist, Carey Price, Cory Schneider, Ryan Miller and, of course, Rask.

Please note: No one is saying you can get away with shoddy goaltending in the playoffs. It's an unassailable fact that you need elite play in net to contend for Stanley Cups. The question is what you have to pay for it. 

And in that regard, this year is no aberration. Sometimes you have to pay through the nose for it, and sometimes it just falls in your lap.

Can the Bruins get away with trying to survive in that second camp? Good question. This much I know: Paying Rask $7 million a year to miss the playoffs two straight years isn't doing anyone any good.

Email Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.