BOSTON (CBS) – The long-awaited, highly anticipated draft is finally here after the NFL extended it two weeks from late April into early May, and the New England Patriots hold the 29th overall pick where experts can’t seem to agree about how they’ll use it.
NFL writer and draft analyst Kevin Clark thinks he has a better idea than most, because he and his Wall Street Journal colleagues have ran the numbers through statistical analysis about how teams have spent their picks in the past.
For the Patriots and Belichick there are two basic rules they follow by, and he discussed them on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Adam Jones Show Wednesday night.
Rule No. 1: They often draft for need, not necessarily the best player on the board.
Rule No. 2: Belichick loves picking guys he’s familiar with.
“We did a data dive and we sort of asked maybe 10 or 12 executives around the league when the Patriots, or whoever, are in front of you what do you know they’re going to do? And that’s the answer we got. The Patriots drafted 33 players in the last five drafts that they’ve gotten via trade, so obviously drafting down is something they’d like to do,” said Clark.
Patriots fans hate when the team trades down and out of the first round, but it’s certainly a very real possibility this year with the amount of teams clamoring to pick guys in the first round to exercise that fifth-year option rule.
Fans look up and down the roster sometimes and wonder why there’s so many players that attended Rutgers. Familiarity, according to Clark, is paramount for Belichick.
“Just look at the guys they got from Rutgers last year, the guys they’ve gotten from Alabama in the last few years and the guys they’ve obviously gotten from Florida as far as Urban Mayer goes — that’s sort of faded a little bit for obvious reasons,” Clark said in reference to former Gators and Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
“Belichick loves familiarity. He loves going to coaches clinics and going to banquets to speak, and then he will target a player there and he’ll usually end up drafting them. Apparently that’s how he got Alfonzo Dennard, that’s how he got Devin McCourty and the same thing with some of those Gators players [Jermaine] Cunningham, [Brandon] Spikes and Hernandez.
If Clark’s analysis is astute, and the Patriots really do draft for both need and familiarity, then it’s hard to not notice the Belichick connection with certain players.
The Patriots need tight end insurance for Rob Gronkowski, and Jace Amaro (Texas Tech) played under head coach Kliff Kingsbury — a 2003 New England draft pick. Another highly touted prospect is C.J. Fiedorowicz of Iowa, whose head coach Kirk Ferentz’s roots trace back to the Cleveland days with Belichick.
Listen below for the full discussion