Five quick hits from Bill Belichick’s interview on sports radio WEEI’s “Big Show” on Monday:
1. Trading down in the draft. Belichick was asked to explain his approach of trading down in the NFL draft. He explained that there are situations where the team has multiple players with the same grade and there isn’t a real strong preference, so that leads to trades down which allow the team to pick up extra assets and still get one of those players. He used the team’s double trade-down in the first round as an example. The Patriots were going to select cornerback Devin McCourty at No. 22, but they traded down twice and still got McCourty at No. 27, while picking up a fourth-round selection (TE Aaron Hernandez) and upgrading another fourth-rounder to a third-rounder (WR Taylor Price). “It’s certainly not to trade down away from good players,” he said.
2. Depth of draft showed up late. Belichick seemed extremely pleased with the team’s draft picks through the top of the seventh round, expressing surprise that the team was able to pick up the quality of players like center Ted Larsen (sixth round, 205th overall) and offensive tackle Thomas Welch (seventh round, 208th overall) that late. “We’ve taken players that didn’t nearly have the grades that they had in the fourth round before, because the board [was] depleted,” he said. “Like in the ’07 draft, as an example.”
3. Filling needs vs. drafting good football players. Belichick detailed the team’s approach in the draft, saying: “When we look at the board, based on everything we want in a football player at that particular time, we evaluate them and take the player that fits best for our football team. That’s what we always do, and I think the last nine years we’ve put a pretty competitive team out there on the field every year. I think that’s how you do it – you get good football players. Sometimes they are not always at the No. 1 position, but I don’t think you pass up good football players to get the guys who aren’t as good just because they’re at a position that somebody feels you need.”
4. Talking trends in the NFL. Belichick was asked about drafting players based on NFL trends such as more teams with high-powered pass offenses, and he responded by saying that might have been something on the radar 3-4 years ago. But recently, Belichick feels it’s headed in the other direction, toward the running game. “Just as an example, this past year I think there were almost three times as many plays in the league as there had been in quite a while with an offensive lineman lined up at a tight end position,” he said. “I think that also speaks to being a little more physical, and having a bigger body and a better blocker at that position.”
5. Lauding Julian Edelman. Belichick had high praise for the second-year receiver, saying: “For [him] to come in and pick things up as quickly as he did last year and to be at the point as a receiver as he is right now – considering the fact that he never played the position and was converting to a new position as a rookie in an offense that has a number of moving parts – is just phenomenal. He’s come so far as a football player at a new position in literally a calendar year. He did it in six months. I don’t think any of us would have predicted that.”