Reading AFC win projections on ESPN.com, written by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, served as a reminder of something Bill Belichick repeated during the NFL draft that highlights part of his player-value philosophy.
The Pats are the rare team to show consistency in special teams. They've been in the top eight of Football Outsiders' special teams ratings in seven of the past eight years, including second last year, and they haven't had below-average special teams since 1995 -- one year before they signed a rookie kicker named Adam Vinatieri.
This isn't a coincidence, in part because the Patriots are always thinking about special teams. This year's draft was another example.
Consider the following remarks from Belichick:
On RB James White (4th round): "I'd say he's a guy that has shown he has four-down value. He's been productive in the kicking game, he's been productive catching the ball. He has a high average per carry. He can run inside. He can run outside. He makes good space plays and he can get some tough yards."
On DB Jemea Thomas (6th round): "[He] played a number of different spots at Georgia Tech. He played in the kicking game, played a little safety, played a little nickel, played some corner. Versatile guy, smart guy. Really a four-down type player."
Belichick's reference to "four-down value" and "four-down type player" was noted at the time, but it sort of slipped through the cracks with all the other draft coverage.
I thought it was a good example, in part, of how he places value on players with special teams in mind.