Bill Belichick has been lauded as one of the more brilliant football minds in the history of the NFL. His coaching pedigree can’t be denied; however, Belichick as a general manager is a more nuanced being. His drafting history, albeit a few late-round gems, has been precarious, to say the least. When looking at the wide receivers that Belichick has selected over the course of his tenure as general manager, that prestigious reputation takes even more of a hit. I looked back into every wide receiver that Belichick has selected since he took complete and utter control of personnel decisions in 2009 and graded each pick. The grading criteria had a lot to do with the draft position and what was still available on the board at the time. Additionally, injuries and future impact were accounted for during the grading process.
2009 Draft:Context: Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL injury in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, which put a damper on much of the 2008 season. The Patriots continued on to win 11 games, barely missing the playoffs. They came into the 2009 season with Randy Moss and Wes Welker as their starting wide receivers. New England was coming into the season stacked in the wide receiver department but with tough contract decisions looming.
Brandon Tate (3, 83)Draft Value: Brandon Tate was drafted in a span of four straight WR draft picks in the middle of the third round. The first WR in that span was Derrick Williams and the last was Ramses Barden to the New York Giants. Unfortunately, the receiver drafted one spot after Tate was Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Wallace. Another notable wide receiver drafted after Tate was Brian Hartline, who fell to the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round. End Result: Tate, in his own right, had a decent 2010 season. However, history will judge this pick as coming right before an electrifying talent in Mike Wallace. Wallace went on to have quite a career with the Steelers, finishing his career with 538 receptions, 8,072 yards, and 57 touchdowns. In Tate’s best of his two seasons with the Patriots, he finished with a measly 432 yards on 24 grabs. Both ended up being career highs in a single season. Grade: (C)
Julian Edelman (7, 232)https://twitter.com/luchvain/status/1486793934126858240 Draft Value: There were only three seventh-round wide receivers drafted in 2009 that ended their career in the NFL with more than 100 receiving yards: Sammie Stroughter, Tiquan Underwood, and Julian Edelman. The former two ended their NFL careers within four to five years of being drafted. The latter of the three ended up with three Super Bowl rings and a Super Bowl MVP to go along with the titles. End Result: Edelman finished his career with the Patriots pulling in 620 receptions for 6,822 yards to go along with 36 receiving touchdowns. In four of his seasons with the Patriots, Edelman was selected as one of the Top 100 players in the entire league. In Super Bowl 53 against the Rams, Edelman pulled in 10 catches for 141 yards on his way to his third Super Bowl title. The seventh-round slot receiver also ranks second all-time in playoff receiving yards behind Jerry Rice. Grade: (A+++++++)
2010 Draft:Context: The Patriots finished the season 10-6 and lost in the AFC wild-card game to the Baltimore Ravens. They came into the 2010 season without Randy Moss and gave Brandon Tate a larger workload.
Taylor Price (3, 90)Draft Value: Taylor Price was the last wide receiver picked in the third round of the draft. The other wide receivers picked earlier in that exact round were Damian Williams, Brandon LaFell, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Shipley, Eric Decker, Andre Roberts, and Armanti Edwards. A decently talented round and draft when it comes to the wide receiver position. In that round alone, LaFell, Sanders, Decker, and Roberts were all able to produce solid careers. The highlight of the draft from that position group was Antonio Brown in the latter half of the sixth round. While Brown ended up finding his way onto the Patriots roster later in his career, I’m sure that Belichick and the other 30 general managers in the NFL wish they used an earlier selection on the future Hall of Famer. End Result: Price played just one full season with the Patriots. He caught three passes to go for 41 yards. His career ended just a year later, and he was out of the NFL. Grade: (C-)
2012 Draft:Context: For the second time in four seasons, the Patriots fell short in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. The Patriots were coming off an impressive 13-3 regular season with Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker as the starting receivers after a failed Deion Branch 2.0 experiment.
Jeremy Ebert (7, 235)Draft Value: There were only two wide receivers drafted after Jeremy Ebert in the 2012 draft, Junior Hemingway and Jordan White. Neither of these two players made an impact in the NFL to go along with Ebert. The 2012 draft was filled with missed evaluations in the wide receiver department. Justin Blackmon was picked in the top five and A.J. Jenkins also went in the first round. The highlights of this draft are Michael Floyd, Alshon Jeffery, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, and T.Y. Hilton. End Result: Ebert didn’t even end up making the Patriots roster and ended up playing five games in his career for Jacksonville. Grade: (C)
2013 Draft:Context: The Patriots were coming off a 12-4 season that ended in the AFC Championship Game at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. New England let Wes Welker walk to their conference rival Denver Broncos after the emergence of Julian Edelman in the slot. There were still questions about who would complement Edelman on the outside. Additionally, the Patriots released tight end Aaron Hernandez after his arrest and Danny Woodhead was poached by the Chargers in free agency. There was a lot of revamping that needed to be done on the offensive side of the ball.
Aaron Dobson (2, 59)Draft Value: Aaron Dobson was drafted in the late second round out of necessity. The Patriots had just lost three of their best pass=catchers: Welker, Woodhead, and Hernandez. Dobson was picked 59th overall and finished his career with 698 receiving yards. Here is the list of wide receivers drafted after Dobson that finished with more receiving yards:
- Terrance Williams
- Keenan Allen
- Marquise Goodwin
- Markus Wheaton
- Stedman Bailey
- Quinton Patton
- Kenny Stills
- Brice Butler
- Charles Johnson
- Marquess Wilson