There has to be little dispute that whether it's playing the compensatory pick process like a fiddle, trading back like it's going out of style, or otherwise expertly negotiating the NFL draft game, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots is a master. Given that we're less than a week away from the 2019 draft, now represents an ideal time to look back at what Belichick and the Patriots did in last year's draft.
In 2018, the New England Patriots started the draft season off with 6 picks: 1) A first rounder (31); 2) A second rounder from the Jimmy Garappolo trade (43); 3) A second rounder (63); 4) A third rounder (95); 5) A fourth round comp pick (136); and, 6) A sixth round pick (205).
Before the Draft
In advance of the 2018 draft, the Patriots made several moves involving draft picks:
- They traded Brandin Cooks and pick 136 for a first round pick (23) and a sixth rounder (198).
- They traded for Cordarelle Patterson and sixth round pick (210), giving up pick 159.
- They traded for Jason McCourty and a seventh round pick (219), giving up pick 205.
- They traded for Danny Shelton and a fifth rounder (159), giving up their 2019 third rounder.
Patriots Trade With 49ers:
- Pats get OL Trenton Brown and a fifth round pick (143) for their third rounder (95).
- Lions get second round pick (43, value 470 points), Pats get second rounder (51, value 390 points) and fourth rounder (117, value 60 points). Ostensibly, the Pats lost 20 points on the trade.
- Bears get second round pick (51, value 390 points), Pats get fourth round pick (105, value 84 points) and a 2019 second rounder (average second round pick value one year out: 200 points). Again, the Pats appear to lose around 100 points on this trade (turns out the Bears were good enough in 2018 that the deal was even worse than average).
- Pats get second round pick (56, value 340 points), Bucs get second round pick (63, value 276 points) and fourth rounder (117, value 60 points). This trade is very even, with the Pats having a 4 point advantage.
- Browns get fourth rounder (105, value 84 points), Pats get fourth rounder (114, value 66 points) and a sixth rounder (178, value 20 points). Again, this is an extremely even trade in terms of value.
- Lions get fourth round pick (114, value 66 points), Pats get 2019 third round pick (average third round pick value one year out: 100 points). This turns out to be a very good deal for the Pats, with the pick ending up at about 110 points, based on the Lions performance, a 50 point net win (about the value of a 4th rounder).
- Chiefs get sixth rounder (198, value 12 points), Pats get seventh round pick (233, value 1 point) and seventh round pick (243, value 1 point). This looks like a loss for the Pats, but my own opinion is that seventh round picks are wildly undervalued in terms of the draft chart. Two sevenths for a sixth seems reasonable, particularly depending on who is still on your board.
- Eagles get seventh (233, value 1 point), Pats get 2018 seventh round pick (250, value 1 point) and 2019 seventh rounder. I give the advantage to the Pats on this one, collecting future capital at very little cost.
Second Rounder from Bears
Third Rounder from Lions
Seventh Rounder from Eagles
Assessing the Haul
So, to re-cap, the Pats started the draft with 8 picks for the day, and ended the day with 9 picks in the 2018 draft and 3 picks, including 2 top picks, in the 2019 draft. Overall, the Patriots' orientation to trading picks was an interesting one, at times adhering very closely to the standardized draft value chart, and other times with the Pats appearing to lose significantly in the exchange. If any trends or imperatives can be gleaned from this limited set of data, I might offer the following observations:
- When Belichick has an opportunity to trade BACK in the early rounds and collect relatively early picks (4th round or earlier), he's willing to take an apparent "loss" in the value of the exchange, perhaps indicating that he values these picks, even if they happen a year out, more highly than the chart does.
- When he trades UP, he recognizes that most/many of the GMs in the league are playing by the draft value chart, and that he has to accommodate them.
- In the mid rounds, if anything can be said, it appears that Belichick may think that the draft value chart accurately reflects value.
- In the late rounds (6th and 7th), it appears that Belichick basically throws the chart out the window, recognizing that boards and player evaluations are so divergent that it is far more important to have a greater number of picks in this area than it is to quibble over the value of the picks. Essentially, unless someone you love is on the board in this range, always trade back for more 6th and 7th round lottery tickets.
"I would say that, in general, the trades over the last several years for the most part have been, let's call them within 5 to 10 percent, pretty equitable trades," Belichick said. "So, for you to have a chart that's different than the other 31 charts isn't really that productive because now we're just arguing about which chart - ‘My chart says this. Your chart says that.' . . . I would say everybody probably uses about the same value chart. I'd say in our draft trade negotiations through the years, especially the last two or three years, there hasn't been a lot of, ‘My chart says this. Your chart says that.'
This is lying season after all, but I think what Belichick has offered is a half-truth: When he's the one seeking the trade, he indeed follows the book, because everyone else does. However, his behavior when he's in the driver's seat is a bit more illuminating: He will take picks over chart value nearly every time, unless, like with the Lions above, he recognizes that he has a particularly desperate or naive partner (in this case, his understudy Matt Patricia). It that case, he is happy to be ruthless.
Something to think about as the front office prepares for the 2019 draft, and perhaps another lens through which to evaluate any draft day transactions they execute.