Hey all, I'm a Patriots fan looking for some unbiased (or biased, whatever) perspective about Bill Belichick and the draft. I figured this was the place to come since it is devoted to the draft. I figure you all know a lot more than me, so I just wanted to give some things that have been debated over at patspulpit recently to see how you guys feel about it.
After resident stats guru Rich Hill wrote a piece called "Patriots Must Strengthen The Outside" discussion broke out over how to fix the outside linebacker problem that the Patriots obviously have. There is always the feeling that a team's players need to just play better. Sometimes players can't play better though. Sometimes they are what they are, just not good enough.
Over the course of Belichick's tenure, he has continued to pass on outside linebackers that don't fit some specific mold. I offered up the idea that Belichick is waiting for that Lawrence Taylor type guy that can come in and save the defense, and it was met with much chagrin. But, if you look at all the outside linebacker picks Belichick has done when he hasn't had a Lawrence Taylor (or Willie McGinest), it is kind of obvious that Belichick is not willing to waver on this particular part of his defense.
Now the Patriots had Willie McGinest until 2005, so the first time Belichick went searching for that Taylor/McGinest replacement was in 2006. So here are all the linebackers the Patriots have drafted since 2006 that fit the Taylor/McGinest mold Belichick has been looking for.
2006 - 191st overall - Jeremy Mincey - 6'3'', 260 pounds (notes: was a defensive linemen in college, taking on the "elephant" role in a Belichick defense)
2008 - 78th overall - Shawn Crable - 6'5'', 250 pounds (notes: played strong-side linebacker at Michigan)
2009 - 97th overall - Tyrone McKenzie - 6'2'', 243 pounds (notes: outeside linebacker at South Florida)
2010 - 53rd overall - Jermaine Cunningham - 6'3'', 260 pounds (notes: defensive end at Florida and would fit into the "elephant" role in a Belichick defense)
2011- 194th overall - Markell Carter - 6'4'', 252 pounds (notes: outside linebacker and defensive end at Central Arkansas)
Lawrence Taylor was 6'3'', 241 pounds and Willie McGinest was 6'5'', 270 pounds. All of those draft picks fall in that specific range, but none came anywhere close to what I assume Belichick wanted. Jermaine Cunningham still has time to pull it off after having a pretty successful rookie campaign, and newly drafted Markell Carter I'm sure will be given an opportunity as well. If that isn't enough, outside linebacker Eric Moore is another one of the Patriots potential starting outside linebackers for next year, and he stands at 6'4'', 268 pounds.
Here are some of the comments from members over at patspulpit about it.
You draft people based on what they're MEANT to do, not what they actually do
Meriweather was meant to be an every-down Safety who could also play special teams – a four-down guy. Maroney was meant to be an every-down RB who could also play special teams – a four-down guy.
Matthews is a pass-rusher. A third-down guy. He doesn’t play special teams, he doesn’t run-defend, he doesn’t edge-set, and he’s not a great tackler of RBs (see: Mendenhall, Rashard). He’s a fantastic version of Tully Banta-Cain. He’d get 12 sacks a season, so what, twice the value of Banta-Cain. Cool. But that’s all he was ever meant to be – a glorified pass-rusher. And that’s it.
Banta-Cain was the 239th pick of his draft year. For the 239th pick, you can afford to pick up a one-down player.
Matthews was 26th pick overall. 26th overall isn’t worth a one-down player for New England. Sure, he’s twice as good as Banta-Cain at Banta-Cain’s role, but that might justify, say, the 120th draft pick. But 23rd overall for a guy who will play only a quarter of defensive + special teams snaps? Hah.
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That was Comedic.Sans' take on Clay Matthews, a very good linebacker that the Patriots had a shot at in 2009.
I think the biggest problem is finding a guy that can fill the full role.
Draftees aren’t likely to do that for a season or two if ever. Look at the bust that was Crable, and he looked pretty good his first preseason. I think he’s willing to drop a few picks on the position, but the chance that some guy, any guy is going to be THE guy might be too small for a first rounder.
Vrabel was much better here than with the Steelers. I think he’s looking for some vets that can take on larger roles until he can develop some guys (or may until the Steelers can develop some guys for us – lol).
2007, pass rush wasn’t seen as a need.
2008, we had all the same “rushers”, but our secondary sucked – that was the first year I remember hearing questions about pass rush. We picked up Crable and the Wonder Twins.
2009, amid questions over pass rush, we dumped Vrabel and Seymour. We got Darius Butler.
2010, amid bigger questions over pass rush, we got McCourty and then Cunningham.
2011, amid even bigger questions over pass rush, we got Dowling and then Carter.
I would assume, that the biggest questions in Hoodies mind are not about pass rush. Just guessing, mind you.
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That is SlotMachinePlayer's take, mostly saying Belichick is waiting for a linebacker that can fulfill all of the roles he'd be asked to do.
We all know that the NFL evolves and changes, so why is Belichick so unwavering in his position on getting that exact outside linebacker that can "do it all?" Based on what you know can you think of any outside linebackers in the NFL right now that could fill this "do it all" role that Belichick seems intent on finding? Are there any upcoming linebacker prospects that fill this mold that Belichick is going after?