Scott Pioli's gone and what did we find for the 2009 NFL Draft? Business as usual. There were no bumps in the road to speak of. Belichick went about his business like the cold, calculating winning machine he is. It's true that scouting for 2010 starts today and the same could be said for the previous year; Pioli presided over nine months of player activity in 2008, preparing for 2009. However, this was the first Pioli-less draft. These two days, as well as the week leading up to the Draft, are were the rubber hits the road and the decisions are made.
Leading into the draft, many felt as if we could've fielded a team almost immediately. If you recall, the Patriots were one of the busiest free agent teams in the NFL, and I'm not talking about losing players. They added depth and plugged up some holes with experienced vets from around the league - typical Belichick.
From a strategic standpoint, I feel as if the Patriots did three things: a) provide insurance in the way of depth at key positions, b) get young guys in before contracts are up in 2009, and c) provide leverage during those 2009 contract negotiations. With no glaring holes, Belichick and crew had the luxury to do that. We even explored this last week with the story Drafting for 2010 free agency: who should the Patriots worry about? I think Belichick did a masterful job of preparing for the future.
Draft Grade: B- or A
Let me explain. If you look at it from the perspective of how many top players the Patriots picked up, it's a B-. According to www.draftcountdown.com, the highest rated guy is Darius Butler and he's ranked third of all the CB's out there. From a strategic standpoint, Hoodie gets an A. I waffled between A and A- because we didn't pick up a pass rushing OLB. Yes, I know Tyrone McKenzie is listed as an OLB, but as many of you pointed out to me during the Open Threads, Tyrone projects to be an ILB in the NFL. So, here's my reasoning for the A: I think Belichick's got something up his sleeve. Either he's confident in Pierre Woods, Adalius Thomas, Shawn Crable, and Vince Redd OR he has his eye on a UFA. Another possibility? S Patrick Chung is an "in the box" guy; he could end up being our pass rusher.
It was never about picking the best player at that point in the draft; the Patriots don't work that way. How else can you explain trading down 23 and not grabbing Rey Maualuga, Alphonso Smith, or Louis Delmas? Top guys, all within reach of the Patriots' picks. The answers will work themselves out in the coming months, but I'm convinced it's for the following reason:
There's more to come.