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NFL Draft 2011: Bill Belichick's Draft Manipulation

Bill Belichick:

"Well, I think when you look at the production throughout the league; you’ll see there is a lot of production from first- and second-round running backs, currently in the league and in previous years. That position has produced a lot in the National Football League, as obviously has the quarterback position. So I wouldn’t say it’s devalued at all."

Bill Belichick:

"Playerwise, this year, there is certainly a lot of depth in certain positions. Obviously the defensive line, offensive line, receivers. Then as you look at the entire group, there is a lot of depth in the running back and defensive back positions, maybe not right up at the top but certainly it looks like there are a lot of players there who will be big contributors at some point. It'll be interesting to see how that all sorts out, certainly the defensive line- front seven- is a very interesting situation this year and I'm sure a lot of those players will be picked high and probably the teams that end up getting the best players out of that group will look back and feel the best about this draft."

Leading up into this draft, Belichick decided that he would go speak to the media. A lot. If you know one thing about Belichick, you know that he does not amuse the media. However, he appeared on Sirius radio to discuss the strengths of the draft, and it became apparent how he operates. Simply put, when he's not interested in a player, he'll talk about them in order to make it seem as if he's interested. In the interview, he mentions Robert Quinn and Justin Houston. However, when asked about the cornerback and tackle positions, he disguised his responses and started speaking more generally about the positions. He talks about the overall position, as opposed to individual players. Belichick creates interest where there is none, which forces teams to react.

He created interest around the defensive spot at #17, with pre-draft discussion that the Patriots were thinking of trading up to the top 10 to select Robert Quinn or Cameron Jordan. Whether a result of Belichick's scheming, or just a happenstance, all the teams between the Patriots and the top 10 went either quarterback or defensive line, other than the Dolphins who selected Mike Pouncey (who was also connected to the Patriots). Teams that need an offensive tackle (Detroit, Minnesota, Washington) all passed and allowed Nate Solder to drop to #17. It was apparent after the selection that the Giants, as well as many later OT-needy teams, had Solder as their top tackle. By stimulating false interest in the defensive line position, the Patriots were able to have their top choice drop to them at #17.

Belichick also went out of his way prior to the draft to discuss the merits of taking a first round running back. My first thoughts? There's no way that Belichick would talk so freely about a position if he had actual interest in the first round. So when Mark Ingram was around at the bottom of the first, it was no surprise that the Patriots traded the pick to a team who was going to take Ingram. Again, Belichick does not and will not talk in depth about a player or position he's interested in selecting.

Looking to tomorrow, I see the Patriots taking a tall corner, a defensive end (Allen Bailey), and an outside linebacker who can play on his feet. I see him taking a possession receiver and a running back (yes, I think they'll take an RB tomorrow). Belichick won't lie about a position as a whole- he'll just manipulate the general opinion on his level of interest. I look forward to seeing how Belichick reacts to the next round.