I was going through the Patriots past free agency signings and actually came across a couple draft boards from Bill Belichick's mentor Bill Parcells, as well as from Belichick's rival and former Colts general manager Bill Polian.
The 2011 draft saw the Patriots select tackles Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, quarterback Ryan Mallett, and tight end Lee Smith over the first five rounds.
Parcells had Solder as his highest rated tackle, ahead of Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith and Colts tackle Anthony Castonzo. Cannon was a 3rd round prospect, per the board. I have tip my hat at Parcells, who did a pretty good job at nailing the first round tackle prospects, and even regarded bust Gabe Carimi as a 3rd round option.
The Patriots next three picks of Dowling, Vereen, and Ridley don't show up on the board at all.
Parcells swung and missed at the running back class with Mark Ingram as the only 1st round prospect, and Ryan Williams, Daniel Thomas, and Mikel Leshoure as the 2nd round options. While this is how it played out in reality, these four disappointed their relative draft spots. Parcells even had DeMarco Murray correctly in the 3rd round, but it's clear Murray was the best player from the class.
Mallett was the third quarterback in Parcells' rankings, behind the Panthers Cam Newton and the 49ers, nee Jaguars, Blaine Gabbert. Christian Ponder and Jake Locker joined Mallett in the 2nd round, while the Bengals Andy Dalton and the 49ers Colin Kaepernick were in the third.
You can check out the rest of the 2011 rankings here. Parcells clearly thrives when looking at the trenches on both sides of the ball, while his evaluation skills diminish the further he gets from the line of scrimmage- and that seems to ring true for Belichick as well.
The 2012 board, which appears to be a joint board from Parcells and Polian, is great to evaluate as these players are starting to hit free agency. Parcells and Belichick definitely share a taste in defensive talent as lighter linebackers like Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David are regarded as 3rd round options, while larger players like Dont'a Hightower are in the 1st round. All three are great players, but Belichick and Parcells clearly value larger linebackers.
Parcells placed fellow 1st round pick Chandler Jones in the mid-2nd, but this was a pretty middling class at edge defender. 2nd round safety Tavon Wilson and 3rd round defensive end Jake Bequette are nowhere to be found.
Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery received a mid-2nd grade as well, but ranked behind the Jaguars Justin Blackmon, Cardinals Michael Floyd, Panthers, nee Jets, Stephen Hill, Titans Kendall Wright, and free agent Tommy Streeter. The Colts T.Y. Hilton doesn't appear on the board.
What I find interesting is how 7th round cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was considered a 2nd round talent, while undrafted free agent Marcus Forston earned a 4th round grade. The Patriots thought these two were worth priority free agent tags to get them under contract.
Defensive tackle Jerel Worthy also received a 1st round grade and the Patriots also traded a conditional late round pick to the Packers during the 2014 preseason to acquire him. It didn't pan out.
Check out the rest of the 2012 rankings here. Cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Morris Claiborne were high on the draft board, as was Casey Hayward. Colts tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen received 1st and 2nd round grades, respectively. All are players to watch this offseason.
Overall, it seems that Parcells and Polian did a pretty good job of evaluating talent with regards to where they would be drafted (ie: how league scouts evaluate players), but missed on their fair share of prospects.
The league definitely undervalued smaller players like Wagner, David, and Hilton, and hopefully we're seeing a shift in philosophy away from drafting players that meet a certain mold and size, to just drafting good football players.