The New England Patriots took a major risk when they selected defensive tackle Dominique Easley 29th overall in the 2014 draft and the pick just didn't work out.
Belichick deserves a large portion of the blame and that's okay.
If the recently uncovered stories about Easley are true, and he hid injuries prior to the draft, didn't work with the team on his many recoveries, and missed scheduled appointments, then Easley is at fault for not developing while in the NFL.
But these sorts of decisions root from traits that should have been uncovered during the scouting process. Does Easley respond well to coaching? Is he a team player? Is he passionate about football?
One ESPN report on the Florida Gators found a big flag on Easley.
"One coach on the staff said the 2010 class was the most unruly he has ever witnessed," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote. "Another player viewed by some as problematic was Dominique Easley, a five-star defensive lineman from New York who threatened to quit the team repeatedly, missing meetings as a result."
Bill Belichick is close with then-head coach Urban Meyer, who helped the Patriots draft Florida bust after Florida bust, and this sort of behavior should have been well understood prior to taking Easley in the 1st round.
Yahoo! Sports found another issue during the predraft process.
Easley was asked if he ever has [watched] an entire NFL game.
"Not start to finish," Easley said. "I might change it to a cartoon or something."
(For the record, he's a big fan of the Rocket Power cartoon for those keeping score at home.)
So wait, you don't watch, like, the Super Bowl? What's the most of an NFL game you've watch, Dominique?
"About two quarters," he said.
While some players can love football without being a film junkie (Easley said he did some film study), it's hard to believe that a player will ever achieve their full potential if they don't watch film at an obsessive level.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio recently spoke about three traits that the Patriots value the most in a prospect: 1) Is he coachable?; 2) Does he improve?; 3) Does he work hard?
Easley seems to be a miss on points one and three, and it's hard to determine number two when the defensive tackle struggles to remain on the field.
The quirk in evaluating the draft success of Easley is that he was a great player. He was the NFL's most productive pass rusher from the defensive tackle position in 2015, and he was disruptive against the run. The evaluation of what he could be in the NFL was correct; the scouting department did their job when it came his pure playing potential.
But where the scouts really have a better hold than the decision makers is with the player's character after speaking with those close to the players on the campus. If former Globe writer Shalise Manza Young is correct, the Patriots scouts had a 4th round grade on Easley, but Bill Belichick confidant Mike Lombardi was far higher on the prospect and thought he was worth a 1st round pick.
Ultimately, Belichick makes the decisions for the team and he has a history of overriding the scouts.
He took cornerback Ras-I Dowling instead of scouts' favorite Jabaal Sheard at 33rd overall in the 2011 draft.
In Michael Holley's book War Room, Belichick is noted for siding with then-offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels over the scouts to take both running back Laurence Maroney and wide receiver Chad Jackson in the 2006 draft, even when then-wide receivers coach Brian Daboll "said he didn't want to coach Jackson."
He also took linebacker Jamie Collins in the 2nd round and safety Duron Harmon in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft, while the team scouts put both Collins and Harmon as day three selections, and both have become extremely important players for the Patriots.
Belichick has the final say and he's going to do what he wants- and he selected a player in the 1st round that wasn't passionate about football in the way that Patriots players need to be in order to thrive. That's on him.
Everyone makes mistakes and that's okay.
Belichick intentionally fleshes out his roster with low-cost free agents with starting experience because it allows the Patriots to swing for the fences on more draft picks. The Patriots rarely finish the season with a top 20 pick, so when a blue chip player slips to the bottom of the round, Belichick can feel comfortable with the rest of his roster to take a chance.
Generally the blue chip players that fall to the Patriots are only available because of injury concerns, and that's why they don't always pan out. Others are just the luck of the draft board.
Some times those players turn into Easley and Dowling and Maroney. Other times they become Rob Gronkowski and Malcom Brown and Vince Wilfork.
Belichick should work to improve on properly valuing a player's mental make-up when making selections and should give credence to the scouts and position coaches that would have a more granular understanding of the player. He also should adjust his valuation of injuries on the development of prospects to reduce the risk inherent in his team building strategy.
While Easley deserves blame for not trying to fit into the team's system, Belichick is responsible for making the pick at the end of the day.
He is also responsible for building a roster during free agency that can afford the Patriots to take risk on high-reward prospects in the draft and remain competitive if those players don't pan out.