There is no shortage in bizarre 2nd round draft selections by the New England Patriots in the Bill Belichick era. Some pan out, like offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and linebacker Jamie Collins, while some burn out, like defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and safety Tavon Wilson.
A former Patriots executive, who is currently the general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has explained the reasoning behind these draft picks.
Jason Licht, who served as the Patriots director of pro personnel from 2009-11, had to explain his decision to trade up to select a kicker in the 2nd round.
Licht points to lessons from Belichick when it comes to drafting players against conventional wisdom.
"If we love a player we're going to go get him," Licht told the Buccaneers news site PewterReport.com. "Don't worry about it. Go get him. Don't worry about how other teams have him ranked, either. If you read that this guy is a sixth-round pick and you take him in the second. It doesn't matter. Get your guy."
The selections of Cunningham and Wilson will stand out the most because both had received low grades from talent evaluators, but the Patriots wanted to find a player that fit their scheme, other teams be damned.
Cunningham was the lesser graded edge defender talent coming out of Florida, compared to the Bengals' Carlos Dunlap who has made a nice career in the NFL. Bill Belichick and his staff envisioned a new role in their defense, where their defensive ends would kick inside and function as a defensive tackle on pass rushing downs.
We saw Chandler Jones play this role with some success over the years, but Cunningham wasn't explosive enough to work in the NFL. The Patriots will likely use Jabaal Sheard or 2015 3rd round pick Geneo Grissom in this capacity in 2016. Still, the Patriots had an every-down role for Cunningham in mind and that's why they took the risk.
The same applied for Wilson, who was touted as a near-undraftable prospect. He played every single position in the secondary during his time at Illinois and the Patriots envisioned a perfect jackknife defender for a league that was relying more and more on athletic receiving tight ends.
Wilson didn't pan out, even though we saw flashes of his coverage ability when asked to play cornerback against the Jets in 2015, but the role has been carved out and owned by Patrick Chung in the Patriots defense. Belichick had a vision, took a player he thought would match, and missed.
But when defensive visionaries want to change the game and be ahead of the curve, they will have to take risks, even if they don't pan out.
"Belichick [wants to take his guy and not be worried about what others think]," Licht said. "I always tell our scouts, ‘If you guys have a first-round grade on a guy the 49ers took and he turns out to be a bust, I'm not worried. I'm not going to judge you on that.'
"There are so many factors that go into whether that player will be successful or not. It could be the city. It could be the staff. It could be the team. It could be all that stuff. I'm only worried about our picks and how you evaluated the players that we took."
Cunningham failed to develop with the Patriots, and was even busted with a PED suspension in his final year with the team. Belichick should have hopefully learned not to trust then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer's judgment after this pick. Wilson repeated mistakes in his rookie year and was never given another chance to have an impact; he will get a fresh start in Detroit next season.
Perhaps the failure with these two players came after they entered the building, instead of with the predraft evaluation.
Licht shares a final story about how few players the Patriots actually consider drafting on an annual basis, and adds context to 6th round pick Kamu Grugier-Hill being on the "short list."
"I think from Bill, I learned about having a clean draft board without 300 names up there on draft day," Licht said. "Chipping it down to whom the guys were that we actually wanted, that could actually make our team and help us.
"I remember one year we cleaned the draft board down to just 75 players going into a seven-round draft. Us scouts said, ‘Are we going to have enough players to draft? What's going to be there in the seventh round?'
"We got down to the seventh round and there were two players left out of 75 and it was [wide receiver] David Givens and we took him. He went on to have a pretty good career."
The 2002 draft was unique for the Patriots as they traded up a bunch of picks for just a handful of players. Belichick sent his 1st, 3rd, and 7th round pick to move up in the 1st round to select tight end Daniel Graham. The Patriots selected wide receiver Deion Branch in the 2nd round.
The Patriots then traded their 4th and 5th round picks to trade up in the 4th round to draft quarterback Rohan Davey. The Patriots had a second 4th round pick after trading wide receiver Terry Glenn to the Packers, and selected defensive lineman Jarvis Green.
New England then sent a 5th round pick to the Cowboys for a 7th and a future 5th round pick, and used that 7th rounder on running back Antwoine Womack. And that left one final 7th round pick for the Patriots to take David Givens.
These stories from Licht frames Belichick's draft style as pretty simple: create a short list of players you want on the team, and then go out and get them.