If you are like me, the annual ritual of feebly attempting to predict the Patriots' draft results has basically become like being trapped in the movie Groundhog Day.
- You complete an exhaustive preparation process which typically includes the stockpiling of historical draft trends, combine results, team positional needs, etc.
- An eternity passes.
- Draft day finally arrives.
- The Patriots zig when everyone, including you, had them zagging.
- Your predictions fail. You fail.
- You’re left feeling bewildered and confused.
- You try convincing yourself of the team's logic behind every selection and transaction in hopes that, through hindsight, you'll be able to "see the forest through the trees" and pinpoint Belichick's ultimate direction for the roster.
- Eventually you come to grips with your lack of foresight and mentally file the entire failed process under the steadfast "in Bill we trust" section of your football mind.
- Lather, rinse, and repeat each offseason.
But not this year. Not this week.
This year you’re on your game. You've been incredulous in your preparation. You’ve scoured hundred -- perhaps thousands -- of mock drafts and player profiles. As you analyze them you’re careful not to fall into old habits. This time you’ve managed to cautiously maintain a high level of skepticism. So when Bill goes to pull the rug out from under you again, you’ll be ready.
Although you may think you’re ready, you’ve really just been lulled into a false sense of security. While you had been hard at work ridding your projection process of old tendencies and recency bias, you failed to notice that your football-subconscious was a step ahead of you the entire time manufacturing assumptions that your conscious mind, completely bombarded with draft data, just breezed over and accepted as truths. A perfect example of such an assumption might be:
“With the signing of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, the Patriots won’t be drafting a running back this year.”
Says who? Are the chances that the team drafts a running back diminished with the signings? Sure. But they currently do not have a “big back” under contract beyond the 2017 season. Also, to paraphrase what CSNNE’s Phil “The Senator” Perry tweeted on Wednesday, the Patriots have a long history of taking players at positions where they appear to already be loaded.
Here’s another Patriots draft assumption you’re likely to have:
“Read Adam Schefter’s lips: The Patriots aren’t trading Jimmy Garoppolo!”
There is no way to truly know what is going on behind the scenes, and the story has been beaten to death, so let’s just not go there...cool?
Finally, the major assumption that has seemingly penetrated the minds of Patriots Nation this week is this:
“There is no way Bill is waiting around until pick #72 to make his first selection. Whether by trading Malcolm Butler or by some other means, the Patriots will be trading up into the first or second rounds.”
This past Tuesday evening I was chewing through my typical cycle of draft articles and mocks. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed, my eye caught a momentary flash of a tweet carrying a link to an innocuous Patriots draft article just as it vanished over the horizon of my phone’s screen. Although it happened quickly, the vanished tweet had the kind of effect on me that one would expect from a TV commercial implementing subliminal messaging. I can’t recall the author or publication the tweet, its title read something like “Who will the Patriots trade up for in the 2017 NFL Draft?” Nothing crazy.
I bring this up because although I’ve seen and read countless pieces pitching the same general theme, something in my brain clicked this time. It suddenly became clear to me that I had resigned myself to the notion that the Patriots are going to be trading up in the draft.
Where did that come from? And when did I reach the point where I became automatically convinced of it?
At no point since my perceived fizzling of the Malcolm Butler trade talks (another assumption) had I envisioned a realistic scenario where such a transaction would occur — yet there I was — practically certain it was going to happen.
So I set out to combat the assumption. In do so, I first had to concede that there is an assumption that can be safely made. It is that Belichick will be actively looking to make a trade, and will likely get a deal done at some point in the draft. The man wasn’t assigned a moniker like Trader Bill simply out of hyperbole. According to SB Nation’s Christian D’Andrea, who did an incredible amount of legwork and put together fantastic must-read piece breaking down every draft trade Belichick has made during his reign in Foxborough, from 2001 through 2016, Bill Belichick executed a staggering 54 draft day trades. Of those 16 drafts, only one (2004) came and went without a trade from ole Trader Bill.
Becoming certain that a trade is a practical inevitability allowed me sort out my thoughts on the exact nature of what the transaction will consist of. Given how widespread the trade-up assumption has become, the temperature of my take on the matter could be categorized as warm, to quite warm.
I believe the Patriots will be trade back from either the 72nd or 96th picks in this year’s draft.
- Bill Belichick has drafted 143 players in his 16 drafts. That’s 8.9 picks per year. They current hold just six picks.
- In 2016, they brought 17 rookies to training camp. They currently have 25 spots open on the 90-man roster.
- Of the 54 draft day trades Bill has executed, 33 were trade-downs, or 61%. A huge majority? No, but a majority nonetheless.
- Many consider this draft one of the deepest from 1-150 in recent memory. With just two selections coming late in the top-100, it’s not hard to imagine Bill going with a volume approach and acquiring multiple fourth and fifth round picks.
- By capitalizing on another team’s eagerness to stockpile multiple players in the top-100, the opportunity to acquire to second and third round picks in the 2018 draft could be enticing. Bill is no stranger to this strategy.
- To piggyback on the previous point, remember that Patriots will have to send their 2018 third round pick to Philadelphia if Eric Rowe plays more than 50% of team’s defensive snaps this season. If he plays less, it will be a fourth. Trading down to acquire more 2018 draft assets could be a means of filling that eventual hole.
Maybe it’s just easy for me to picture Trader Bill with his feet up on a desk in the war room on Friday evening, fresh off his latest fleecing of some poor GM who never should’ve answered the phone. I picture him cracking that sideways grin — you know the grin. He doesn’t crack the grin because of the haul he just received in the trade. The grin is from the deep satifisfaction he gets knowing that people like you and I think we’ve finally got it figured out.
That’s Bill. Just when you think he’s zigging, he zags.
Yes, I am sneaking in a mock on you. This is how I could see it going down.
Disclaimer: Even though I predict Bill will trade out of the 3rd round, I believe strongly that involving trades in mock drafts is criminal.
#72 - Julie’n Davenport, LT - Bucknell
#96 - Deatrich Wise Jr., EDGE - Arkansas
#131 - Tedric Thompson, SS - Colorado
#183 - Blair Brown, LB - Ohio
#200 - Michael Roberts, TE - Toledo
#239 - De’Veon Smith, RB - Michigan
Go ahead, light me up on Twitter...but throw me a follow while your at it - @b7phillips