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Bill Belichick, Patriots should break with tradition in the 2019 NFL supplemental draft

New England under Belichick has yet to invest in a player in the supplemental draft.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

There is probably no other team in the NFL that breaks its own patterns as regularly as the New England Patriots. The team reinvents itself time and again, be it in terms of scheme or personnel usage. One modus operandi that has yet to be altered does still exist, however: in the nineteen years under head coach/de facto general manager Bill Belichick, the Patriots have yet to select a player in the NFL’s supplemental draft.

2019 would be the perfect opportunity to change this, considering who will be available when the event takes place next week. Five draft prospects have thus far declared to enter the supplemental draft and one in particular should be on New England’s radar: West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms, who might be a nice addition to the Patriots’ current group at the position given his skill set.

Simms is entering the NFL’s second draft coming off a productive three years with the Mountaineers. After seeing only irregular action during his true freshman season, he developed into a core player in his school’s passing attack over the last two seasons: in 2017 and 2018, the wideout caught 81 passes for 1,362 yards and 7 touchdowns — not necessarily spectacular numbers, but solid for a young player like Simms.

He was projected to become West Virginia’s number one wideout heading into his 2019 senior season, but somewhat unclear circumstances led him to try his luck in the pros instead of returning: there were unsubstantiated rumors about a personal issue and Simms violating West Virginia’s student code of conduct. As a result, he would have entered the transfer portal before ultimately deciding to go through the NFL’s supplemental draft.

Given his skillset, he should create some interest when the draft takes place on Wednesday. After all, Simms has decent size at 6-foot-0, 195 pounds and the tools to play the Z-receiver role at the next level: his ability to create separation down the field — he averaged 16.2 yards per catch over his last two years — in combination with good short-area quickness and route running should help him when going against NFL-caliber defensive backs.

His best attribute, however, might be his ability to create yards after the catch and to move around in traffic: Simms is a slippery player that has good balance and vision and despite his comparatively skinny frame is able to break tackles if need be. West Virginia tried to take advantage of this by regularly using him as a returnman. The results speak for themselves as Simms averaged 24.2 yards per kickoff (on 41 runbacks) as well as 6.4 yards on 23 punt returns.

Add it all up, and you get a player that might have heard his name called late on day two or early on day three had he entered the ‘regular’ draft in April. More than two months later, on the other hand, it would be a surprise if Simms went that high — teams usually bid a bit lower in the supplemental draft than they otherwise might. That being said, it is not unrealistic to see a team spend as high as a fifth-round selection on the receiver.

The Patriots currently don’t own a pick in round five of the 2020 draft. They do, however, have two fourth-round selections and one in the sixth available (compensatory choices of which New England is projected to receive two in round six next year do not count). Spending one of them on Simms would be an unprecedented move given the club’s track record of investing in supplementary prospects, of course.

Then again, the Patriots could certainly benefit from adding another body at a wide receiver position that has only two real roster locks at the moment in Julian Edelman and first-round rookie N’Keal Harry. With every other spot open for competition, why not add a high-upside prospect like Simms — one capable of helping out on offense and in the kicking game — to the fold for the price of a day three draft pick?