With only two weeks to go until the NFL draft plenty is happening around the New England Patriots and the rest of the league. Let’s use this forum right here to go through some of the stories that emerged recently: time for our Sunday Patriots Notes.
1. Bill Belichick is the king of trading draft picks. Sitting with the 15th overall selection in this year’s draft, the Patriots might have to trade up if they want to be able to grab one of the top five quarterbacks in the class. Trading, however, has been a forte of the team ever since Bill Belichick took over as head coach and general manager in 2000. In fact, no team in the league has made more draft-day trades since then: New England has made 82 such transactions, with the Philadelphia Eagles checking in at number two with only 61.
Quantity is not the only category in which Belichick and his team stand out. They also were able to gain considerable value out of their moves as a recent graphic by NFL analyst Lee Sharpe shows:
Expected Trade Value in Picks-Only Trades Since 2002— Lee Sharpe, ⛓️ @ (@LeeSharpeNFL) April 13, 2021
X-axis = Fitzgerald-Spielberger
Y-axis = Jimmy Johnson pic.twitter.com/86PAW7q1t0
Using two different trade value charts — the one created by ex-Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson in the 1990s and a modified version built by Jason Fitzgerald and Brad Spielberger of Over The Cap — we can see that Belichick has been able to improve the Patriots’ overall value significantly since the divisional realignment in 2002. Regardless off the chart used, New England comes out on top in value added through trades.
“In general, the trades over the last several years for the most part have been, let’s call them within five to ten percent, pretty equitable trade. For you to have a chart that’s different than the other 31 charts isn’t really that productive because now we’re just arguing about which chart — ‘My chart says this. Your chart says that,’” Belichick said about trading during his pre-draft press conference in 2019.
“I would say everybody probably uses about the same value chart. ... When you look at the trades now, over the past few years, a majority of them fall within what we would say is a range of a fair trade. What the going rate would be is what the team gave up and what the team got is about what you would expect them to get, whether it’s our trade or not.”
2. The Lions might be shopping the seventh overall selection. As for trading up, one potential partner might be the Detroit Lions sitting at No. 7 in the first round. The Lions are reportedly exploring the possibility of trading down, which in turn might give the Patriots a potential trading partner if they indeed want to climb up the board (to presumable get a quarterback).
Back in 2019, Belichick also touched on trading up in the first round and how decisions are different than in the later rounds.
“The first round is a little bit different because you’re trading for a very specific player at that point,” he said. “Not that you’re not trading for a player in the second and third round — I’m not saying that — when a team moves up, they move up to take a certain player that they want. But not everybody’s necessarily after that player, whereas in the first five, 10 picks, whatever it is, when you’re trading there you’re trading for a certain guy and when they trade out of it they know that they’re trading away from that player. It might be one or two players but it’s a much more defined situation.”
3. New England’s schematic flexibility. During his annual pre-draft media conference call earlier this week, Belichick spoke about adding players of different styles to his team and how that might force the club to change its scheme. The question was asked in regards to the quarterback position — New England moved from classic pocket passer Tom Brady to dual-threat QB Cam Newton last year — but he noted that a team needs to be flexible irregardless of which type of player is added.
“Whatever the players are at whatever position you’re talking about, if you want to enhance their skills then you want to adapt a little bit of what your scheme is to do that,” he said. “That’s really the decision you have to make. We’ve had a couple different styles of player at [quarterback], and we try to do that in those examples.”
4. Other teams are joining the Patriots in boycotting voluntary workouts. New England’s players announced earlier this week that they would join other clubs in exercising their negotiated right to stay away from voluntary workouts this offseason. The NFLPA recommended doing that in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the Patriots announced that “many” of their players would do just that.
The Patriots were the fifth team to make such an announcement, and since then plenty of others have followed their example. In total, 19 of the 32 teams have released statements about boycotting voluntary offseason workouts: the Patriots, Lions and Eagles as well as the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos.
5. The Patriots’ 2014 Super Bowl team is down to five players. With Julian Edelman having announced his retirement from pro football on Monday, the first Super Bowl-winning team of the Patriots’ Dynasty 2.0 is now down to only five players: running backs James White and Brandon Bolden, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Devin McCourty, and wide receiver/special teamer Matthew Slater. The times they are a-changin’ in New England, with all five of them also closer to the ends of their respective careers than the beginnings.
6. Don’t expect the onside kick alternative to be introduced this year. On Wednesday, the NFL clubs will vote on rule changes proposed earlier this month. Eleven proposals are on the table — none of which submitted by the Patriots — including a potential change to the onside kick procedure: instead of an onside kick a team would get the option to try a 4th-and-15 play to keep possession.
The proposal was already voted down last year, and it seems likely that this year’s will suffer the same fate: according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, it is unlikely to get the necessary two-thirds support in order to be adopted.
However, a different proposal might still make the onside kick recovery a higher-percentage play. The Competition Committee proposed a change to how many players would be positioned in the so-called “setup zone” between the restraining line up front and 15 yards behind it. This would put more people deep, and could create a numbers advantage for the kicking team on onside kicks.
7. Josh Uche reflects on his high school career: The Patriots invested a second-round draft pick in linebacker Josh Uche last year, and he recently sat down to go over some tape from his high school career and how it laid the foundation for his jump to the NFL:
Despite struggling with injuries during his 2020 rookie year and not having a traditional offseason to prepare for his first year in the NFL, Uche did show his talent in flashes at times. Heading into his second season, he is projected to play a prominent role in the four-man rotation on the defensive edge alongside Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy and Chase Winovich.