Belichick is NFL's master draft pickpocket

April, 24, 2010
4/24/10
12:40
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Bill BelichickLuc Leclerc-US PRESSWIREBill Belichick and the Patriots have made six trades since the draft began.
Bill Belichick seems like the kind of schemer who'll find a way to win somebody else's solitaire game.

The dude is shrewd.

Like a grifter who knows he can't hover in one place too long, Belichick has drifted around the league through the first two days of the draft, working his hustle in the Carolinas, out in the desert, up in the Rocky Mountains, along the gulf and in the Bay Area.

Belichick made six trades within five divisions, collecting more draft picks while somehow managing to improve the average value of each selection.

The New England Ponztriots have peddled eight draft picks so far and accumulated 10, including the Carolina Panthers' second-round choice next year. If we assign that pick a middling value of 48th overall, then the average draft position of the picks the Patriots acquired the past two days is 70.3. The average slot of the picks they surrendered was 84.7.

I'm not saying The Hoodie hoodwinked everybody, but when the Patriots can gather more picks and earlier in the order, his elaborate process sure looks like a swindle.

The operation is fascinating to follow -- if you can. To some, it's more like trying to find the red queen in a three-card monte game.

"I mean, some of those guys I don't know how they know where the hell they draft," Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix said Friday night. "If we know we're going to gain an advantage, we'll do it. Otherwise, we'll just stay there and try to get us a good player."

New England continues to massage its roster by masterfully accumulating draft picks in a way that's difficult to comprehend. Belichick should conduct seminars to teach other front offices how to pull it off. Maybe charge them a second-rounder.

The Patriots' main AFC East competition has been headhunting. The New York Jets are assembling a supergroup of veterans to make a run at the Super Bowl. The Miami Dolphins have made two of the offseason's sexiest individual moves, signing linebacker Karlos Dansby and trading for receiver Brandon Marshall.

The Patriots, meanwhile, have tried to maintain success by re-signing their own players, adding a couple of complementary free agents and stockpiling draft picks with methodology other teams either aren't savvy enough to implement or simply don't have the patience to grind out.

The Patriots went into the draft with the most selections. Part of that was because they received a league-high four compensatory picks, which cannot be traded.

Even without those picks, the Patriots dominated the draft order. They went into Friday with a league-high three second-round selections. They made three, but only one in the spot they owned when the night began. They spun them into more assets and along the way probably duped the Jacksonville Jaguars into footing the tab for the draft room catering.

They drafted Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski, Florida outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham and Florida inside linebacker Brandon Spikes in the second round and Ohio receiver Taylor Price in the third round.

[+] EnlargeDevin McCourty
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesThe Patriots traded back twice before drafting Devin McCourty of Rutgers in the first round.
In the first round Thursday night, they traded back twice before taking Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty.

"There was quite a bit of movement, of course, with us moving up and then moving back," Belichick said late Friday night. "We ended up taking the three second-rounders, not quite where we started, but still in that round, and then gained that extra third-round pick which is now a second-round pick next year.

"We felt that was good value in making that trade there with, uh, who was it? Arizona?"

Hard to say. I have the entire list of trades here in front of me, and I can't tell you which trade Belichick was referring to. The past two days they've found willing trade partners with the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys and Panthers.

This year's draft still has four rounds left, and already the Patriots have two picks in each of the first two rounds in 2011.

New England previously acquired Oakland's 2011 first-round pick for defensive end Richard Seymour. On Saturday, New England dealt a third-round pick, 89th overall, which it obtained from Arizona, for Carolina's second-round pick next year.

By 2016 they'll own the entire second round and 12 picks in the third.

"We should continue to be able to replenish the team with the assets we have next year," Belichick said, "and I feel like we certainly improved our team today and yesterday with the five picks we made."

It's a scheme with which Belichick intends to keep the Patriots atop the NFL's food pyramid for years to come.

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