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Saturday, March 1, 2014
Would analytics have moved Brady up?

By Mike Reiss

BOSTON -- At the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference on Friday, New England Patriots President Jonathan Kraft was part of a panel called "Building a Dynasty." Kraft took the stage along with former NBA coach Phil Jackson for a session moderated by ESPN's Jackie MacMullan.

At one point, Kraft was asked a question from the audience on whether the increasing influence of analytics might have somehow led to a situation in which quarterback Tom Brady wouldn't slip to the sixth round of a draft like he did in 2000.

Kraft then went back in time to tell a story that probably never gets old to Patriots followers.

"I have to go back and give Bill [Belichick] and Scott Pioli, who were running our personnel department at the time, a little bit of credit here. We had Drew Bledsoe on our team at the time, and we had just given him a large contract. It was Bill's first draft, and we had a lot of needs. Brady was rated pretty highly on the board, and, in the fifth round, Bill walked over to the board -- I clearly remember this -- and he picked up Brady's card, looked at Scott, and said 'What's Brady still doing here? This is too much value to be sitting here, and this kid is a winner. We have too many other needs. We can't take him, can we?' I'm basically paraphrasing. ...

"I remember my dad and I were standing there in the war room and we stared at each other and said, 'Why are we thinking of taking a quarterback? We have all these other needs.' In the sixth round, when it was about eight picks away, 10 picks away, Bill started to get very focused on drafting Brady because I think he felt the value was just way too great.

"So, what I would say about today, I would say Bill had an inkling and I think it came down to the intangibles. I think each team has its own way of evaluating players, and, for a lot of people, I bet you because Tom ran a 5.2 or 5.3 [in the 40] and didn't appear that athletic, he'd be off the board. I think his coachability and his passion for the game and his record as a starter -- when he starts, he wins -- that might even carry more weight other places, but I wouldn't see people thinking about him as a raw talent as a first-, second- or third-round draft pick. Because in the first, second and third rounds, you need to take your best guess of statistical sure things because those players in the salary-cap world, if they can come in and play like good, starting veterans under the rookie wage scale, you have a competitive advantage. People are always weighing the cost benefits of that.

"So, the same Brady we've seen, I would argue would still be ... he deserves to be the first pick, but I don't know it would happen today."