Troy Brown, the legendary New England Patriots wide receiver, strode to the NFL draft podium, ready to deliver the 16th pick of the second round and 48th of the entire draft. He was about to read off a name at another position the Patriots clearly need. Safety. No surprise there.
But there was still room for shock and bewilderment. The name didn't make sense. "Tavon Wilson." Who on earth was Tavon Wilson?
Patriots fans probably felt better when that question didn't have an answer. Before they found out that Wilson wasn't invited to the combine. Before they found out he didn't even make a Big Ten All-Conference team. And way before they found out he wasn't supposed to get drafted until the sixth or seventh round—if that high.
It's an unusual pick, and it's hard to defend the value. Wilson could be the next Ed Reed and it would still be puzzling why New England jumped for him in the middle of the second round. The Patriots likely could have let another 100 picks go by, and he still would've been on the board.
Meanwhile, highly-touted defensive players like Jerel Worthy, Devon Still and Vinny Curry came and went before the Patriots were back on the clock. So from a value standpoint, New England made a mistake.
That assumption, however, shouldn't carry over into the evaluation of the player. Not yet, anyway. Belichick deserves more faith than that. The Patriots deserve more patience than that.
Wilson was barely on anyone's draft boards, but he was on New England's. The Patriots saw something in him. Something—a quote from an interview, a performance in a drill, an interception in a game—made New England think something no one else was thinking, which was that this Wilson kid could turn out to be a heck of a player.
Bill Belichick wouldn't have made the pick if that wasn't the case. There wasn't any hilarity at hand, such as Belichick saying the name as a joke and someone thinking he was serious. The Patriots wanted Wilson. There's a reason why.
That reason should have the fans' confidence. Belichick's track record with supposed reaches is pretty good. The sensible picks (Laurence Maroney, Chad Jackson, Darius Butler) have given him problems. But some of his reaches (Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer, Devin McCourty) have sparkled.
There'll be plenty of opportunity to judge the pick later on. Come late summer, Wilson will strap on pads and a helmet and go out on the field with everyone else. He'll play the same game everyone else does. He'll produce, or he won't. And then we'll be able to judge, fair and square.
That time will come. Until then, it's best to trust that one of football's greatest minds might just be on to something.
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