Analyzing New England Patriots' Defensive Drafting Strategy (2000-2009)

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Analyzing New England Patriots' Defensive Drafting Strategy (2000-2009)
(Photo by Jarrett Baker/Getty Images)

After the recently concluded 2009 draft, experts have given Bill Belichick's New England Patriots very high grades. Over the years, the Patriots have been cunningly calculating in the draft, they might have had few misses (say it with me, Chad Jackson) but they also have a lot of hits.

This analysis will try to get a read on the Patriots' drafting philosophy in selecting their defensive personnel by going through their statistics since coach Bill Belichick took over.

 

1. Coach Bill Belichick values Defense as much as the Offense

Since coach Belichick took over in 2000 up to the latest 2009 draft, Bill Belichick drafted 89 players.

Of the 89 players that coach Belichick drafted, 43 were defensive players, another 43 were offensive personnel and the remaining 3 for special teams. 43 for defense, 43 for offense means that coach Belichick understands the value of both phases of the game.

 

2. Coach Bill Belichick builds his defense from the Defensive Line

Of the 89 players that were drafted, fifteen (15) were drafted as defensive linemen. Since the Patriots employ a 3-4 defense (three defensive linemen), it would mean 15 players for three positions or simply five defensive lineman are drafted for each of those three spots.

A ratio of 1:5 in drafting defensive linemen means coach Belichick stockpiles DLs because the Patriots defense relies heavily on what happens in the line of scrimmage.

 

3. Coach Bill Belichick doesn't like drafting linebackers

Ten(10) linebackers were drafted since Belichick took over and in a 3-4 (four linebackers), what it tells us is that ONLY ten players were drafted for four linebacker spots available or roughly two players for each LB spot.

The 1:2.5 ratio indicates two things, one is that coach Belichick prefers signing veterans as his linebackers and two, the linebacker position is the most complex position in the Patriots defense that the Patriots will draft almost only one linebacker per draft to be able to focus their attention on that player's development.

 

4. Coach Belichick values the defensive backfield like he does his defensive line

In a typical 3-4 defense, there are four defensive backs that complete the defense. Since Belichick took over the Patriots, the Patriots have drafted a total of eighteen(18) defensive backs for four DB spots or almost 5 DBs for each spot. The ratio 1:4.5 drafting rate for defensive backs almost equals that of the DL(1:5).

There are two reasons for this, first is that the Patriots defensive flexibility comes from the backfield like safeties becoming extra linebackers, corners blitzing, etc. and second is the defensive backs are expected to be the play makers with the front seven generating the pressure.

On a final thought, I'd like to bring up the Forbes article stating that the New England Patriots are one of the worst drafting teams but Belichick described the drafting process best:

"You put them into a professional program which is a lot different than a college program. You start talking about a lot more time, a lot more money, a different schedule, different demands [and] some kids respond differently to that. How they will actually do when they get in there you won’t know until they get in there. You can guess, but you don’t have the evidence liked you’d have if you took a player from another NFL team. You will get a lot better evaluation on that. So, it’s a very inexact science but we do the best we can. "

Exactly inexact!

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