5 Creative Moves the Patriots Could Make on Draft Day
While there are many descriptive terms that fans of the NFL have given to Bill Belichick—some that I am unable to write here—"creative" is one that even his biggest detractors couldn't take away from him.
His creativity in defensive schemes, roster building and practice management are perhaps only surpassed by his ability to move up and down the draft and select the player—right or wrong in the long run—that he wanted.
Here are five creative ways that New England could shock the crowd at Radio City Music Hall this May.
Trade for the No. 1 Overall Pick
Many New England Patriots fans have pined for their team to go "all in" and make a one- or two-year push—at the expense of the future—toward another Super Bowl trophy. They could do just that by trading up to the No. 1 overall selection and drafting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
There is no question that Clowney would have a real and immediate impact on the Patriots defense. An upgraded secondary—now featuring Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Devin McCourty—will give the pass-rushers an extra half-second to get to the quarterback. The duo of Clowney and Rob Ninkovich at end, with Chandler Jones and Chris Jones inside, would know just what to do with that extra time.
The trick isn't fitting Clowney into the defense—the trick is to get into position to draft him.
To get the Houston Texans to relinquish their pick, the Patriots are going to have to come strong. A package of first- and third-round picks in 2014, a first-round pick in 2015 and Ryan Mallett could do the trick.
Trading into the top five and landing a talent like Khalil Mack or Sammy Watkins is also a cheaper possibility.
Draft a Quarterback in the First Round
Thinking about the future isn't a very popular thing when you are close to winning a Super Bowl. However, I can't repeat enough that if you find yourself needing to draft a franchise quarterback, you've waited far too long. Not all teams Luck out like the Indianapolis Colts.
It would be highly unpopular, but the New England Patriots stopping the fall of a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles is just the sort of bargain shopping that Bill Belichick is known for.
The impact on the 2014 season would be minimal—barring an injury—but potentially keeping the championship window open for a few extra years could be deemed important enough to trump short-term need.
Eschew the Tight End Position Entirely
At this point of the predraft process, drafting a tight end early seems like a fait accompli for the New England Patriots. Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui are the only seasoned veterans on the roster, and the former is the only true receiving threat.
Talented options litter the early rounds, with Eric Ebron (North Carolina), Troy Niklas (Notre Dame), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington), Jace Amaro (Texas Tech) and C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa) leading the pack. If the Patriots don't land one of that quintet early, they may choose to avoid the position altogether.
Josh McDaniels showed in 2013 that New England can have a workable—if not perfect—offense without dynamic tight ends. Drafting a position solely based on need—look at Taylor Price in 2010—rarely works out well. Bill Belichick may decide to pick up an undrafted free agent or two that can come in and compete for a job and invest his draft picks in the top talent available.
Ship Ryan Mallett for a Future Draft Pick
Many expect New England to try and trade current backup quarterback Ryan Mallett—who is on the last year of his contract—for a 2014 pick. They might be partially right.
While some teams might be unwilling to part with a high pick in this loaded draft class, they might be willing to let one of their 2015 selections go—especially NFL executives that might be on their last legs job-wise.
Bill Belichick won't let Mallett go for peanuts. The effort that the coaching staff has poured into him is worth more than a pick in the sixth or seventh round. If he can't get better than a fourth-round pick in 2014, he might start shopping him for an earlier pick in 2015.
Belichick showed patience with Richard Seymour—dealt for a first-round pick more than a year in the future—and that same approach might pay off in a big way with Mallett.
Expect Bill Belichick to zig? Look out for the zag. Perhaps the most creative move he could make is standing pat with his current picks. Somehow, Belichick can make doing nothing seem interesting.
Going into the 2012 NFL draft, the narrative was that Belichick only trades down. He proceeded to trade up twice in the first round and drafted Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. In 2013, he traded down again. Is 2014 the year that he doesn't trade at all?
This class of NFL prospects has a glut of talent at nearly every position, likely meaning that New England should have someone on its board it deems worthy of a draft pick in each round. If the other 31 teams don't give Belichick a good deal (will some ever learn?), he'll surely be content to methodically select players as his turn comes up.