As a Lion fan I have looked upon the Belichick and Brady era in New England with a combination of reverence and jealousy.
Like most NFL fans I have worshipped at the alter of the hoodie and even defended the spygate episode by believing that every team did it. The reason everybody seemed to be so excited about it was everybody was jealous because just like everything else the Patriots did it better.
I love the way they are always team first and even how some of the biggest me first players like Moss have thrived under the Patriot umbrella.
I love how they never seem to hang onto a player too long yet never miss a chance to add players who others thought were too old.
I love how they are always questioning the old adages and I loved it when Belichick went for it on fourth and two, it makes perfect sense to put the game in the hands of your best players.
Love them or hate them you always had to respect them because they were the gold standard in everything they did.
Well, at least I thought they were.
There is a chink in the armor and it is just starting show up on the field.
The problem is this franchise is mediocre at best in the draft.
Shocked by that statement?
Didn't this team find the biggest draft steal in history with Tom Brady along with late round picks they turned into pro bowl players like Samuels and Koppen.
Considering where they are always drafting at they do a great job.
Well consider this, since that 2003 draft when they found Samuels and Koppen the only pro bowlers they have added were Vince Woolfolk, Logan Madkins and Branden Meriweather unless you want to count the place kicker.
Even worse is how they have not been adding to the core.
Take a look at last year's roster and count up the starters out of the 2004. 2005, 2006 and 2007 draft.
I count Woolfolk, Madkins, Meriweather, Nick Kaczur and Ben Watson plus part time starters Laurence Maroney and James Sanders.
If we consider the normal turnover in a starting twenty-two you need to add two to three new starters out of every draft just to maintain. Over the four years the Patriots needed to add eight to ten starters and the five with two kind of starters they found looks pretty slim.
Even that doesn't tell the whole story because a championship caliber football team is more than twenty-two deep. You need another twenty or so players for situational needs, depth and special teams.
Really, good teams need to add around five players out of every draft to maintain a quality roster. That means the Patriots needed to add 18 to 20 players out of those four draft classes.
Now look at that roster again. Other than the seven players I already mentioned they added one player, the place kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
That is not going to get it done folks.
You can make up for a bad draft or two with free agents but when you go four years in a row the talent pool dries up and you have no depth.
Sure, you can simply sign more free agents but it's not the same.
You want that back-up that now must start because of an injury to have two or three years in the system along with a comfort level with the players he is now playing along side of.
Don't overlook the time the coaching staff wasted trying to get something out of those bad draft picks and how many games did those draft picks help lose while proving they couldn't play.
It even affects the good draft picks when they get less pre-season and practice snaps because the Patriots have a couple of free agents on a crash course to get ready for the season.
And don't forget special teams, when your back-ups are not getting it done the front line players have to step in. This creates a whole another set of issues from increased potential for injuries to strains on the practice time when the starters have to do special team drills.
It's a little too soon to judge the 2008 and 2009 draft classes but the reviews are a little mixed already and the Patriots have appeared to go to the throw as many picks against the wall and see what sticks philosophy.
That's fine if you are in a total rebuilding mode but the preferred method is to bring in six or seven guys you feel good about. This gets you to working on that complicated Patriot defense and building that repetition you need for the offense faster when you didn't spend half of training camp weeding out new draftees.
It is clear to me why the Patriots have taken a little step back and if they don't get this fixed soon the run will be over.
Maybe it's time to send someone else out for the shopping while Belichick continues to do the cooking.
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