The NFL Draft has not been kind to Bill Belichick and the Patriots over the last few years. Despite their on-field success, finding young talent particularly at the top of the draft has been a significant struggle, dating as far back as 2014. For reference: the last time that the Patriots have had a homegrown player earn a Pro Bowl nod was linebacker Jamie Collins, who was a second-round pick in 2013. Since then, impact players and franchise cornerstones have been hard to come by.
That was the topic of conversation during Belichick's videoconference with the media on Friday. The head coach was initially asked for his thoughts on New England's lack of success in the draft and getting consistent development from those players over the last few years. After a notable pause, Belichick broke down what happens when a selection arrives and the decision-making process of who plays and who doesn't that follows.
"Well, look, any time you bring a player on to your team, you put him into a role or situation that you think fits him," he said. "Sometimes you have to modify that a little bit as you get to know the player. Then you work with him to try to develop that. He competes with other players at whatever position it is, or whatever role it is. Ultimately you choose, or we choose, I choose the best player out of that competition. So that's really the process. I don't know how else to answer the question. Obviously, each player is different, each player competes with different players, positions are different. I don't know if there's a general answer to that."
Belichick was pressed a bit further about their more recent draft history dating back from 2017, which includes a number of players who have yet to live up to their high draft billing. To that question, Belichick pointed to the overall scoreboard of New England's success over the last two decades as the trump card.
"I'd say the most important thing to me this week is winning games," he said. "I'm not going to apologize for our record over the last 20 years. I've seen a lot worse. So ultimately we try to put the best team on the field that we can to be competitive, and I don't really see that changing. So whoever those players are, or aren't, that's the responsibility I feel to the team. It's that competition plays itself out and better players play, whoever they are."
When asked a follow-up question to that answer and asked if the draft classes dating back to 2014 have been what he hoped, Belichick added, "My focus has been on the Ravens. Right now, drafting scorecard, which I understand you want to write about that, which is great -- but really trying to focus on getting ready for the Ravens. So I think I'll leave my attention on that."
While Belichick may not want to entertain this draft slump, it has been apparent especially in the first two rounds.
Dating back to 2014, here are the players the Patriots have selected in the first and second round: DT Dominique Easley (first round, 2014), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (second round, 2014), DT Malcom Brown (first round, 2015), S Jordan Richards (second round, 2015), CB Cyrus Jones (second round, 2016), LT Isaiah Wynn (first round, 2018), RB Sony Michel (first round, 2018), CB Duke Dawson (second round, 2018), WR N'Keal Harry (first round, 2019), CB Joejuan Williams (second round, 2019), S Kyle Dugger (second round, 2020) and LB Josh Uche (second round, 2020).
Every player mentioned above that was selected in 2016 or earlier is no longer on New England's roster and made little to no impact during their time in Foxborough. While it is too early to put a definitive opinion together on the 2020 class, 2019 first-round pick N'Keal Harry has struggled to emerge as a top-tier option in the passing game. The same can be said for 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel out of the backfield. Meanwhile, Duke Dawson is among those former high draft selections that are no longer on the roster.
Of course, Bill Belichick is right that the Patriots have been able to overcome poor drafts and still win Super Bowls, but that was with the all-powerful bandage in Tom Brady under center. As New England begins rebuilding itself in the post-Brady era, it's imperative for the health of the club going forward to shake this slump and bring in some new foundational pieces they can use going forward.