NEPD Contributor: Dan Hope
For much of the first decade of the 21st century, the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick were a team considered to be ahead of the curve when it came to the NFL draft.
From consistently finding diamonds in the rough who became team building blocks, to mastering the art of trading up and down the draft board for better value, the Patriots laid the foundation for three NFL championships and five Super Bowl appearances in an 11-year span.
But as the rest of the league has caught up, with teams such as the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks making brilliant offseason moves translate into on-field success, the Patriots are at risk of falling behind.
As a result of Belichick’s success at the beginning of the century, winning three Super Bowls in the first five years of the millennium, he has typically received benefit of the doubt. Belichick’s decisions are ultimately expected to be for the better — understandably given his accolades — even if they are unexpected or unconventional.
That said, it’s time to start looking past the benefit of the doubt, with the Patriots now eight years removed from their last Super Bowl title. Specifically, the decision to use three of seven draft picks on Rutgers players, coinciding with an apparently burgeoning friendship between Belichick and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, should raise a red flag.