New England Patriots Draft: Round 2 is Wild-Card Time

Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins (91) and New England Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan (26) celebrate a fumble return for a touchdown by Collins
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Jamie Collins (91) and New England Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan (26) celebrate a fumble return for a touchdown by Collins /

The New England Patriots love using first-round draft picks on defensive linemen or offensive linemen, but in the second round of the draft, they’re almost totally unpredictable.

Planet theory.

Heard of it?  You probably have – if not by name, then definitely in practice.

Giants executive George Young, a five-time NFL Executive of the Year, explained the philosophy like this:

“Only so many guys on the planet are big and have athletic ability, so you pick them early in the draft.”

Bill Belichick’s time with the New York Giants was spent entirely with George Young as the general manager.  Young took the GM position with the G-Men in 1979, and held the job until 1997.  During that time, of course, a special-teams coach and defensive assistant named Bill Belichick got hired, also in 1979, worked his way up to a defensive coordinator job by 1985, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Cool story, bro. Get to the point: What the hell does any of that have to do with the Patriots and the 2016 draft?

For one thing, it certainly helps explain Coach Belichick’s eyebrow-raising habit of picking linemen – defensive or offensive – in the first round of the draft.

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No, really, check out all the first-round picks the Patriots have made since Belichick got to town, and became the Patriots’ de facto GM:

With the exception of one running back, two tight ends, and two defensive backs, every Belichick first-round pick has been either an offensive lineman or a defensive front-seven player.  And really, based on how tight ends were used when Belichick drafted Graham and Watson – more for blocking than today’s glorified super-sized receivers – one could make a good argument that those two players were basically offensive line players that were *technically* eligible receivers.

Obviously, this year, the Patriots don’t have a first round pick, and can’t pick higher than pick 29 even if they trade up into the first round.  Given Belichick’s general Taylor-Swift-Bad-Blood distaste for trading up in the early rounds of the NFL draft, the safe assumption is that the Patriots will have their first pick in the second round, where they have back-to-back picks, thanks to the Chandler Jones trade.

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And in the second round, they’re almost completely unpredictable.

Since Trader Bill swaps picks so much in the middle rounds of the draft, it’s easier to view the Pats’ second-round history by the number of players they’ve drafted at various positions (all position designations according to Pro Football Reference).

That’s all over the place!  Contrary to his always-take-a-big-man philosophy in the first round, Belichick’s attitude in the second round (and all the following rounds, really) switches immediately to “Best Player Available”.

It’s also airtight evidence that Belichick sees the second round as a place to roll the dice and pray for a royal flush instead of pocket 2’s.

Most of the players the Patriots take in the second round have some freakish talent, come from a college program Bill likes (hello, Rutgers!), or both.  They also usually tend to have a “Yeah, BUT…” next to their name that drops them out of the first round, and that’s when Belichick happily scoops up the chips.

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Look no further than Jamie Collins and Aaron Dobson – players that every New England fan knows, albeit for entirely different reasons.

Both guys absolutely burned it down when it came to measurables, the kind of stats that draft geeks obsess over.  Dobson ran a 4.42 40 yard dash at his Pro Day, posted a 4.29 in the short shuttle, did a 7.2 second three-cone drill, AND knocked out 16 reps on the bench press.’s Gil Brandt wrote that “Dobson looked great catching the ball during drills.”

Jamie Collins, meanwhile, had a great day at the NFL combine, running a 4.64 second 40 yard dash, jumping 41.5 inches vertically, running a 4.32 in the short shuttle, and most famously, setting the NFL record for all positions at broad jump, with a monster jump of 11’7” (the broad jump record has since been broken by Byron Jones).  Put another way, there could be TWO Jamie Collinses laying head-to-foot on the ground (he’s 6’4”), and Collins could almost jump over BOTH of them.

I don’t need to tell anyone how different their NFL careers have been so far.  Aaron Dobson posted a decent rookie season in 2013 with 519 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns, and since then, he started a combined 4 games in 2014 and 2015.  The kid is 24, and people are already wondering if he’ll make the 2016 Patriots final roster.  Think about that.  Dobson’s dirt-cheap rookie contract still has a year on it, and it might be more worthwhile for the Patriots to cut him than let him ride the bench.  Ouch.

Jamie Collins, meanwhile, is half of the bash-brothers duo (along with Dont’a Hightower) that’s easily in the top 5 in the NFL in terms of linebacker pairs.  He’s started calling defensive plays in the huddle, posted career-high numbers in sacks and forced fumbles in 2015, and made his first Pro Bowl, even though all of the Patriots players that got voted in decided not to actually attend.

Or, if that last section was boring to you, here’s the short version:


Gronkowski famously slid down in the draft due to his college back injuries, so Belichick, in a rare move, actually traded up to grab him.  Big risk, sure, and one that a lot of people thought backfired when Gronk’s injuries in 2011 (ankle), 2012 (arm), and 2013 (ACL) made him miss serious time (and a Super Bowl), but in the meantime, Gronk is barbecuing tight end records left and right, and stands to break a bunch of RECEIVER records too.

So as much as we like joking around about how you can bet the rent on Belichick going defensive tackle in the first round, buckle up – this is the second round we’re looking forward to here, and Belichick already has two back-to-back picks in hand.

On Day 2 of the draft, there’s either going to be some wild cards, or some trades.

Or both.