New England Patriots: Bill Belichick wasteful on Day 1 of 2022 NFL Draft

Bill Belichick the head coach of the New England Patriots (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bill Belichick the head coach of the New England Patriots (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots botched a fantastic opportunity to add some legitimate talent on Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft. Everyone around the league knows it. Except for Bill Belichick.

Headed into the first round, the Patriots were a top candidate to trade back in the first round to accrue more picks. Belichick is always a fan of trading down the board, and considering the Pats didn’t have as many picks as they would have liked heading into the draft, the idea made sense. So when they ended up moving back from the #21 spot to #29 in a swap with the Kansas City Chiefs, not many folks were surprised.

While the trade itself was actually pretty good business by Belichick (more on that in a moment), it ended up being the start of a trecherous one hour period where New England inexcusably passed up on a number of talented prospects just so they could draft a player they almost certainly could have gotten at some point tonight.

Bill Belichick blew a fantastic opportunity for the New England Patriots

For most of the night, things were looking up for the Patriots. Some of their top targets (or players that should have at least been their top targets) were falling down the board, and were going to be available when they were on the clock to pick at #21. Of the most prominent names were Trent McDuffie, Devin Lloyd, and Nakobe Dean.

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But Belichick still opted to trade down to #29, which wasn’t necessarily a bad move at the time. In return for their pick, the Chiefs also gave them a third rounder (#94) and a fourth rounder (#121), along with their first rounder of course. That’s pretty good value all things considered, and gives Belichick more picks to use in a deep draft class.

Then Kansas City made their pick, and confusion ensued. They immediately selected McDuffie, who should have been the player the New England Patriots picked had they stayed put. McDuffie was not expected to be available at #21, but he was. The Pats clearly needed a cornerback, and it seemed like the stars had aligned for them. Instead, they basically traded him away to one of the top teams in the AFC.

At this point, the assumption was that Belichick was eyeing either Lloyd or Dean, as he didn’t trade out of the first round entirely, and they were two of top fits left. They appeared to dodge a bullet when the Green Bay Packers selected Dean’s former teammate at Georgia, Quay Walker, with the 22nd pick right after the Chiefs. Walker was almost unanimously regarded as the third best linebacker behind Lloyd and Dean in this draft class.

Lloyd ended up getting scooped up by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the #27 pick, but with the Packers picking again at #28, it seemed like New England was going to get their guy in Dean at #29, which would have been a win for the defense. Instead, Belichick decided to pick an offensive lineman in Cole Strange from Chattanooga instead.

Why the New England Patriots made a fatal mistake taking Cole Strange in the first round

This isn’t meant to be an attack on Strange, because in all fairness, he’s a good prospect, and he should immediately slot into the Pats offensive line at left guard. He’s big, has good tape in both run and pass protection, and has good agility to recover when beat as well. Belichick has had success developing lineman before, and if he’s picking Strange this high, he clearly expects him to be good.

The problem is this was an unforced selection on Belichick’s part. For whatever reason, he is convinced that Strange wasn’t going to be available much longer, which I find very hard to believe. Most folks didn’t have Strange going until the third round, or at best at the end of the second round. Even Sean McVay, the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, couldn’t help but laugh at New England’s selection.

Strange fills a need at offensive line, which is nice, but this could have been dealt with later tonight rather than last night. In essence, it negates the work Belichick put in earlier that night.

The trade with Kansas City, while a win in terms of draft capital, ultimately cost the team a pair of top prospects who had higher ceilings than Strange and would have helped out at positions with much weaker depth charts. New England still doesn’t have a starting cornerback playing alongside Jalen Mills, and a starting linebacker combo of Ja’Whaun Bentley and Mack Wilson isn’t what I would call frightening.

1 wild New England Patriots draft trade prediction. dark. Next

Belichick could have easily salvaged his trade by selecting Dean, who is exactly what they are looking for at linebacker. He’s undersized, sure, but he’s super athletic, and having him play at the center of the defense would solve a lot of New England’s speed issues that popped up last season. He’s still available heading into Day 2, but unless Belichick trades up in the second round (which won’t happen), he’s going to miss out on him.

Strange could end up becoming a fantastic lineman, but if McDuffie, Lloyd, or Dean end up developing into stars themselves, Belichick may end up looking back on this as a huge missed opportunity.

The problem is he just doesn’t seem to care. Belichick didn’t care that Strange would have been there for the taking in Day 2, and attempted to justify the pick by saying other teams wanted him when McVay was saying he was looking at him as a potential third round selection. Belichick needed to put together a good draft this year, and he certainly hasn’t gotten off to a good start, which isn’t a good sign for the New England Patriots and their fans.