It's popular sports talk radio fodder in Boston to say that the New England Patriots' NFL Draft record is "spotty." But how is Bill Belichick's overall record when actually taking players? Let's dig in.
Comcast SportsNet New England loves to promote Michael Felger in on-air ads with the tag line, "No one has more opinions than Michael Felger."
Michael Felger loves to use the tag line, "Fact, Not Opinion" on himself, usually as a way to slam the door on someone who disagrees with him.
It's okay to use both facts and opinions when debating sports. So many things are subjective. Oftentimes though, Felger tries just a bit too hard to be a contrarian -- not uncommon among his colleagues in the Boston sports media.
On hockey, there is no debating Felger's passion for the sport, nor for the fact that he'd like to see the Boston Bruins win a Stanley Cup Championship. However, it has been fun seeing some of Felger's stone-cold-lock theories being challenged, and in some cases, destroyed, by the likes of Joe Haggerty. I'll let the hockey experts continue to tear apart Felger's theories that Tim Thomas will never steal a playoff game for you, and watch Felger spin things after the fact -- "Thomas has changed...he's not the same."
When it comes to football however, Felger has displayed a clear bias in his opinions towards the New England Patriots. Longtime observers remember the days when Felger was a lone voice on the Patriots beat who actually defended them, but as the tide turned, and the Patriots continued successful and got good press, Felger found it advantageous to change sides and actually become a Patriots critic. It gets him the attention he's seeking. (As evidenced by this column.)
Felger has consistently bashed the Patriots' drafting, and especially over the last five years. His CSNNE.com mailbag from this week is a perfect example of this. The first question out of the shoot:
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Another-mind boggling, frustrating, contrarian draft by Belichick. Nothing for the defense except the 400th cornerback he's drafted since Asante left. I'm not so concerned with the first pick. Obviously, Light is either gone or almost gone. He sucked, anyway. But trading out at 28 for next year, which he will trade out for the next year, really annoys me. I'm going on record as saying this will be a Mayo-year draft. Only one kid sticks and is an actual player.
This I know: If it were any other coach and any other team, they would be getting hammered for this draft. Belichick and the Pats have had only one truly good draft class in the last five years, yet he's still portrayed as a master of the draft. I'm not sure where that comes from. Belichick can certainly manipulate picks and move around the board, no question about it, but when it comes to actually taking players, his record is far more spotty.
I'll put aside for a moment the fact that the question was clearly sent by someone who 1) knew it was directly in Felger's wheelhouse, and 2) isn't much of a fan. Whatever. Let's focus on Felger's answer to the "question." (Was a question actually asked there? I don't see one.)
Felger states that Belichick is portrayed as a master of the draft, but isn't sure where that comes from, and that his record when actually taking players is "far more spotty."
It's a well-worn argument, one that Felger has been making for years, ever since the Patriots had one or two bad years drafting players. But how is Bill Belichick's overall record when actually taking players?
The website Cold Hard Football Facts (not Opinions) put out a piece this week that attempted to look at the draft records of NFL teams, and find a way to measure the effectiveness of each over the last decade. The piece - Decade in the making: the ultimate NFL draft grades - was written by New Bedford Standard Times sports editor Jonathan Comey. Look who comes out on top:
THE VALEDICTORIANNew England (A)Pro Bowlers: 11 (2nd)Draftees Active in 2010: 46 (t-3rd)Players with 50+ Career AV: 7 (1st)Players with 20+ Career AV: 22 (t-1st)Best Pick: CB Asante Samuel (4th round, 2003)Worst Pick: WR Chad Jackson (2nd round, 2006)Summary: The Patriots got at least one impact player in each of their 10 drafts from 2001-2010, and maybe the biggest tribute to their ability to identify top talent is that all 10 of their No. 1 picks were still playing in the league last year along with 11 of their 14 No. 2s. This bodes well for 2011 draftees Nate Solder, Ras-I Dowling and Shane Vereen.
From my own research, I found that in every draft of the Belichick era except 2002, the Patriots drafted a player who became a Pro Bowler or All Pro with the Patriots. In 2002, they drafted Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch.
It would seem that when he does draft players in the first or second round, they stick. The exceptions are glaring -- Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson being exhibits 1 and 1a in this regard. But the failures are always going to stand out.
But if the eight straight seasons of double-digit wins weren't enough, a look at the facts seems to indicate that the Patriots do know what they are doing when it comes to the draft. No matter what Felger, or Steve from Chester, NH, might have to say.
Fact, not opinion.
The Bruins continue to grab high ratings in their postseason run. Wednesday night's Game 3, which was broadcast exclusively on Versus, actually scored a higher rating (11.76) than Tuesday night's Celtics Game 2, broadcast exclusively on TNT (11.1). Those numbers both reflect the local Boston ratings numbers, not nationally. The Celtics game one last Sunday, broadcast on ABC, grabbed a 13.9 locally, making it the highest rank non-finals NBA playoff game since Game 7 of the 2008 series between the Celtics and Cavaliers.