The Patriots have put together a roster full of guys that no one else wanted. It’s a motley crew and that seems to suit this organization best.
Sure, Tom Brady is protected by an offensive line with a good pedigree. The defense is led by first round picks Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork.
But overall this is one of the most random rosters in the league. 18 undrafted free agents dot the 53-man roster, including eight starters.
More than one-third of the Patriots roster was undrafted. The Patriots also have eleven more players that were taken in the fifth round or later in the draft. Less than half of the team was drafted in the first four rounds. 12 Patriots were signed “off the street” or during training camp.
Essentially, the Patriots have a roster of misfits. We think that’s been a big part of their success this year. It’s a roster that Belichick embraces, and one that falls in line with the “Patriot Way.”
“I tell the team that I don’t care how you got here, it’s what you do when you get here. It doesn’t matter if you were drafted in the second round, the fifth round, or not drafted at all,” Belichick said in response to a question from PFT in Indianapolis.
A lot of teams say that to their players, but most squads are more sentimental about hanging on to past mistakes. The Patriots are far from perfect in personnel, but they do a better job than most of self scouting.
“Players ask me before the season, if we sign them as a free agent or if we draft them, ‘What do you want my role to be?’ Whatever you make it, I don’t know,” Belichick said. “If you play good, you will have a big role, if you don’t play very well, then someone else will have a bigger role than you will.”
Belichick says he looks for undrafted players that are dependable and work hard. That sounds obvious, but it’s clear the Patriots genuinely value these skills more than raw talent. Their running back position — led by two undrafted players BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead — is a great example of the Patriots finding diamonds in the rough and knowing how to use them.
“There’s a goal that they have in mind with the guys that they bring in, and they try to bring in guys that they think will buy into that,” special teams ace and fifth-round pick Matthew Slater said. “You kind of have that sense of urgency from the day you come into the league knowing that things are not going to be easy for you.”
“With [Belichick], you know the best players are going to play. No matter where you are taken or what the deal is or anything else, the best players are going to be out there. If you prove yourself, there’s no politics about it,” Wes Welker said.
That’s why Belichick is comfortable enough to bench a $6 million receiver (Chad Ochocinco), release a free agent bust (Albert Haynesworth), or even trade a future Hall of Famer (Randy Moss) in the middle of the season.
“You’ve got to kind of come in and be willing to do dirty work; whatever it takes to stick around,” Slater said. “I think a lot of guys on this team have that mentality, and that’s why we’ve had the success that we’ve had.”
This may not be the most talented Patriots team of the last decade, but it’s obvious Belichick loves to coach this group.
It’s his kind of team.