In all discussions of the relative brilliance of Bill Belichick and the Patriots, they tend to get the benefit of the doubt because they have five Lombardi Trophies.
But digging a bit deeper into this week’s trade of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers, there’s no guarantee the Patriots are going to win the deal. They sent their backup to the San Francisco for a second round pick, which should be in the mid-30s at the lowest.
Via Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, Belichick has a decidedly checkered record when it comes to second-round picks.
Of the 26 times the Patriots have used second-rounders in 17 years (which says something in an of itself since you usually get one per year), the Patriots have found one bona fide star in tight end Rob Gronkowski.
He also identifies six other very good choices who were clearly hits for them: Deion Branch, Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Patrick Chung, Jamie Collins and the second-round pick they traded for Wes Welker.
The problem is, the ledger sheet is rather unbalanced when you look at the outright busts, of which there are 13: Adrian Klemm, Bethel Johnson, Marquise Hill, Chad Jackson, Terrence Wheatley, Ron Brace, Darius Butler, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes, Ras-I Dowling, Tavon Wilson, Aaron Dobson and Kony Ealy (who was acquired for a second-round pick this year and was cut before the season started).
Hill died in a boating accident after his third season, so it’s hard to blame them for that one. But that’s a lot of overt misses.
The rest of their seconds were used on guys who have been of some value or are too young to appropriately grade: Eugene Wilson, Shane Vereen, Jordan Richards, Cyrus Jones, the trade for Corey Dillon, and Garoppolo.
By any measure, that’s a lot more misses than hits, which makes the risk the Patriots took twofold. Not only do they spend the rest of the season holding their breath over the health of a 40-year-old starting quarterback (since their backup is a guy who got benched and cut by the winless 49ers), but they’re also faced with the reality that second-rounders are no sure things in their hands.