Bill Belichick: Tough to project college passing games to the NFL

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered some insight into just how difficult it is to watch film of college passing games and project how those players will play in the NFL.

Belichick said the passing offenses in college football are so different that it makes it hard to evaluate not only quarterbacks, but everyone else as well.

“I’d say the issue in college football is there just is not the same passing game in college football that there is in the NFL, period,” Belichick said. “So, it’s hard to evaluate the receivers, it’s hard to evaluate the quarterback, it’s hard to evaluate the offensive linemen, it’s hard to evaluate the pass rushers and it’s hard to evaluate the coverage players. You know, we’re all looking at the same film, so all the teams in the league, we all see the same games. But, the college passing game is very different from the professional passing game. When you’re looking at it, you’re looking at a lot of it’s really projecting all those positions a little bit differently. To a certain degree, it’s different in the running game, too, but probably less difference in the running game than in the passing game, in my opinion.”

College passing concepts are making their way to the NFL and will continue to with Kliff Kingsbury now coaching the Cardinals. But the differences are still significant, and that makes scouting players a challenge.

57 responses to “Bill Belichick: Tough to project college passing games to the NFL

  1. I ageee.

    It’s why I shake my head every April at teams using 1st round pick some on QBs, when there is so many other players that have a higher degree of succeeding in the NFL

    Unless it’s a 100% certainty, like Elway or Peyton, you don’t dradt a QB in the top spot. And I personally wouldn’t waste it at all in the 1st round

    For all the Big Bens and AAron Rodgers, there is 10x the failures of college QBs that never win a super bowl.

    I believe you gamble with the QB picks mid to late rounds. .

  2. A great follow up question would have been, how is it different? NFL teams are running more shot gun or pistol than ever. More single back and 3-4 we than ever. A post pattern is a post pattern no matter the level of football.

  3. It may be a good year picking Brady’s successor. Most teams are focused on getting pass rushers and a good quarterback may still be available late in the first round.

  4. Goodness, so many generalities in this post. Armchair coaching (or GMing) at it’s best:-)
    -100% certainty is only possible in hindsight. Elway and Payton were no more obvious picks at the time than Ryan Leaf.
    -Belichick’s assertion is that there is no single college position that transitions easily to the NFL, so picking any position in the first round comes with a real possibility that you’re getting a future bust.
    -So what’s a team to do then? From what you’re implying, the best approach any team could take is to trade their first round pick every year, either as trade capital or to hoard lower picks where they might luck out with a gem.
    -I wonder if anyone has run the numbers on probability of Superbowl starters being first round selections, than all other rounds included non-drafted walk-ons. Based on the behaviour of NFL franchises, one would conclude that the numbers clearly favor first rounders.

  5. belichickdominatedjoemontana says:
    April 11, 2019 at 5:49 am
    I ageee.

    It’s why I shake my head every April at teams using 1st round pick some on QBs, when there is so many other players that have a higher degree of succeeding in the NFL

    Unless it’s a 100% certainty, like Elway or Peyton, you don’t dradt a QB in the top spot. And I personally wouldn’t waste it at all in the 1st round

    For all the Big Bens and AAron Rodgers, there is 10x the failures of college QBs that never win a super bowl.

    I believe you gamble with the QB picks mid to late rounds. .

    —————————-
    I think Belichick actually waited until the sixth round before. A took a guy that didnt grade out that well.

  6. Belichick uses words like difficult and different, but I didn’t see the word impossible. You can evaluate college guys if you’re experienced and know what to look for, and willing to do the work. Sitting in a room watching film for hours and hours, day after day, is not for everyone. I agree 100% with Belichick. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

  7. Yeah I get it. It is hard. For those who keep coming back to a certain 6th rounder…he was drafted not because of amazing performance and skill set. He was drafted because of his intangibles and that he was a great leader/winner.

  8. charliecharger says: “Belichick uses words like difficult and different, but I didn’t see the word impossible. You can evaluate college guys if you’re experienced and know what to look for, and willing to do the work.”
    ====================

    Don’t think that’s what he was saying. If all it took was experience and skill to evaluate a player, then certain GMs should be hitting 4-5 home runs in the draft every year. The fact that there hasn’t been a consistently accurate GM means there’s a lot more to it and isn’t an exact science.

  9. psljax says:
    April 11, 2019 at 8:23 am
    Yeah I get it. It is hard. For those who keep coming back to a certain 6th rounder…he was drafted not because of amazing performance and skill set. He was drafted because of his intangibles and that he was a great leader/winner.

    2 0 Rate This

    ————————

    Which is more important than “size” and “arm strength”..

  10. -Isn’t that pretty much what Billy B does every year with at least one of his picks?

    -The Pats go to an alarmingly regular amount of Superb Owls, yet have a semi-consistent record of whiffing on first round picks. This alone should make the rest of the NFL think long and hard about running those numbers you’re talking about.

    ================================
    grammavenger says:
    April 11, 2019 at 7:27 am

    -So what’s a team to do then? From what you’re implying, the best approach any team could take is to trade their first round pick every year, either as trade capital or to hoard lower picks where they might luck out with a gem.
    -I wonder if anyone has run the numbers on probability of Superbowl starters being first round selections, than all other rounds included non-drafted walk-ons. Based on the behaviour of NFL franchises, one would conclude that the numbers clearly favor first rounders.

  11. The fact that you have to go back almost 20 years to find a successful late-round quarterback shows just how rarely it happens.

    After Brady, the most successful late-round picks of the past 10+ years are probably Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor, who are borderline starters. Funny how nobody ever mentions them as shining examples of late-round success.

    The middle rounds aren’t much better. Russell Wilson is the obviously the big mid-round success story, followed by Nick Foles, Dak Prescott, and Kirk Cousins. But mind you, these aren’t just four examples….that’s pretty much the entire list. Four names in the past fifteen years.

    If you’re a team with a need at QB, you’d better plan on getting him in the first two rounds. Otherwise, it’s probably just a wasted pick.

  12. More first rounders pan out than sixth rounders.

    If you don’t have a good QB, you generally have to gamble on a high round prospect. When the Pats drafted Brady, they already had Bledsoe in the roster.

    Unless lightning strikes twice, Patriot nation is about to find out how hard it is to find a franchise guy.

  13. Most of the average to top QBs in the league were first round draft picks. There are a few that stand out who weren’t like Brady, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousin….But the general rule for most teams is if you find your franchise QB you likely found him in the first round. Yes it’s hard to project who is going to be successful based on their college tape but there are other indicators teams use and even college tape can give you some sort of clue.

  14. With the exception of Brady, I couldn’t name a Patriot draft pick off the top of my head. I wonder if that’s because BB is so good (and successful) at assessing and acquiring free agents? I’m referring to mid-level guys who end up playing great football in the Pat’s system.

  15. When you consider only the best 5% of college players reach the NFL, and fewer coaches, it must be hard to judge a seemingly good player because the talent and coaching benchmarks around them are too low. And why Spergon Wynn and 5 other QBs were picked before Brady.

  16. Bingo! Look no further than guys like Flacco, Jimmy G, and Josh Allen huge stats and talent in college, but it’s a massive reach for a guy like them because their college isn’t a “sexy” place.

    I’m a diehard Irish fan from MA, so obviously guys like Clausen and Quinn are going to get “looks” as will USC, Texas, Ohio State. TTUN, and OU Qb’s.

    I was also stationed in Hawaii for 8 years from 2006-2014. So I had UH season tickets during the June Jones/Colt Brennan teams. Colt, while talented, was obviously a tougher read because he played in a god awful conference outside of Boise State. Drafting a franchise QB is so hard. My patriots drafted Danny Etling who people think will be a good starter, but in actuality, is a practice squad guy/3rd stringer at best

  17. With the exception of Brady, I couldn’t name a Patriot draft pick off the top of my head. I wonder if that’s because BB is so good (and successful) at assessing and acquiring free agents? I’m referring to mid-level guys who end up playing great football in the Pat’s system.

    —————————-

    Unless you’re a pats fan, it’s even harder. Edelman (7th) Andrews (4th) white (4th) Bentley looks good so far (5th) Harmon (4th) D-Mac was projected as a 3 (1st) tuney (comp 3rd) karras (6th) Mitchell would’ve been a STUD if it wasn’t for injuries (4th)

  18. That’s why Belichick has consistently employed two strategies in team building: (1) stockpile as many draft picks as possible to increase the likelihood of adding a few contributing players to the roster each year; (2) trade draft picks for more easily evaluated and proven veterans.

  19. “or those who keep coming back to a certain 6th rounder…he was drafted not because of amazing performance and skill set. He was drafted because of his intangibles and that he was a great leader/winner.”
    ________________

    Belichick liked him well enough to draft him, but not well enough to take him before the very end of the draft. In other words, he got HUGELY lucky. Brady himself said he thought he’d go in the 2nd or 3rd round so Belichick was really rolling the dice waiting as long as he did. No way he gives every other team that many shots at Brady if he’d been totally sure the kid was special. Sometimes things just go your way. There really is no lesson from Brady’s being drafted other than that.

  20. Bill is right. History shows it is at best a 50/50 chance that any 1st round pick (a lot of times “this is a can’t miss player” if you listen to people like McShay or Kiper) will be a bust or not, no matter how good they look. Then as you get further in the draft the odds get worse. So out of all the scouting, film watching and overall judgement out of the 32 players 1st round picks 16 likely won’t get a 2nd contract. The real issue is how long does it take the team to realize that, and will it cost them cap room. Arizona looks like it has already decided Rosen is a complete bust, which is normal based on odds. Main reasons for bust are bad coaching, the player was way over valued (this is almost always the case with QB’s), a stupid owner and or the player is to stupid to play NFL ball.

  21. tedmurph says:
    April 11, 2019 at 7:46 am

    You have to have a great QB to win in the NFL.
    _________________________________________________

    Trent Dilfer: “HERE, HOLD MY BEER”!

  22. When you look at any first round pick vs a lower round pick making it you have to realize that there is the issue of teams not wanting to admit to a mistake and they are generally safe for 4 years.

  23. I like guys that are accurate and that throw receivers to daylight. The schemes will always be tough in the NFL but there are some things that you really can’t grow too much on once you’re in the fire. You have to learn and perform and typically the dudes that are accurate don’t turn the ball over and find guys in tight windows succeed.

  24. He’s right. You know, it’s a shame they don’t have some sort of pro style developmental league where players can get reps.

  25. He also never really had to do it. Had his QB almost all his career and he was brought in to be back up to Drew Bledsoe who was the #1 overall pick. Brady was a lucky find.

  26. Leave it to the “Genius” Belichick to use 3000 words to explain something every OTHER coach (and fan for that matter) ALREADY knows:

    Success as a college QB does not guarantee success as a Pro QB.

    Thanks for the “insight” Bill.

    Geesh…

  27. You don’t play you can’t win. First three picks are expensive but if you don’t pick any you can’t be successful. Fourth through seventh are way less expensive so trading early picks for more late picks improves your chances of coming up with one or two players. Then again your first three have a better chance of continuing to be productive. That’s why they are considered to be early picks. Should rename the Draft to Crap Shoot.

  28. One of the Best Bud Grant quotes ever:

    “A good football coach needs a patient wife, a loyal dog and a great quarterback – but not necessarily in that order.”

  29. Unless you’re a pats fan, it’s even harder. Edelman (7th) Andrews (4th) white (4th) Bentley looks good so far (5th) Harmon (4th) D-Mac was projected as a 3 (1st) tuney (comp 3rd) karras (6th) Mitchell would’ve been a STUD if it wasn’t for injuries (4th)
    **********************

    Not trying to be a jerk, but Andrews wasn’t drafted in the 4th round – he was actually an undrafted guy that the Pats signed in 2015. Bryan Stork was injured and it gave Andrews a chance to play in camp and preseason and he ended up starting for them.

  30. A lot of college players struggle in the pros because they may have only played in a few games where there was a player on the other side of the ball that was good enough to be a pro, in the “show” every player across the ball is good enough to be a pro. Changes everything. Not everybody is up to it…

  31. Slowly but surely, pocket passing quarterbacks are becoming a thing of the past. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were the anomalies. Remember Michael Vick and Steve McNair? When I look at quarterbacks, such as Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Mitchell Trubisky, Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and others, it shows that pocket passers in both conferences are phasing out. Eli Manning, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger are some of the few still playing. Coaches are wanting more mobile, athletic quarterbacks these days.

  32. dualprime says:
    April 11, 2019 at 9:01 am
    With the exception of Brady, I couldn’t name a Patriot draft pick off the top of my head. I wonder if that’s because BB is so good (and successful) at assessing and acquiring free agents? I’m referring to mid-level guys who end up playing great football in the Pat’s system.
    ————————–
    Notable Patriot draft picks still on the Patriots:
    Donte Hightower
    Patrick Chung
    Devin McCourty
    Sony Michel
    Stephen Gostkowski
    Julian Edelman

    Notable Patriot draft picks on other teams:
    Chandler Jones
    Trey Flowers

  33. BuckyBadger says:
    April 11, 2019 at 11:27 am
    He also never really had to do it. Had his QB almost all his career and he was brought in to be back up to Drew Bledsoe who was the #1 overall pick. Brady was a lucky find

    ——–

    maybe, but BB learned very quickly, once Brady started playing, that he preferred Brady over Bledsoe.

    I’m a big Bledsoe fan, both of the player he was and the person he is, he brought a lot of excitement to the Patriots, but he also made his share of bonehead plays.

    I believe what Belichick saw in Brady was a player that did what he was asked to do and didn’t try to make plays that weren’t there, which created a balanced low risk offense.

    You have to remember, when Bledsoe recovered from his injury, Belichick stuck with Brady.
    That took a lot of guts to do in the NFL. I remember Bledsoe playing in (I think it was the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh) in the 2001 postseason because Brady had been injured. There was one play where the pocket had collapsed and Bledsoe was about to go down, and he threw kind of a ‘hook shot’ pass that was almost intercepted. Bledsoe got up shaking his head on that one (I was yelling a bunch of wtf comments).

    Very seldom does Brady do something high-risk like that.

  34. I ageee.

    It’s why I shake my head every April at teams using 1st round pick some on QBs, when there is so many other players that have a higher degree of succeeding in the NFL

    Unless it’s a 100% certainty, like Elway or Peyton, you don’t dradt a QB in the top spot. And I personally wouldn’t waste it at all in the 1st round

    For all the Big Bens and AAron Rodgers, there is 10x the failures of college QBs that never win a super bowl.

    I believe you gamble with the QB picks mid to late rounds.
    __________

    I mean, think this if you want, but hitting on a QB outside the first round is something akin to winning the lottery. I forget who, but someone graded out every QB for the last 20 something years. Like it or not, something like 90% of starting QBs are from the first round. And I know Patriots fans like to defend it with ‘Muh Brady’, but based on data, Tom Brady is a statistical outlier somewhere akin to winning the actual lottery. And finding a starting caliber 5th round QB is something akin to winning the lottery while being struck by lightning in the middle of a shark attack where the sharks in question are all named Mark Cuban. It doesnt happen.

    For as much a crapshoot as it is on which talents will pan out, NFL scouts are remarkably good at telling which talent is better than others. The chart reads like exponential decay. The later you wait, even later in the first round, the less likely you are to find a starting QB to the point where outside the middle of the second, you can basically assume a guy will never ascend past backup. Believe what you want, but thats just how it works out. So, if you are a Patriots fan, do you really believe you can win the lottery twice?

  35. 1st round pick some on QBs, when there is so many other players that have a higher degree of succeeding in the NFL

    Unless it’s a 100% certainty, like Elway or Peyton, you don’t dradt a QB in the top spot. And I personally wouldn’t waste it at all in the 1st round

    For all the Big Bens and AAron Rodgers, there is 10x the failures of college QBs that never win a super bowl.

    Because most teams don’t luck into greatest ever just drafting a guy in round 6. If you need a guy, take one. And you kee taking one until you find the guy. You will see once Brady retires

  36. brazy44 says:
    A great follow up question would have been, how is it different? NFL teams are running more shot gun or pistol than ever. More single back and 3-4 we than ever. A post pattern is a post pattern no matter the level of football.
    ===========================================================

    That’s NOT where the difference is. Its how HUGE the pacing is to throw to an “open” receiver in college. ALLOT of the passes are simply “look & throw” because they look to see an “open” receiver. That make EVERYTHING different in NFL, where except for a blown coverage, NFL receivers are in essence NEVER open. The window to throw is like throwing a ball threw a tire – AND the NFL QB cant “see” even that.. he has to throw it BEFORE that “tire” is even there.

    The talent required to throw at NFL level is so MENTALLY challenging the NFL QB almost requires a “fighter pilots” vision.. and thats a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT thing.

  37. z0inks says:
    The fact that you have to go back almost 20 years to find a successful late-round quarterback shows just how rarely it happens. After Brady, the most successful late-round picks of the past 10+ years are probably Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor, who are borderline starters. The middle rounds aren’t much better. Russell Wilson is the obviously the big mid-round success story, followed by Nick Foles, Dak Prescott, and Kirk Cousins. But mind you, these aren’t just four examples….that’s pretty much the entire list. Four names in the past fifteen years.
    ========================================================
    Actually, youre wrong. Kurt Warner & Tony Romo werent drafted AT ALL.

    Warner is Hall of fame QB arguably the best Super Bowl playing QB ever. Romo was a perennial Pro Bowl QB. Great numbers; great top-of-the-line NFL starting QB career

  38. I think what is lost here is , if you know that athleticism is a basic prerequisite, you start there, the leg work is asking the right questions of his coaches and the players themselves. Somehow you have to know that a player can succeed in the league. I’ll use Julian Edelman as an example, He was a QB in college, How did BB know he could project to be an MVP slot receiver and then draft him in the 7th round? Was he just lucky? Was it character, smarts, personality? I think in general, only about 30% of draft picks become starters.

  39. vaphinfan says:
    April 11, 2019 at 11:29 am
    I bet it’s real tough evaluating them 5 yard slant patterns.
    ———-
    What’s apparently much more difficult is stopping those “5 yard slant patterns”
    #6🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆

  40. belichickdominatedjoemontana says:
    April 11, 2019 at 5:49 am
    I ageee.

    It’s why I shake my head every April at teams using 1st round pick some on QBs, when there is so many other players that have a higher degree of succeeding in the NFL

    Unless it’s a 100% certainty, like Elway or Peyton, you don’t dradt a QB in the top spot. And I personally wouldn’t waste it at all in the 1st round

    For all the Big Bens and AAron Rodgers, there is 10x the failures of college QBs that never win a super bowl.

    I believe you gamble with the QB picks mid to late rounds. .

    —————————————————

    It is more the importance of the position that causes teams to reach for Qb’s. Less face it, any player drafted round 1-2 has a better chance to start than a player drafted later. The Russel Wilson’s and Tom Brady’s are few and far between compared to the early round starters in the league. With the exception of the Ravens, no team has one the Super Bowl in recent memory that did not have a elite QB at the time.

    Speaking of the Patriots, Tom Brady was replacing an injured QB that they …shocker… drafted in the first round. They just happened to strike gold

  41. That’s why a sixth round QB has six rings! All those five-yard slants! Sheesh!

  42. I’ve watched a lot of QB pro days and game highlights this year….Daniel Jones really impresses me. He reminds me a lot of Drew Brees. He’s very accurate…hit receivers right in stride. So many QBs now just throw up 50/50 balls and their receivers bail them out and it makes their stats look good.

  43. Certain teams seem to be able to consistently draft players at a certain position successfully. The Steelers seem to always find good WR. The Pats find good OL. The Ravens always find good LB. Much of that may have to do with having good position coaches with a keen eye for talent. A lot of this is so dependent upon luck that the best strategy may well be just amassing as many picks as you can. The more lottery tickets you have, the better chance of winning.

    Combine a great QB and a great coach along with at least average NFL talent, and you are going to see success. “Parity” assures us that any one team really building an overall exceptional mass of talent is exceedingly difficult. Even in the rare case that may have happened, free agency dismantles such an accumulation quickly.

  44. Warner is Hall of fame QB arguably the best Super Bowl playing QB ever.
    —————————————————————-
    Really? SF and Foxboro would say that claim is highly, highly, suspect. Understand Kurt had numbers (so did Brady against Philly) but Warner was also 1-2.

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