Bill Belichick: Patriots don’t just grade players, draft evaluations are more complex

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered some lengthy insight into how the Patriots grade players in the NFL draft. Namely, they don’t.

Belichick says the Patriots’ evaluations aren’t about giving them a numeric grade but instead are about getting a full picture of each player the team is interested in drafting.

“Not trying to be evasive about the grading and all that, but I would just say that we don’t grade players like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. That’s just not, it’s just not the way we do it,” Belichick said, via MassLive.com. “We use a combination of numbers, letters, colors and those things all have different meanings, depending upon what they would indicate about the player’s circumstances or situation or whatever it is that involved the players. And all the players are different and a lot of them, you know, in the end there really aren’t that many of them that come to the school, play their career there, and leave. There’s things that happen in between and a variety of circumstances and so we have ways to identify those. So sometimes the color’s going to override the number, sometimes the letter is going override the numbers or the colors and so forth.

“And so it’s not, you know, this guy’s at an 85 and this guy’s at an 83, it just doesn’t work like that. There’s a number, a color, possibly a letter or letters that go with those players and those things could all, depending upon what they represent, could all override something else that’s a part of the grade. So it’s just really the way we identify the player and tag the player is one that helps us classify.

“It’s just too hard to generalize and give a player an 85 grade or whatever and then, like what does that mean? But if you can tag that grade, that number grade, whatever it is, with something that would indicate other things regarding injuries or how many schools he’s been to or whether he was a transfer or if he came out early or if he switched positions or so forth and so on, played at a lower level of competition, I mean, there’s dozens of things here that we could talk about. It becomes a pretty complex scale.

“So not trying to ignore with him what it is, but it would be impossible for me to sit here and explain the grade scale and how it works and interacts and all that. That takes, honestly, you know, months of, I would say, understanding between the scouting department and working through a lot of different situations to really be able to utilize it effectively so we can categorize players in the right, in what we feel is the right fashion. Not saying it’s right, but we do it so that we can identify things and have ways to work through players and their situations to try to have as fair and as good an evaluation on them as we can.”

Belichick also said he doesn’t draft for positions of need, but instead drafts good football players at any position.

“I would say I’ve never gone into a draft saying, like, well, we got to draft somebody or other at this position or this group of positions or whatever,” Belichick said. “It’s sometimes those players are there and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re there and you can really use them and sometimes they’re there and maybe you don’t feel that it’s as necessary, but then when you get good players on your team inevitably you use them.

“So I’ve heard that before: Why did you draft James White and he’s inactive all year? And why did you draft Damien Harris and he was inactive all year? And then later on the next year and in the course of their careers those guys have, those are examples of guys that became very valuable. So that’s — I think you try to acquire good football players and we’ll figure out how to use them.”

Despite his reputation for grumbling and being short with the media, when Belichick gets to talking about football, he’s as quotable as any coach in the NFL. In a few hundred words, he offered significant insight into how the Patriots do business in the draft.

35 responses to “Bill Belichick: Patriots don’t just grade players, draft evaluations are more complex

  1. We don’t grade players, we have a system of numbers, letters, colors, imaginary numbers, hieroglyphs, blood magic… I think I’ve said too much.

  2. I’m neutral re the Pats and Belichick. I respect what he’s accomplished in his long coaching career. This is the most verbal he’s been in awhile, and he actually gave some interesting insights here if one takes the time to parse through what he said.

  3. We’ll see how things go with this draft, but the way Belichick has drafted the last few years leaves a lot to desired.

  4. I admire Bill and think he’s underrated as a GM. That said, it’s not credible that they don’t pick by position.

    1. QB
    2. DT
    3. EDGE

    All positions of need.

  5. BB said more interesting stuff about drafting in that article than all the so-called draft experts did in the last three months.

  6. His drafts have not been very good for a few years now. Maybe he should start grading them

  7. I’d suggest throwing that system out for the WR position and using a draft ranking magazine off the rack to help them pick receivers

  8. I’ve never heard anyone in the history of the NFL admit to drafting positions they need, even though everyone obviously does. Despite it being basic common sense to, everyone always acts too cool for the room and can never just say it, like they’re admitting to putting ketchup on steak or something.

  9. All teams use the method Bill describes. In the end it boils down to a ranking and you can pretend it does not but we all see the man behind the curtain.

  10. People had better appreciate him while he’s here past how they may root against him for personal reasons. Belichick is very much a football savant on a level with probably only Al Davis when he was in his prime that I’ve personally seen, and that correlates with the great minds like Paul Brown and George Hallas that I’ve heard about in the history of football. He understands the whole picture and how to put every player where they’re supposed to be on a team. Those football minds are very rare.

  11. I love when someone who probably has one of the greatest football minds ever takes the time to give an actual in depth answer, and then people still attack his credibility. He doesn’t draft very well? The Patriots haven’t been this high in the draft in like 20 years. They’ve drafted some guys that got snake bitten by injuries, and they’ve drafted some guys who haven’t worked out also, but they’ve won their division practically every single year for the last 20 years, and he’s managed to win 6 Superbowls during that span. Then he has 1 sub par season after Brady leaves, and suddenly not only can’t he draft, but he can’t coach either. I’ll take his success over any other teams success any day of the week. How bout them Cowboys? Oh I’m sorry they’ve drafted some pretty solid players since their last Superbowl, but haven’t won anything. Cheese Heads where you at? Oh that’s right only 1 title since Bill has been in New England yet they’ve hit on some premiere players. Seattle is probably the best example. They hit a grand slam in the draft, and how many Superbowls have they won? Oh that’s right just 1… I’ll take Bill thanks anyways

  12. GOAT NFL Coach

    GOAT NFL GM

    Argue against BB all you want and in the end you’re still wrong.

  13. Might be the most he’s spoken in 5 years. Outside of Mac Jones who I don’t like, really like the Perkins and Barmore picks. Let’s see if BB can reverse his trend of crappy drafts this year.

  14. Yeah, Bill has numbers letters and colors and one of those indicates whether the player is one of his college pal’s guys. Gotta keep his buddies recruiting stock up, because that’s “what’s best for the team”.

  15. As much as NFL fans love to hate Bill Belichick…there’s not another coaching staff/scouting department in the whole NFL that gets more value and production out the 3rd thru 4th rounds like he does.

  16. Bill isn’t good at finding DBs in the second round, and he’s terrible at picking WRs in general.

    However, he’s the best at finding O Line talent (including Michael Onwenu, the steal of last year’s draft), and he’s really good at identifying undrafted players who can contribute in year 1.

  17. Argue against BB all you want and in the end you’re still wrong.

    ————————-

    He is not a HC material.

    Without a QB who has the skill to turn cheap receivers into play makers, he will be exposed.

  18. All teams use the method Bill describes. In the end it boils down to a ranking and you can pretend it does not but we all see the man behind the curtain.

    If all teams use it then the last 3-4 years prove he’s not a great talent evaluator anymore. His drafts have been
    Not very good .doesn’t take away from what he’s done but it is what it is

  19. Patriots fans are used to the team trading back. They do it every year in one round or another. This year surprisingly they traded up in round 2 to get Christian Barmore. They’ve traded out of the first round for other draft picks twice under Belichick. This year’s #15 pick is the highest pick they’ve had since drafting at #17 in 2011. Every other year, when they’ve had a first-rounder, the pick has usually been in the bottom third of the round.

  20. Pats fans are unreal. Any criticism of BB and they go all wild. His drafts as if recent have been horrible and yet when any other fan says so, the response is “he’s the greatest , blah blah blah” this doesn’t take away from that but right now, off the top of my head, Tampa, buffalo and KC all have better talent evaluators then BB is right now. .
    His inability to stack the roster the last 2-3 years really showed by his free agency spending spree.
    Back when he was better at this, he never had to do that, it was always next man up.

    Now he’s been surpassed by others in evaluating talent but that doesn’t take away from what he’s done in the past

  21. doesn’t take away from what he’s done but it is what it is

    ————————

    Brady didn’t need top paid WR, didn’t need top paid O-line, took pay cut.

    Which coach couldn’t put a decent and stable WR group around such a QB? ONLY Belichick.

  22. Belichick didn’t mention this in his surprisingly effusive response, but I’m guessing that he has a color for intelligence — not just football IQ — one for character and one for, oh, let’s call it bravado, a “hey, look at me” type, a characteristic that’s antithetical to “team.” Beyond athletic skill, all important factors.

  23. William Lee says:
    May 1, 2021 at 9:38 am
    Argue against BB all you want and in the end you’re still wrong.

    ————————-

    He is not a HC material.

    Thanks. I needed a good laugh.

  24. One of the few sensible approaches to picking players I’ve seen. Distilling every trait into a single number just doesn’t make sense.

  25. William Lee says:
    May 1, 2021 at 9:44 am
    doesn’t take away from what he’s done but it is what it is

    ————————

    Brady didn’t need top paid WR, didn’t need top paid O-line, took pay cut.

    Which coach couldn’t put a decent and stable WR group around such a QB? ONLY Belichick.

    7 9 Rate This

    ——————

    You do realize all the teams that “pay” for elite wr talent don’t win super bowls in the cap era, right?

    How can you honestly be this dumb after witnessing BB build 2 different dynasties.

    Brees and Rodgers would have loved BB and more rings.

  26. He’s been a dud at drafting, not sure why anyone cares about his methodology except to avoid it

  27. So far, this is one of the better & more focused drafts I can remember the Pats having. They got some players who could have a real impact in rounds 2 & 3. Of course, we won’t know for sure for a few years.

    Their ’21 draft will largely be judged by how Jones works out, though. Personally, I thought that they should have been more aggressive and traded up for Fields when they had the chance. I was pretty relieved when the Bears moved ahead of them to do just that.

    We’ll see, though. I’m curious how we’ll look back on the QB choices in this draft.

  28. You do realize all the teams that “pay” for elite wr talent don’t win super bowls in the cap era, right?

    ————————

    You do realize that no other team that could consistently produced top offense without paying for elite WR, right?

    Why could Pats do it, Belichick or Brady? LOGIC please.

  29. He is not a HC material.

    Thanks. I needed a good laugh.

    ——————

    Here is a list of the collapses of the “goat” coach’s defense in last 2 minutes:

    2002 SB against Rams (Brady saved him); 2004 SB against Panthers (Brady saved him); 2007 AFCCG against Colts; 2008 SB against Giants; 2012 SB against Giants; 2015 SB against Seahawks (Brady’s 28 points and Pete Carrol saved him); 2018 SB against Eagles; 2019 AFCCG against Chiefs (Brady saved him).

    Your standard for a great coach is quite low.

  30. I have always cursed at BB through the TV at some point before the end of round 3. Not this year.

  31. touchback6 says:
    May 1, 2021 at 10:38 am
    William Lee says:
    May 1, 2021 at 9:44 am
    doesn’t take away from what he’s done but it is what it is

    ————————

    Brady didn’t need top paid WR, didn’t need top paid O-line, took pay cut.

    Which coach couldn’t put a decent and stable WR group around such a QB? ONLY Belichick.

    7 9 Rate This

    ——————

    You do realize all the teams that “pay” for elite wr talent don’t win super bowls in the cap era, right?

    How can you honestly be this dumb after witnessing BB build 2 different dynasties.

    Brees and Rodgers would have loved BB and more rings.

    ————-

    Remember when you said Stidham was the next elite qb?
    Remember when you said Nkeal Harry would be the best receiver in his draft class?
    Remember when you said championship teams are never bought through free agency and BB is the best at developing his own and never spends money? I sure do.

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