Did Bill Belichick bomb on key 2019 draft pick after ignoring Patriots scouts?
The New England Patriots have not performed all that well in the draft in recent years, which is one of the main reasons they had to spend so much money in free agency this offseason. One position Bill Belichick never seems to hit on is wide receiver, and that may be a result of his reluctance to listen to the team’s scouting department.
In his latest Monday Morning Quarterback column, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer said Belichick is taking a different approach with the draft this year. Breer said Belichick has previously left team personnel “feeling like they were actively cut out where other teams’ people weren’t.” One example of that came in 2019, when the Patriots used the 32nd overall pick on wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
According to Breer, some Patriots scouts felt Deebo Samuel and A.J. Brown — both of whom were taken in the second round — were better prospects than Harry. Some of Belichick’s personnel people believed there were red flags with Harry, but Harry was impressive in his visit to New England and Belichick is friends with his Arizona State coach, Todd Graham.
In two seasons with the Patriots, Harry has 45 catches for 414 yards and just four touchdowns. He has missed a total of 11 games. Samuel has also battled injuries, but he’s been much more involved with the San Francisco 49ers than Harry has with New England. A.J. Brown is a star for the Tennessee Titans and one of the best receivers in football.
Perhaps that mistake and others have humbled Belichick a bit. Breer says Belichick is treating the 2021 draft as a “more collaborative effort” than years past. Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently described the team’s free agent spending spree as a “team effort on the part of our personnel department.” That may not have been a coincidence.
We all know the Patriots have their eye on one veteran quarterback, but it will be interesting to see if they are aggressive in addressing the position in the draft. If they are, that may be a sign that Belichick is giving his personnel department a stronger voice.