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

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Michael David Smith
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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.

Bill Belichick: Patriots don’t just grade players, draft evaluations are more complex originally appeared on Pro Football Talk