clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Top Draft Philosophies in the NFL Today - Part 1: The Belichick Philosophy

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Helmet Tip to JohnGio56 for requesting this post when he won this week's Tuesday Bears Trivia!  Due to the depth required for this sort of post, John's request has become a series.  So we're going to take a look into the draft philosophies of some of the most consistent teams in the NFL, specifically from a drafting standpoint; The Patriots, the Steelers, the Colts, and the Packers.  The series will end with a peek into Jerry Angelo's draft philosophy.  Take a leap beyond the jump and we'll delve into Bill Belichick's and the Patriots' draft philosophy.

Let's start with some by the numbers:

Zero:  Number of seasons with a losing record in the past decade

Three: The number of Super Bowl Championships in the last decade

Four:  The number of Super Bowl appearances in the last decade

Five: The number of Conference Championship appearances

Fourteen: The number of playoff wins in the past decade

One Hundred Twenty One:  The number of regular season wins over the past decade


Come on.  Love the Pats or hate 'em, they have been the most dominant team of the past decade.  In an era where dynasties aren't supposed to happen, New England has been a dynasty team.  And it all starts with the draft philosophy of Bill Belichick (and former VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli) .  

Smart.  Right for the System. Hard working and self motivated.  Selfless.  The humility to take direction.  Meshes in the locker room.  These are the qualities that Belichick puts the highest premium on.  Not 40 times. Not vertical leaps.  Not jumping out of pools.  The Master places a higher premium on the character of the player than he does on the combine.  

This is how he built the most dominant team of the last decade out of a bunch of Grabowskis.  And that is what they are.  While Tom Brady is a bona fide Super Star, he is not a prima donna.  He's a tough, hard working QB who listens to his coaching staff and commands his troops with the grit of a grizzled war veteran.  Brady is arguably the best there is at what he does.

But beyond Brady, all of this was done without any major stars, for the most part.  His receiving corps have been made of less than stellar players, with the exception of Randy Moss and his one year showed the world what Tom Brady could do  with a elite receiver.  

In fact, while the Pats players look very good in New England, they seldom perform well after they leave.   Maybe this is because Belichick drafted players that fit his design and fit a certain mold he knows he can coach, and that made them good/great in his system.  This also happens to be why I am rarely for acquiring former Patriots.

Here's a little something that might rock the general consensus.  Another part of Belichicks's philosophy is that offensive linemen shouldn't be drafted high.  The idea is that the offensive line is the least skill intensive position, and thus less "talented" kids from the lower rounds can be coached up into the role.  This is where those character guidelines come into play.  And that leaves the upper picks open to obtain better players in the "skill" positions.

That brings up an interesting point.  Seems like the teams with the best draft histories tend to have the best coaching staffs.  In other words, development of those draft picks is something that has to be relied upon, as evidenced by Belichick's philosophy on offensive linemen.  The most talented kid in the draft will fail without proper development.  Is it any wonder why so many of the top 10 draft picks fail,  and why so many of those picks go to the same teams year after year?

In other words, you have to draft players you can coach, and you have to coach the players you draft.  If that isn't part of your draft philosophy, failure is just a Matt Millen away.

Another interesting part of Belichick's philosophy seems to be trading to stockpile picks.  Whether it's trading down in the draft or trading players for picks, the Pats are very adept at building a large reserve of draft picks.  The Pats have selected 100 players in the draft over the past 10 years.  10 picks a year is quite a talent pool to wade through.

So, simply stated, BB's philosophy consists of drafting a lot of smart players every year who fit his character mold first while still fitting the scheme and, of course still possessing NFL athleticism though not necessarily at an elite level.  All of this prioritized through the level of skill he ranks positions to determine the range of rounds he wants to draft certain positions in.  And it obviously has worked.  The Patriots are built on the foundation provided by their draft classes.


In the next episode, we'll take a look at the draft philosophy of Bill Polian of the Colts.

And again, I'd like to thank JohnGio56, or Tuesday Bears Trivia winner, for a great topic.

And for a more in depth look at Belichick's coaching philosophy., check out David Halberstam's biography of BB called The Education Of A Coach.  I had the pleasure of reading this book a couple of months ago, and it is worth the time to read for any football fan.