Bill Belichick values... wel... value both in the draft and free-agency. Who better takes advantage of cast-offs (think LeGarrette Blount) than the genius himself? The New England Patriots are certainly no worse-off than any other team in the league, despite criticism, often harsh at times, that his draft decisions are less-than-stellar. Some in New England even question his genius, despite the impressive record of the team under his leadership.
But Bill has snagged such awesome talent as Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Chandler Jones, Jerod Mayo, and Devin McCourty. All but one of these is still a big part of this team.
2014 is no exception, yielding such big potential as Dominique Easley and James White in a draft that had some lack of talent at key positions after the first round. Many thought that Belichick would trade out of the first round rather than reach for qiestionable talent.
So how did he do?
1. Dominique Easley, DT (Grade: A-)
Easley is healthy and ready to be the bull we saw in college. He is the perfect complement to the much larger Vince Wilfork. Stay tuned for big things from the rookie defensive lineman.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (Grade: B)
Jury is still out considering how raw he was coming from a small school, but Jimmy showed some good poise in the pocket and a great arm. He won't need to worry about his deficiencies too much as he has time to develop them before being in line to ascend the throne. He may be third QB for now, and it remains to be seen if he becomes the back-up by default if and when Ryan Mallet is shown the door.
3. Bryan Stork, C- (Grade: N/A)
An injury is an unfortunate way to start your NFL career; still, his value should come through in the near future.
4. James White, RB (Grade: A)
We have talked about this kid from Wisconsin before, and he is going to be a great running back in this league. He knows how to hit a hole and has a good burst in the open. Stevan Ridley may be looking over his shoulder at his eventual replacement.
5. Cameron Fleming, OL (Grade: C)
This was obviously a depth pick, and if he survives cuts, Fleming will be waiting on the wings to break into the solid front line of the Patriots.
The only other picks that look to stay with the team are:
6. Zack Moore, DE (Grade: C)
Another depth move, Moore has decent size comparable to Chandler Jones, but is more likely to spend most of his time on special teams for now.
7. Malcolm Butler, CB (Grade: A)
Butler is all over the field and could become the next generation of ball-hawk that the Patriots love in the secondary. In preseason action, Butler has made his presence known, and will have a big impact on defense and special teams.
The Patriots did a good job of addressing depth needs, while adding talent on both sides of the ball. While a dynamic pass-rusher would have been desirable from a fan point of view, Belichick clearly is relying on his veterans to be healthy and more productive than last year.
This is what has worked for the past decade-plus. Realistically, it shouldn't be expected to add much more in the way of permanent, high-level players. Score a solid B- for the 2014 draft class considering the final number of rookies who made the roster.