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Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are coming off their first losing season since the 2000 season. That obviously doesn’t sit well for longtime owner Robert Kraft.
It’s one of the primary reasons the typically quiet Patriots were the busiest team around the league during the first wave of NFL free agency. They brought in seven likely starters in free agency and likely starting right tackle Trent Brown in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The hope is that this makes up for a lack of success in recent drafts for an organization that’s been the gold standard around the NFL for the past two decades. In talking about his team’s offseason and expectations moving forward, it seems as if Kraft put future Hall of Fame head coach Bill Belichick on blast.
“If you want to have a consistently good team you can’t build it in free agency. It has to be done in the draft,” Kraft said, via Amina Smith of NBC Sports Boston. “The teams who draft well will be consistently good. We haven’t drafted well recently. I’ve seen a different approach this year.”
Sure Belichick has others in his headset during the NFL Draft. But we know that he’s ultimately the decision-maker. Some might see this as a shot headed in the direction of Belichick. Even if that’s the case, it seems to be justified.
New England Patriots’ NFL Draft success has taken a hit
One of the reasons New England changed its organizational philosophy during NFL free agency earlier in March was due to the lack of recent success in the draft.
Without a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick and the Patriots selected safety Kyle Dugger and edge rusher Josh Uche in the second round. They started a combined eight games and didn’t have much of an impact as rookies.
Attempting to replace tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots utilized third-round picks on Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keane. The two tight ends combined for five catches. That’s just a recent example of misses on New England’s part. In fact, New England’s early-round selections over the past several years have left a lot to be desired.
A first-round pick back in 2019, wide receiver N’Keal Harry has caught 45 passes in two seasons and is firmly on the trade block. New England boasted two first-round selections in 2018. Offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn has started 18 games in three seasons while running back Sony Michel is averaging less than 800 rushing yards in his three seasons and has continually found himself in Belichick’s doghouse.
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are headed for a defining NFL Draft
It’s in this that the 2021 NFL Draft is going to be absolutely huge for New England. Most of the focus has been on potentially trading up for a quarterback to ultimately replace the struggling Cam Newton. Heck, there’s a chance these Patriots use some of their draft capital to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo.
Either way, New England has taken a major step back in an AFC East division its dominated for the past two decades. Coming off a 13-win season, the Buffalo Bills are seen as the cream of the crop. The Miami Dolphins are on an upward trajectory. Even the New York Jets have a bounce in their step after hiring Robert Saleh to be their next head coach.
It’s possible Bill Belichick is feeling the pressure right now. Kraft’s comments on Wednesday doesn’t help in that regard.