New England Patriots Draft Guru: Bill Belichick vs. Mel Kiper

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Hard — uh, make it reckless — to discuss Bill Belichick’s success over the years in the NFL Draft. The savvy personnel guru has put his stamp of approval on the picks that have spawned numerous All-Pros, countless highlights and, oh yes, six Super Bowls.

But could Belichick’s writing – and the endless exchanges – have been better? What if he had simply listened to the suggestions of longtime ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper? (For what it’s worth, Kiper in 1989 infamously declared that the Dallas Cowboys would be “foolish” to recruit Troy Aikman over Tony Mandarich, but let’s give him a nod here.)

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Kiper has scoffed at the NFL Draft since 1984; Belichick has overseen Patriots picks since 2000.

Let’s look at the last 10 drafts, remember who Kiper recommended and who Belichick picked, and keep score, shall we?

2012

Kiper Prediction: DE Courtney Upshaw, S Harrison Smith – Upshaw was average as a first-round pick by Baltimore. Smith, meanwhile, became one of the best safeties of his generation and played 151 games for the Vikings.

Patriots pick: DE Chandler Jones, LB Dont’a Hightower – The Patriots were exceptionally aggressive, trading twice. Both selections worked. Jones helped win a Super Bowl before being traded to Arizona after three years. Hightower made a series of playoff clutch plays that led to three rings.

Belichick 1, Kiper 0.

2013

Kiper Prediction: CB Desmond Trufant – Now a journeyman free agent, Trufant made the Pro Bowl with the Falcons in 2015 after being selected 22nd overall.

Patriots pick: LB Jamie Collins – The Patriots did not choose their original No. 29, but instead traded and ended up with Collins as the first selection in the second round. However, this trade also led to the acquisition of cornerback Logan Ryan and running back LeGarrette Blount. Not only was Collins an All-Pro, but New England turned their original pick into three Super Bowl contributors.

Belichick 2, Kiper 0.

2014

Prediction Kiper: S Calvin Pryor – Full bust. Selected 18th overall by the New York Jets, he played 44 games in three seasons before being traded to Cleveland.

Patriots pick: DT Dominique Easley – Arguably the biggest first-round bust of the Belichick era, he played just 22 games over two seasons before his release.

Belichick 2, Kiper 1.

2015

Kiper prediction: OL Cedric Ogbuehi – He came out of the table 21st overall, but disappointed. The former Bengal is currently with his sixth team.

Patriots pick: DT Malcom Brown – Although he never became the next Vince Wilfork, he was a solid presence along the Patriots’ inside defensive line after being drafted 32nd overall in 2015. He played 71 games in four seasons and helped the team to win two Super Bowls.

Belichick 3, Kiper 1.

2016-17

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Kiper’s prediction: N/A – Thanks to the organization’s alleged role in “Deflate-gate,” the Patriots didn’t have a first-round pick in 2016, and in 2017 they traded their first pre-draft pick to the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

Patriots pick: WR Brandin Cooks – The fast receiver caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns, but had more productive seasons before (New Orleans) and after (Rams) his stint in New England. His last shot with the Patriots was knocked out of Super Bowl LII before being traded.

Belichick 3, Kiper 1. N/A 2.

2018

Kiper Prediction: OT Kolton Miller, CB Josh Jackson – Miller ended up with the Raiders as the 15th overall selection and became a solid starting tackle. Jackson dropped in the second round and is now a free agent after unsuccessful stints in Green Bay, New York and Kansas City.

Patriots pick: OT Isaiah Wynn, RB Sony Michel – Wynn is the current starting left tackle for the Patriots. Michel, meanwhile, helped New England win a Super Bowl as a rookie but was eventually traded to Los Angeles.

Belichick 4, Kiper 1. N/A 2.

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2019

Prediction Kiper: DE Clelin Ferrell – The Las Vegas Raiders picked him fourth overall, but he’s only had 7.5 sacks in three seasons so far.

Patriots pick: WR N’Keal Harry. Big puff. The Patriots used the final first-round pick on Harry, who fell short of expectations and appears to be on the way out. Tough to lose to the disappointing Ferrell, but Harry will likely only catch four touchdowns as a Patriot.

Belichick 4, Kiper 2. N/A 2.

2020

Prediction Kiper: OL Cesar Ruiz – With left guard Joe Thuney in a contract year, Kiper suggested the Patriots pick Ruiz. He eventually went to New Orleans and is a solid two-year starter at center and guard.

Patriots Pick: S Kyle Dugger – Originally slated to draft 23rd overall, they traded the pick to the Chargers for 37 and 71. Dugger — a starter — and an additional pick via trade trump Ruiz.

Belichick 5, Kiper 2. N/A 2.

2021

Prediction Kiper: QB Trey Lance – With Mac Jones third overall at San Francisco in his projection, the Patriots traded to pick Lance. The North Dakota State product finished as a 49er, but spent most of his rookie year on the sidelines behind former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo.

Patriots pick: QB Mac Jones – One season is too early for concrete claims, but most Patriots fans don’t want to do it again. They picked Jones 15th overall and he immediately and emphatically won and kept the starting job.

Belichick 6. Kiper 2. N/A 2.

Bottom line: Kiper is an artist. Belichick is a legend.

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