FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is used to hearing negative feedback about his draft-day performances, and it goes back a whole lot further than his time in New England. He was passionate about his drafting philosophy after Thursday night's opening round.
When Belichick was the Giants' defensive coordinator, he remembers Bill Parcells getting ripped for drafting linebacker Carl Banks with the third pick in 1984 when they already had Lawrence Taylor and Brad Van Pelt on the roster. Banks, obviously, turned out to be one of the cornerstone players on that defense.
"Sometimes, you think you have more than what you need at a certain position, but usually that stuff works itself out one way or the other," Belichick said. "If you get an injury or two, which inevitably happens in this sport, it looks like an extra guy that you don't need ends up being a valuable guy. I learned that at the Giants. We had drafted Lawrence Taylor. We had Brad Van Pelt, and we took Carl Banks with the [third] pick in the draft. And that pick was crucified. 'What a stupid pick. Why would you take Carl Banks? What could you do with him? Just sit there and watch while the other two guys play?' Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor were really the two bookends to that defense all through the '80s and took us to a lot of victories and two Super Bowl championships."
Belichick heard it again last year after he spent a first-round pick on cornerback Devin McCourty, who joined Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler, among others, at a position that was hardly considered one of their great weaknesses.
And, of course, Belichick has heard it again when he spent Thursday's 17th pick on Colorado tackle Nate Solder, who will join Sebastian Vollmer and (potentially) Matt Light at the position. In drafting Solder, Belichick passed over Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan and a handful of other defensive players who might have been able to make a more immediate impact.
"I try to take the player that you feel like is the best player," Belichick said. "It's great to say, 'OK, we have a need at this position, so now we have a card to put up there in that spot.' But if that player isn't able to really fulfill that area or that position, then you're coming back here the next year looking for the same thing again."
Really, it came down to his belief system. Belichick knew he drafted a good player, even if it wasn't the most popular choice.
"If you believe in your system and you believe in your grades, you've studied that all year, and those are the players that you have a conviction on, you're probably better off staying with them on draft day rather than trying to recreate a guy five minutes before you pick because of some arbitrary reason," Belichick said. "Go with what you believe in."