Patriots Redeem Day 2 Reaches With Late Values In 2015 NFL Draft

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The Boston Red Sox should consider adding Bill Belichick to their starting staff. The New England Patriots head coach proved he still throws a nasty curve.

Belichick lulled the NFL and its followers into believing his Patriots were going chalk in the NFL Draft Thursday night, when they kept the 32nd overall pick and selected Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown, the best player available at a position of need.

It made so much sense that we all should have known something crazy was lurking at the end of the second round.

There was. Jordan Richards’ name flashed across NFL Network on Friday and sent everyone into a collective frenzy of confusion. A 5-foot-11, 211-pound safety who ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash. Huh.

That’s the way Belichick operates. He picked a safety no casual observer knew three rounds too early for the third time in four years, and somehow we’re still dumbfounded.

Who knows? Maybe the Indianapolis Colts, picking at No. 65 overall, threw their binder of scouting reports across the room in anger after Richards came off the board.

That seems unlikely, though, because Belichick values special teams more than any other NFL decision-maker. While the Colts probably are looking at 65th overall pick D’Joun Smith as a sub-package cornerback who can play 30 snaps per game, the Patriots view Richards as a special-teams ace who can play 20 snaps per game and earn reps in dime.

The Patriots then added Geneo Grissom — another relative unknown until Belichick basically described him as a combination of Jarvis Green and Rosevelt Colvin in his post-Day 2 news conference — with the 97th overall pick.

Patriots fans were unhappy, and it was understandable. The joy of having Brown fall out of the sky at the end of the first round diminished, and Belichick suddenly was “reaching.”

Belichick redeemed himself in a big way Saturday, and suddenly, the Patriots were back to filling needs and finding values.

Here’s how the Patriots actually drafted this weekend:

Round 1, Pick No. 32: Malcom Brown, defensive tackle, Texas
Round 2, Pick No. 64: Jordan Richards, safety, Stanford
Round 3, Pick No. 97: Geneo Grissom, defensive lineman, Oklahoma
Round 4, Pick No. 101: Trey Flowers, defensive lineman, Arkansas
Round 4, Pick No. 111: Tre Jackson, guard, Florida State
Round 4, Pick No. 131: Shaq Mason, offensive lineman, Georgia Tech
Round 5, Pick No. 166: Joe Cardona, long snapper, Navy
Round 6, Pick No. 178: Matthew Wells, linebacker, Mississippi State
Round 6, Pick No. 202: A.J. Derby, tight end, Arkansas
Round 7, Pick No. 247: Darryl Roberts, cornerback, Marshall
Round 7, Pick No. 253: Xzavier Dickson, linebacker, Alabama

Rearrange the picks, and Patriots fans probably would have been a lot more excited:

Round 1, Pick No. 32: Malcom Brown, defensive tackle, Texas
Round 2, Pick No. 64: Tre Jackson, guard, Florida State
Round 3, Pick No. 97:Trey Flowers, defensive lineman, Arkansas
Round 4, Pick No. 101: Shaq Mason, offensive lineman, Georgia Tech
Round 4, Pick No. 111: Xzavier Dickson, linebacker, Alabama
Round 4, Pick No. 131: Darryl Roberts, cornerback, Marshall
Round 5, Pick No. 166: Jordan Richards, safety, Stanford
Round 6, Pick No. 178: Geneo Grissom, defensive lineman, Oklahoma
Round 6, Pick No. 202: A.J. Derby, tight end, Arkansas
Round 7, Pick No. 247: Matthew Wells, linebacker, Mississippi State
Round 7, Pick No. 253: Joe Cardona, long snapper, Navy

— Jackson was projected to be selected in the second or third round and fills a gaping need.

— Flowers was a favorite of Pro Football Focus and was expected to be drafted on the second day.

— Perhaps Mason, Dickson and Roberts would be viewed as slight reaches, but the Patriots were filling needs.

— Richards and Grissom look better in the late rounds, and Derby’s athleticism and upside make him a fine sixth-round draft pick.

— Wells is unknown but speedy and versatile, and Cardona, well, let’s get to that.

Cardona would have been a tough pick for Patriots fans to stomach if it wasn’t so funny. Of course Belichick is going to draft a long-snapper from Navy in the fifth round. If Cardona was certain to play in 2015, then it wouldn’t have been a terrible pick. He’s the best long snapper in the draft, and assuming he makes the team, he’ll play 10 snaps per game, which is probably more than an average fifth-round draft pick.

But Navy might not let him play this season, and if the Patriots find their long snapper of the future before he’s allowed to suit up, then they wasted a fifth-round pick who isn’t a tradable asset.

All in all, it was a solid, very Belichick-ian draft filled with versatility, smarts and leadership. Not all 11 picks will be hits, but Belichick certainly found his requisite gems.

Thumbnail photo via Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports Images

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