The scouting trail led New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to Ohio State’s pro day Thursday.
Belichick has been going from state to state attending pro days all week. He attended N.C. State’s pro day on Monday, South Carolina’s on Tuesday and Georgia’s on Wednesday. He’s traveled up north to Columbus, Ohio, to see his buddies Urban Meyer, Ohio State’s head coach, and Greg Schiano, the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator.
Belichick seems to attend Ohio State’s pro day every year. And every spring we wonder if this will be the year Belichick goes back to the Meyer well to draft more of the head coach’s former players.
Belichick drafted seven players out of Florida from 2006 to 2014 during and after Meyer was head coach of the Gators. The Patriots selected wide receiver Chad Jackson, defensive end Jeremy Mincey, linebacker Brandon Spikes, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, tight end Aaron Hernandez, defensive tackle Dominique Easley and guard Jon Halapio.
That reads like a list of Belichick’s worst drafting decisions.
The sad saga of Hernandez is well known. Jackson, a high second-round bust, lasted just two years with the Patriots. Mincey, a sixth-round pick, became an NFL mainstay, but he didn’t even make it out of training camp with the Patriots. Cunningham, another second-round pick, was cut after three seasons and was suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Spikes, another second-rounder, had two stints with the Patriots. The first one included a PED suspension. The second one ended before he even got to training camp after a hit-and-run incident. Easley is the only Belichick-drafted first-round pick cut after just two (injury-riddled) seasons. Halapio has found a role in the NFL, but he didn’t make it out of Patriots training camp after they spent a sixth-round pick on him.
So, perhaps it’s not a huge surprise that Belichick hasn’t drafted an Ohio State player since Meyer took over the program in 2012. The only player that comes to mind that the Patriots have even signed out of Ohio State since 2013 is guard Chase Farris, who spent time on New England’s practice squad. The Patriots do employ a scouting assistant, Camren Williams, who played linebacker at Ohio State under Meyer.
Schiano’s influence could change things this season, however. Or at least that’s what we’re convincing ourselves.
Schiano has been Ohio State’s defensive coordinator since 2016, so he’s spent two seasons with this year’s draft prospects. Rutgers was a Patriots factory when Schiano was head coach of the Scarlet Knights from 2001 to 2011.
Here are Ohio State’s top prospects this spring:
CB Denzel Ward, Round 1
DE Sam Hubbard, Round 1-2
C Billy Price, Round 2
LB Jerome Baker, Round 2-3
DE Jalyn Holmes, Round 3-4
OT Jamarco Jones, Round 3-4
DE Tyquan Lewis, Round 4
SS Damon Webb, Round 7
QB J.T. Barrett, Round 7
LB Chris Worley, Round 7
TE Marcus Baugh, Round 7
The Patriots have needs at cornerback, defensive end, linebacker, offensive tackle, safety, quarterback and tight end. Hubbard seems to be an ideal fit for the Patriots if they want to spend their first-round pick on a pass rusher. Lewis, Holmes and Baker also are good fits for the Patriots from an athletic standpoint. Ward will be gone by the time the Patriots are picking 31st overall.
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