Bill Belichick’s decision to select N’Keal Harry with the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft looks horrible in hindsight.
Not only has Harry failed to produce at a level expected of a first-round pick. The New England Patriots also bypassed several wide receivers from that draft class who since have evolved into impact performers, including DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown and Deebo Samuel.
Making matters worse: Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported this week that Belichick ignored input from his scouts in choosing Harry, instead leaning on his own experience with the Arizona State product.
This obviously is a tough look for Belichick, especially when combined with the other misses he’s had recently in the NFL draft. And apparently it’s not an isolated incident, either.
“This wouldn’t be the first time Bill Belichick hasn’t listened to the scouts’ board, and everything like that, and done his own thing,” Chris Simms said Wednesday on NBC Sports’ “ProFootballTalk.” “This is pretty commonplace stuff with head coaches who have the last say, GM word type of thing. And yeah, it’s gotten Belichick in trouble. There’s no doubt.”
Now, before everyone goes scorched earth on Belichick, we’ll remind you of his résumé, which includes six Super Bowl rings as head coach of the Patriots. Also, as Simms recalls, there’s been times when Belichick exercising his power during the draft has worked out in New England’s favor.
Simms, a former NFL quarterback who spent time with New England as a coaching assistant beginning in 2012, shared a story Wednesday about Belichick’s strategy — something that reportedly might change this season — leading to the Patriots selecting linebacker Jamie Collins in the second round in 2013.
“I was there for two drafts, and one of the drafts — I can still remember, as vivid as ever, my first draft in an NFL organization — I’m sitting right outside the draft room,” Simms said. “Now, the pick is gonna be Jamie Collins, from Southern Miss, second round. I can remember (former Patriots director of player personnel) Nick Caserio walking out of the room and his head was shaking, and I was like, ‘Uh oh, somebody doesn’t like the pick that’s about to come up here and pop up on the board.’ And it was Jamie Collins. And I remember all the scouts and everything going, ‘Oh my gosh, why would we take him now?’ and do all that. Well, he was awesome right from the get-go. So, Belichick was right.”
As you probably know, Collins, who’s had two separate stints with the Patriots organization, has turned out to be a really good NFL player.
So has linebacker Chandler Jones, a three-time Pro Bowl selection whom the Patriots picked 21st overall in 2012, perhaps thanks to Belichick flexing his muscle.
“Also happened with Chandler Jones in another draft. So, same thing, where the scouts were like, ‘Hey, we didn’t have him rated this high.’ Well, he’s Bill Belichick. He had him ranked higher, obviously,” Simms said. “Now, he’s missed and all that, I know that. But I don’t think this is that crazy.
“And it goes back to my old thing that I say: There’s too much emphasis on the person and the mental aspect, instead of just the pure ability on the field, sometimes up in New England, and I will always think that’s what gets them in trouble in these situations.”
Nevertheless, it’ll be fascinating to see how Belichick and the Patriots approach the 2021 NFL Draft, during which New England will be under an even stronger microscope thanks to the team’s continued uncertainty at the quarterback position in wake of Tom Brady’s departure.