How Patriots Outsmarted Jets, Landed Franchise Hall Of Famer In Draft

Draft strategy at its finest

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The New England Patriots seemingly were always one step ahead of the competition over the course of their two-decade run of dominance.

This included preparation, in-game adjustments and even the draft.

Former Patriots director of player personnel Scott Pioli recently shared a story of how New England ultimately landed one of the better players of the Belichick era, Matt Light. Light actually was coveted by the Jets in the 2001 NFL Draft, but intel from the three-time Pro Bowl selection himself coupled with a little strategy resulted in New England selecting the left tackle.

“It was in 2001, we wanted to pick Matt Light,” Pioli said on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.” “We were at No. 50, the Jets were at 49, the Lions were at 48. Around pick 45, 46, that’s when you start reaching out to a group of players that might be available that you might pick. I picked up the phone, I called Matt Light. Matt says, ‘Hey, Scott. How you doing?’ ‘I’m good. Have you heard from anybody?’ He says, ‘Well, I’m actually on the phone with the Jets. They’re on hold right now. They’re staying on the phone with me because they want to pick me at their pick.’ I looked at the board and I see they’re at 49, we’re at 50. Matt Light was the guy we wanted so badly. So, before I jump off I said, ‘Matt, don’t tell anyone I just called. Make sure that you don’t tell any team the Patriots called because you don’t want to give it up.’

“The good news is he had given up that he was on the phone with the Jets. Bill (Belichick) and I start burning up the phone lines prior to the Jets’ pick, talked to (former Lions general manager) Matt Millen. Matt Millen says — I can’t remember if it was a fifth or a sixth he wanted for us to move up two spots. So while Matt Light is still on the phone with the Jets, we execute the trade, jump up two spots, get right ahead of the New York Jets and at pick 48 we draft Matt Light and get what becomes a Patriots Hall of Fame player for us during that time. But again, had the Jets maybe told Matt Light not to say anything about who he was on the phone with, we wouldn’t have made that trade to get up because we didn’t know that was their guy. So, you got to keep things on the down low.”

Belichick and Co. might have to get creative in a few weeks. The Patriots should be in the market for their potential quarterback of the future in this year’s draft, but New England probably won’t be able to wait until No. 15 to land one of the top five prospects at the position.

Thumbnail photo via Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports Images

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