Notice the question is not what should Bill Belichick do with the first round pick in the draft. The answer to this question is a lot easier to answer as opposed to what will he do. He should take a tight end if one of the top three as determined and listed by the draft “experts”, are available, and it is likely at least one will be there for the 29th pick. Why a tight end? The short answer is they need one with Hernandez in prison, Gronkowski recovering from his seventh surgery in the last five years, and two journeymen tight ends on the roster.
There are more reasons too. This is a position Bill is pretty successful with in the draft. Think Daniel Graham, Ben Watson, and David Thomas, in addition to Hernandez and Gronkowski. Tight end is also Bill's most frequent draft pick since coming to the Patriots, a total of 11 so far. Add too that the Patriots have a good group of running backs and the ground game will be enhanced with two tight ends that can both block and catch. They can also use another blocking, pass catching, big body in the red zone.
So what will Bill do with the 29th pick? He has traded a first round pick in 5 of the last 6 drafts. I believe he is not likely to do this as often going forward since the recent labor agreement lowering the salary contracts of first rounders has increased their team value. And Belichick is as we know, all about the value in the draft. He and others have given us some insight into his draft philosophy and we can expect he will be consistent with his concept of value. The tough part is, although we may know what criteria he uses to determine value, we have little insight into how he measures players against these criteria. We know he places less value than others do in the hard data yielded at the combine try-outs. I believe this is particularly true for players available late in the first round.
Bill and his group of scouts will evaluate a large number of players for attributes including how football smart are they, how adaptable and flexible are they to fit into the Patriots' system, are they hard-working, self-motivated, selfless, humble enough to take direction and coaching, and how will they fit in the locker room. How do they react under pressure, and when they are tired, or when they are behind? How does his group measure these characteristics in players and then weight them against their physical attributes? How and when these evaluations are done may explain how we get three players from Rutgers in one draft?
We will never know the answer to all these questions while Bill is still coaching (it is an edge and, therefore, kept close-to-the-vest) and likely never will unless Bill retires and writes a book about it. I bet that would make a sure-fire #1 NY Times best seller. Chances are (I always loved the Johnny Mathis hit song by that title. The flip side, The Twelfth of Never, somehow seems appropriate here also), Bill will not know how he will use the 29th pick until he is on the clock. You can not predict if, at the last moment, some rookie head coach, anxious to make his mark, will absolutely need to have someone on the board at that point to make his first draft a success, and will make an offer Bill can't refuse.
Patriot nation is indeed fortunate to have a coach who has a plan that is flexible and disciplined and successful. And even though I would like another stud tight end here at #29, I will trust in Bill with whatever he ultimately chooses to do.