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Patriots Won Offseason Long Before NFL Draft

The history of the NFL draft is littered with monstrous misses, perplexing picks and hidden gems.

Kenneth Sims, Chad Jackson and Julian Edelman are glaring examples in each category cited above in the history of the New England Patriots.

Looking back at Bill Belichick's tenure as Patriots' Dark Lord & Master, his record on draft day is one of mixed success.

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Nowhere is that mix more extreme than when it comes to Aaron Hernandez and Tom Brady.

Hernandez, selected by New England with the 113th pick in the 2010 draft, was unquestionably the most disastrous selection in the history of the Patriots.

Hernandez the player contributed to New England's success in parts of three seasons and reached the Pro Bowl in 2011. Talking about Hernandez the player is akin to lauding the on-time trains in fascist Italy and Germany back in the 1930s.

That was progress, but there was a significant downside.

The combination of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski was hailed as the blueprint of a new dual tight-end threat offense poised to sweep through the NFL. It has since been assigned to the dustbin of NFL history. It's a fad whose co-protagonist sits in the Bristol County Jail awaiting trial for murder. There's no "smoking gun" to Hernandez's misdeeds when it comes to what Belichick knew and when did he know it. That holds before the Patriots drafted Hernandez, or even when they signed him to his gaudy extension in 2012.

Sorry, Rolling Stone, but Belichick did not hide the murder weapon after Hernandez allegedly killed Odin Lloyd last year. Nor did the dastardly Urban Meyer drive the getaway car.

There were 31 players arrested when Meyer coached at Florida from 2005-10.

Among the Gators not arrested during Meyer's six-season reign: Tim Tebow [no surprise there], Brandon Spikes and Hernandez. The most notable Gator pinched during that span was a computer-tossing QB who transferred to junior college after the 2008 season named Cam Newton. The closest Hernandez came to being arrested came after a fight at a Gainesville restaurant in 2007. Gainesville police recommended he be charged with felony battery after he allegedly hit a waiter, but local prosecutors never pursued the case. Hernandez may have failed anywhere between one and five drug tests at UF. [Angel dust was reportedly his drug of choice later in life.]

Here's the rub. The Patriots were not supposed to draft Hernandez, we have been lectured, because he used drugs and had gang ties in Bristol, Conn. Good luck when that story breaks. We cannot profile potential terrorists at our airports. Yet it is OK, apparently for some, to deny a man a chance to play in the NFL because of the people with whom he associates. Meanwhile, critics of legalized drug use in 2014 are often treated with the same self-righteous contempt reserved for Donald Sterling and Bruins fans.

There's no way to determine if Hernandez would have allegedly shot anyone had he not been a Patriot. Belichick and Bob Kraft obviously knew that Hernandez wasn't an Eagle Scout before they gave him that five-year, $40 million deal. That doesn't mean the Patriots are complicit criminally in Lloyd's death. Civil litigators may feel otherwise. Powerful men like Kraft and Belichick often feel they can fully control the world around them and the people they bring into their sphere. But all of Kraft's money and Belichick's manipulation failed to penetrate Hernandez's heartless soul.

Brady's selection at No. 199 in the 2000 draft has become the stuff of NFL legend. He remains the single best example in NFL history when it comes to proving there is no such thing as a wasted draft pick.

There have been 13 complete drafts since Brady became the seventh QB taken that year. There hasn't been a single draft-day steal that has come even close.

Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger and the one and only Spergon Wynn make up what's been immortalized as "The Brady 6."

They are the six unfortunate QBs drafted before Brady in 2000. Their story is told below. It's well worth 45 minutes of your time, even at work. And it won't get you in trouble unless your HR coordinator is a Jets fan.

For Belichick, draft day often means packaging early-round picks to stockpile those coveted seventh rounders. What better way load up on members of the Rutgers defense?

This year, the Patriots are scheduled to draft at No. 29.

It doesn't matter if the Patriots aren't picking until No. 129. The most-glaring need of this team, reinforced by its evisceration at the arm of Peyton Manning in the AFC title game in January, was in the defensive secondary.

New England can't screw up on draft day because it has already scored its version of a No. 1 pick in Darrelle Revis. The Patriots followed up with a sure second-rounder in Brandon Browner, who will return from an NFL suspension in Week 5.

Welcome to the Legion of Belichick.

The Browner-on-Wes Welker hit Patriots' fans cannot see enough:

The Seahawks and their $40 million-guaranteed man Richard Sherman remain atop the NFL heap in when it comes to defending against the pass. After Seattle, New England is arguably better situated in that spot now than any other team in the league. Browner, Revis, Alfonzo Dennard [yes, he's out of jail], Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington. Good luck with that, Mike Vick.

At the start of the year, one of the trends we discussed that would drive New England's sports agenda in 2014 was Brady's Biological Clock. It's been drowned out as of late thanks the Red Sox finally crawling back to .500 Wednesday, racist Tweets about P.K. Subban posted by folks from Texas to Norway, and the presence of the Bruins in the NHL playoffs.

Brady's Biological Clock was roaring louder than the Bell Centre riding a Canadiens' power-play when it mattered during NFL free-agency.

Things began glumly as the Patriots allowed Edelman to test free agency and watched Aqib Talib skip to Denver in the first 24 hours.

Belichick, it turns out, was just toying with our emotions.

Within the first week of the the most significant NFL free-agency period in Patriots history, the team had landed on Revis Island, inspired the Legion of Belichick with the addition of Browner and preserved Brady's Current Binky of Choice [Edelman]. Eventually, the Patriots retained Vince Wilfork at a phat discount. These moves squelched all doubt about the team going all-in as No. 12 drifts into the Twilight of His Career.

$10 million guaranteed to an injured cornerback? A $20 million team option for next season for the same player, which now seems entirely reasonable thanks to Sherman's 4-year, $56 million deal?

Enjoy this while it lasts.

Brady turns 37 in August.

Tick, tick, tick.

Even this week, on the eve of the draft, Belichick was working his mischief. The Patriots signed DE WIll Smith, late of the Saints. Smith missed last year with a knee injury, but the former Pro Bowler has 457 total tackles, 67.5 sacks, two interceptions and 20 forced fumbles in 139 NFL games. Perhaps Belichick has found another refreshed prince.

"In Bill We Trust" is no longer a punchline.

In this draft, the Patriots will likely pursue help on the offensive and defensive lines, possibly swipe a deep-threat receiver or even bring in a quarterback if one falls deep in their lap. No one knows for sure what New England will do except for Belichick and Yoda. But it just the dessert in this offseason of Patriots football feasts.

When Johnny Manziel visited Foxborough earlier this year, the NFL Insiders among us went off the rails with speculation as to why Johnny Football was breaking bread with the best NFL coach this side of Jimmy Johnson. The answer was found in the premise. If you were Johnny F. Football, or Belichick, why wouldn't you want to meet the other guy? Sorry, but JFF won't be available at No. 29. Don't expect the Patriots to have a diabolical plan to replace Brady before he is ready to leave on his own terms, either. Belichick is far too focused the nuances of defensive tackles like Louis Nix III out of Notre Dame.

Manziel provides the most exciting and intriguing storyline on Draft Day 1 Thursday. It appears the Houston Texans will ensure their exceptional mediocrity by taking South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick instead of Kerrville, Texas' favorite son. JFF appears too risky a proposition for such successful franchises as the Texans, Rams [at No. 2] and Jaguars [No. 3]. NFL dynasties all.

It's been said [at least by the NFL Network] that the NFL Draft draws a bigger national audience than typical World Series game. Tonight's Round 1 [8 p.m., ESPN, ESPN2, NFL Network] has received plenty of hype, some of it deserved. The draft continues on Friday [Rounds 2-3] and Saturday [Rounds 4-7]. For the Patriots, this draft presents an opportunity to tinker with the bottom third of the roster and for Belichick to restore his dinged reputation as a draft day genius. There is zero downside this time. New England may even emerge with a couple of future starters. But there will be no cursed lost chances. No first-round blunders. No head-banging deals.

The real work of this offseason was completed long before this draft simply because there was far too much at stake.

Namely Tom Brady's mortality as a football player.

The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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