Just a few picks into Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick and the Patriots saw an opportunity to grab a top prospect.
The Patriots moved up to pick No. 38, trading pick No. 46 plus two fourth-round picks to the Bengals in order to get Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore.
“It’s pretty unusual for the first interior defensive lineman to be drafted at that point in the draft,” Belichick told reporters Friday evening. “We traded up, felt good about acquiring that. We look forward to working with Christian. He’s played a number of different positions in Coach (Nick) Saban’s defense.”
“He’s been in a great program,” Belichick added. He’s very well-coached.”
Barmore was a stud at Alabama this past season. He recorded 9.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks to go along with three forced fumbles, making him one of the SEC’s top defensive players. In addition, Barmore earned Defensive MVP honors in Alabama’s National Championship Game win over Ohio State in which he recorded five tackles and a sack.
Belichick seemed high on Barmore’s overall game.
“He’s shown good ability as a pass rusher,” Belichick said. “Again, that’s a high level of quality football in the SEC. He’s rushed from across the front. He’s got a good knack, good instincts, and good quickness for his size to be able to do that can play with length in the running game.”
Barmore’s selection came after the Patriots selected Barmore’s Alabama teammate Mac Jones in the first round. While Alabama had a strong season and played in a conference that had double-digit games this season, Belichick said that he didn’t know if that really gave those guys an edge over other prospects.
“We watched a lot of film in ’20, a lot of film in ’19, and ’18 as well to watch the development of some of the players now,” Belichick said. “Some of the players we’re talking about didn’t play a lot in ’18, especially the two at Alabama. Each player has his own path to where he ended up in his college career.
“Certainly, Alabama always has a high level of football. Those players are well-coached there. Well-conditioned. Well-trained. So are most of the other teams in the SEC they played against or in other conferences they played against in the playoffs. That’s great competition to evaluate.
As mentioned earlier, Belichick needed to trade up to get Barmore. In the trade with the Bengals, the Patriots lost value, according to multiple draft value charts. Belichick, who said he believed front office consultant Eliot Wolf was the one to conduct the trade, believed that teams selling picks have been in a good spot this draft.
“I would say the prices on the trades have been a little higher than normal, certainly at the end of the third round,” Belichick said. “Those trades are pretty high. There weren’t a lot of trades in the first round, but I thought those were pretty high.”
“My general impression was what teams were paying to move up, pretty much at the start of the second round, and maybe the whole third round, it seemed like the teams moving back were doing pretty well in those trades.”
The Patriots’ other pick in Day 2 came late in the third round, selecting Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins. While the Patriots doubled down on the defensive line, Belichick said that he doesn’t enter a draft thinking he has to hit a requirement on drafting players from certain positions. Rather, he tries “to take opportunities on what’s on that board.
Perkins, who recorded 16.5 sacks over three seasons at Oklahoma, was an opportunity that the Patriots capitalized on.
“Ronnie’s a disruptive player, Belichick said. “Physical outside linebacker/defensive end type. We’ll see how that goes when we get him here and work with him. But another guy with good ability to be disruptive on defense and has a very physical playing style.”
Belichick closed his press conference Friday evening to give a more expanded answer on how he and the team grades draft prospects, saying that team doesn’t necessarily rank players.
“We don’t grade players ‘One, two, three, four, five.’ That’s just not how we do it,” Belichick said. “We use a combination of numbers, letters, colors. Those things all have different meanings depending on what they would indicate about the players’ circumstances or situation. Whatever it is with all the players. All the players are different. In the end, there really aren’t that many of them that come to a school, play their career there, and leave. There’s things that happen in between in a variety of circumstances, and we have ways to identify those.
“So, sometimes the colors could override the numbers. Sometimes the letters can override the numbers or the colors and so forth. So, it’s not ‘This guy’s at an 85 or this guy’s at an 83.’ It just doesn’t work like that. There’s a number, a color possibly. A letter or letters that go with those players and those things, depending on what they represent, could override something else that’s part of the grade. It’s just really the way we identify the players is too hard to generalize.”
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