Bill Belichick's NFL draft strategy isn't changing because Tom Brady left

Dan Wetzel

The New England Patriots were on the clock, set to make the first selection in the post-Tom Brady era. As the 2020 NFL draft broadcast flipped to Bill Belichick’s Nantucket home, there was no Belichick to be found. 

Instead, in his seat at a dining room table, behind a couple of laptops, a notepad and a coffee mug, was … a dog, just minding his own business.

Moments later, the selection was announced … Kyle Dugger, a safety from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University in the mountains of North Carolina. 

Of course.

It’s a new day in New England, but it’s the same old guy in charge. Belichick is going to Belichick and Friday night was a prime reminder of that. 

Go back to the dog, an Alaskan Klee Kai named Nike. It’s certainly possible that Belichick just jumped up at the wrong time, maybe to take a call in a part of the house with better cell reception, and Nike leaped into his chair. 

Yes, certainly possible. 

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has handled the 2020 NFL draft just like every other draft, even though Tom Brady is now in Tampa. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s also possible that Belichick, who famously hates the NFL’s promotional efforts, regularly feuds with the league office and isn’t much for television cameras pointed at him on the sideline let alone inside his vacation home, set the dog show up to stuff it to commissioner Roger Goodell and his draft party. 

You want to watch me work? Cool. Here’s my dog. (Belichick was later seen giving Nike a treat.)

Then, of course, there is the pick. 

It wasn’t a quarterback. It wasn’t an answer or an aid to Brady’s departure. It was a safety, a position that few NFL teams deem essential and didn’t seem to be a particularly pressing need for the Pats since they still have Devin McCourty for a couple more years.

It came because Belichick traded out of the first round Thursday, dealing the 23rd selection to the Los Angeles Chargers for the 37th and 71st overall picks. No one loves draft-day deals and amassing selections like Belichick — he made three more deals on Friday, including one with the rival New York Jets.

And since Dugger is who Belichick wanted, Dugger is who Belichick got. By no means is Belichick some flawless drafter. He’s had plenty of misses, especially with secondary picks in the second round.

He also has six Super Bowl championships as a head coach, so Dugger may turn out to be the steal of the draft. 

The New England Patriots selected Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger with their first pick of the 2020 NFL draft. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Mainly, it is another clear indication that if Belichick is sweating the loss of Tom Brady to Tampa Bay after 20 years, it isn’t altering his behavior. 

This Patriots draft looks like every other Patriots draft.

Belichick appears quite content walking into the season with second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham out of Auburn atop the depth chart. Backing him up, veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer. Right now, that’s it. 

Stidham has thrown a grand total of four passes in the NFL, but Belichick, at least publicly, hasn’t blinked since Brady left. 

Stidham is Brady’s heir apparent. Buckle up.

Belichick could have pooled his arsenal of picks on Thursday and attempted to trade up to grab one of the four highly rated QBs who went in the first round. He could have used spot No. 37 to grab Jalen Hurts out of Oklahoma, the way Philadelphia did later in the second round

He also could have spent more time trying to add receiving weapons, a running game or line protection to make Stidham’s life easier.

Instead his first three selections were defensive players — Dugger and two linebackers, Michigan’s Josh Uche at No. 60 and Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings at No. 87.

Finally with the 91st and 101st selections, the Patriots grabbed two tight ends, Devin Asiasi of UCLA and Dalton Keene from Virginia Tech.

So that offense that struggled last year with Brady? It’s not changing much for next season. Those are two good, versatile tight ends … but that’s a long way from the rich, deep wide receiver talent that dominated much of the first and second rounds.

If Stidham wants to make it in New England, he will have to figure out how to make do with what he has. No one ever said replacing TB12 was going to be easy.

Belichick was focused on trading flurries of picks and rebooting his aging defense by getting a bunch of athletic, versatile talents, not setting up training wheels for his new QB.

Tom Brady is gone. Not much else has changed up in Foxborough.

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