The first rule of Pro Football Focus is “the grades are good when they confirm my priors. When they do not, they are bad”
The second rule of Pro Football Focus is “THE GRADES ARE GOOD WHEN THEY CONFIRM MY PRIORS AND WHEN THEY DON’T, THEY ARE BAD”
So with Draft SZN both just around the corner and seeming like it’s still ages away right now, and the New England Patriots staring down a rebuild/reload era that may well define the success (or lack thereof) of the Mac Jones Era, when PFF came out with a list of which NFL GMs make the best draft day moves, we had to take a ganger and see where Trader Bill checked in.
To figure out who ranks where on the countdown, PFF used their own draft value chart to calculate who gained and lost the most draft capital, based on the value of all the picks involved in a transaction. That’s the straightforward part. Where it gets really funny, in the sense of “you may be technically right, but just because a Corolla has a lower cost of ownership doesn’t make it faster than a Camaro”, is when they start attaching player names and resumes to trades in question.
(Sidebar/gratuitous self-promotion: if you haven’t read Rich Hill’s updated draft value chart from a few years back, and want a more updated assessment of how much picks are really worth with clear explanations on how he landed on his conclusions, here it is. Well worth a few minutes of your time.)
First off, for this exercise, PFF is only looking at the drafts from 2017-2021, which already puts the Patriots in a weird spot. 2017, of course, was the draft where New England, in a move that seems quaint now with some of the recent blockbuster wide receiver trades, sent pick No. 32 to the New Orleans Saints for Brandin Cooks. The rest of the Patriots class of ’17 is pretty regularly cited as arguably the biggest draft faceplant in the Belichick era; out of the four players New England ended up picking, only DE Dietrich Wise Jr. turned into a serviceable NFL player. The dream of Derek Rivers was just never meant to be, apparently.
Second, it’s also worth noting that Bill Belichick is being compared to some GMs that only have one or two drafts under their belt, and therefore, Bill’s had a lot more time to shoot his shots and just like when you hit the blackjack table it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s what the PFF crew had to say about Bill’s last 5 years and how all the wheeling and dealing worked out:
14. Bill Belichick – New England Patriots
Best Trade Down: Kenneth Murray @ pick 23 (gained 599 points, 114th overall)
Worst Trade Up: Christian Barmore @ pick 38 (lost 967 points, 55th overall)
Explanation: The most prolific trader of this era, as he’s executed 22 total pick swaps. Half of his trade downs came in 2018, and outside of that, he is extremely aggressive in trading up for players. Since 2019, he has only traded down three times while trading up nine times. Like most trades, the Pats have only lost the equivalent of Day 3 picks when trading up.
There you have it. Christian Barmore, worst draft-day trade up in the last five years of Patriots history. We’re never going to financially recover from this!
Jokes aside — and let’s be real, we could be here for a loooooong time making all the jokes — the lesson to learn here is, as always, that analytics and draft value and win probability charts and fourth down percentages and all that stuff is just tools and a framework to make the best possible decisions with the information and circumstances that are available to you. Bill Belichick has made a killing off of trading down with starry-eyed GMs who think they’ve found the next Randy Moss and it turns out to be Armanti Edwards or Cordarrelle Patterson, but as the PFF Explanation notes, Bill’s also more than happy to splash the pot a little bit if it lets him move up and get the guys he covets.
Especially when Christian Barmore’s rookie campaign almost immediately started drawing the oooooohs and aaaaaaaahs and the “…..how did we let this guy fall to the PATRIOTS again?” from….wait for it…..PFF.
Christian Barmore is a ⭐️ in the making. He trailed only Micah Parsons in the following categories among rookies
51 total pressures
76.1 pass rush grade
17% pass rush win rate pic.twitter.com/OVECteM5AI
— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) January 18, 2022
Highest pass rush win rates by a rookie Interior DL since 2006
1️⃣ Jonathan Allen (’17): 17.9%
2️⃣ Christian Barmore (’21): 16.3% pic.twitter.com/h6680DcxLv
— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) January 6, 2022
1. 2015, Leonard Williams – 52 (10.9%)
⭐️2. 2021, Christian Barmore – 48 (12.6%)⭐️
2. 2016, DeForest Buckner – 48 (9.7%)
4. 2014, Aaron Donald – 46 (10.3%) pic.twitter.com/gO1rI0a930
— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) March 23, 2022
Christian Barmore rookie ranks (via @PFF):
• 1st in hurries (18)
• 1st in batted passes
• 3rd in pressures (23)
• 3rd in QB hits (4)
• 8th in run stops (13)
• 9th in sacks (2) pic.twitter.com/0wgP2ATUkW
— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) November 8, 2021
All that, mind you, while only being named a starter for two regular-season games and logging snaps in every other game in a variety of situational and game-plan specific roles that often left Barmore playing 40-something percent of the defensive snaps one week, then jumping up as high as 85% in Week 10 against the Cleveland Browns, and fluctuating wildly week by week from there, per Football Guys’ snap counts. Such is life when you’re on a Bill Belichick defense and not one of those WE RUN WHAT WE RUN squads.
And to bring it all the way around to the whole draft value thing, with the Patriots looking like prime candidates to trade down this year depending on how the board shakes out, let’s all just take a deep breath and remind ourselves that while trading and trading and racking up a war chest of picks is great, it’s actually doing something with them and acquiring badass football players that really matters. Just ask Danny Ainge.