FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Say this about Bill Belichick, he knows what he wants.
Football pundits and fans often scratch their heads when the New England Patriots make their selections in the NFL draft, but Belichick has always done what he thinks is best for his team.
That was obvious in this year’s draft. The Patriots had some needs, especially in the secondary and at wide receiver.
New England certainly addressed them, but not necessarily with the players everyone expected.
In the first four rounds, the Patriots drafted two wide receivers and two defensive backs. If you thought going into the draft that those players would be Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce on offense and Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon on defense, then you should be working for ESPN or the NFL Network.
But these are exactly the type of players Belichick and the Patriots were looking for.
Dobson, 6-foot-3, 203 pounds from Marshall, and Boyce, 5-11, 203 pounds from Texas Christian, bring size and speed on the outside. Ryan, a cornerback, and Harmon, a safety, bring a nasty edge to a secondary that too often played soft.
Beyond that, they’re considered very smart players. And that’s something Belichick values highly.
Overseeing what many people consider one of the most complicated systems in the NFL — both offensively and defensively — Belichick needs his players to be able to make quick decisions while action blurs around them.
Speaking on the NFL Network during Saturday’s fifth round, Belichick spoke highly of all his picks, including linebacker Jamie Collins of Southern Mississippi, the potential sack master Pats fans have clamored for. That, of course, is expected.
But it’s what Belichick said that was most impressive.
Talking about Dobson and Boyce, Belichick called them “smart and mature.”
The Patriots passing game is predicated on both Tom Brady and his receivers reading the defense and making adjustments after the ball is snapped. Belichick obviously thinks these players can do that.
Boyce, in fact, said as much in his conference call with the New England media.
“I’m really smart, so I think I can pick up things pretty quick,” said Boyce, who left TCU after three years after earning a degree in sociology. “I see a lot of things before they happen, so I think my mind is what’s working for me a lot of times.”
Belichick spoke very highly of Dobson after drafting him Friday. The two met before the draft, reviewed film (as did Collins, Ryan and Harmon), and talked extensively about football.
“He had a good understanding and grasp of learning, taking new information, processing that and being able to understand it and apply it,” said Belichick. “Tell him something and then see a play a few plays later and say, ‘What would you do on this play if they did this, they did that?’ There’s different ways to measure all that, but he’s a pretty impressive kid. He’s a mature kid. He’s smart.”
Oh yeah, they have talent, too. Check out Dobson on YouTube and you’ll see one of the most spectacular catches anyone has ever made. And consider this about Boyce: he ran an eye-opening 4.38 in the 40 at the NFL combine — on a broken foot. He later had surgery to repair a fracture at the base of his small toe. He’s a physical marvel who might be a huge steal in the fourth round.
Of Ryan and Harmon — who many draft experts thought might go undrafted — Belichick said they were involved “in a pro-style defense” at Rutgers and played well in it. Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty played with them at Rutgers and let Belichick know what type of kids they are.
“Devin kind of raised them,” said Belichick, who thinks very highly of McCourty.
Harmon, who said he was watching the draft as a fan Friday night, not necessarily expecting a call, said playing at Rutgers has prepared him and Ryan well. Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, now head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ran a pro-style system. “We prepare like professionals at Rutgers, that’s something he’s instilled in all of us,” said Harmon.
And Belichick likes tapping into that. He went back to Rutgers and took inside linebacker Steve Beauharnais with the team’s last pick in the seventh round.
Beauharnais was asked about his work habits. “Film study,” he said. “I put a lot of work and dedication into my craft.”
Just what Belichick wants to hear.
Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: