Superman has kryptonite.
Bill Belichick has receivers.
The New England Patriots' long-time boss is widely regarded as the best coach in the NFL and one of its best team-builders. With a little help from a guy named Tom Brady, he constructed and coached rosters that won six Super Bowls in New England.
But those titles were won not because of his talent evaluation of receivers, but rather despite it. In his pursuit of using the NFL Draft to fill his roster with productive long-lasting receivers, Belichick’s inefficacy is as legendary as his success as a coach.
After Belichick took over in 2000, it was not until his third draft with the Patriots that he elected to use a selection on a wideout. Deion Branch was the first receiver drafted under Belichick’s regime in the second round of the 2002 draft. David Givens was drafted four rounds later that same year, leaving New England looking pretty shrewd in evaluating the position.
What transpired afterward, however, is one of the most historically disastrous efforts in draft evaluation history. It is a collection on unprecedented levels in which their results yielded close to nothing.
Since 2000, the Patriots have drafted 18 receivers. Only Branch and Julian Edelman highlight a group that otherwise is filled with a complete fiasco of failures. Included in that group of high-round busts: Chad Jackson (2006), Brandon Tate (2009), Taylor Price (2010), Aaron Dobson (2013), Malcolm Mitchell (2016) and N'Keal Harry (2019). Harry, taken 32nd overall, is even in jeopardy of not making the final roster this season.
(To be fair, Belichick did acquire a couple of nifty receivers named Wes Welker and Randy Moss.)
Entering next month's training camp, the Patriots' receivers include a trade (DeVante Parker), free agents (Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne), undrafted free agents (Jakobi Meyers) and another high draft pick in Tyquan Thornton.
Thornton, of course, has blazing speed. But can he out-run New England's woeful past of drafted receivers?