The Belichick strikes again!
The chicken littles came out when in force when Nate Solder left the Patriots in free agency. “How could they let him go”, and “No one on the team can replace him.” Sprinkle in a couple “You gotta protect Tom Brady!”
So what does he do? Does he overpay for some of the other departing free agents in a panic? Does he sign marginal free agents in hopes that they stick? No, he waits. And he waits. Then when the moment and the situation is right, he strikes! Selecting Isaiah Wynn to join the team and recently resigned LaAdrian Waddle. Ok, the littles got a little quieter. “But, he’s a rookie” and “He should play guard,” joined the chorus.
Then Friday morning of the draft, news broke that the Patriots traded with the San Francisco 49ers to acquire right tackle Trent Brown. The internet was abuzz with the new look of the Patriots offensive line and what the position coach, Dante Scarnecchia, was going to be working with in training camp. So, who is Trent Brown? Is he going to protect the blind side? Why was he traded? Will we be hearing his name in February as a starter in the Super Bowl or a surprise cut in August?
Trent Brown was one of those nondescript draft picks, number 244 in the seventh round. If there were any remarks about the developmental prospect, it centered around how large he was for a player. 355 pounds of a tackle is both a blessing and a curse. While the weight will help to anchor and provide blocking power it can also lead to sloppy technique and lack of conditioning. His college career also was that of a young man still learning. He played at junior college Georgia Military College before enrolling at Florida. Brown would start at both tackle and guard before entering the draft in 2015
Proving that everyone’s football journey is different, Trent Brown actually started the last two games of his rookie season. He followed that up by starting all sixteen games in his sophomore season. This is an accomplishment for any player, let alone a seventh-round pick.
Are the Patriots getting a raw prospect that uses his bulk to overpower smaller opponents? If anything, the opposite. While his run blocking could use some refinement and improvement, his pass blocking is near elite. PFF graded his injury-shortened 2017 at 86.0, good enough for third on the year. Only Joe Thomas and Jason Peter graded out higher. Good company.
And consider this widely circulated quote from Von Miller. “He’s the best right tackle in the National Football League. And he may even be a top-five tackle, period, in the National Football League. There’s not another tackle who’s that tall, that big and can move the way he moves.” I’ll take it.
So how did the Patriots manage to score such a prize? For merely moving back two rounds they have a mountain of a man that could become an elite left tackle for the best quarterback in the NFL. The dreaded regime change. Kyle Shanahan took over the 49ers before the 2017 season. There were some rumors about toughness and ability to play through injury that will have to be monitored. The biggest factor to me is that Shanahan likes to move his tackles and guards around. Pull them for blocking assignments and get them to the second level. And while Brown is very athletic and agile for his size it still is difficult for a man his size to do the things Shanahan asks of his linemen.
Don’t think the Patriots acquired damaged goods or a disgruntled player. Think that they are getting a superb pass blocker that is an ascending player. If he wins the left tackle or right tackle job or some other combination of personnel, he will make his presence known.