All eyes are fixated on top prospects as the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer by the day. Big names like Saquon Barkley and Baker Mayfield headline almost every mock draft. A sea of cameras trail the NFL’s next most promising players. From now until April 26th, all that the media can do is sit and wait to see where college football’s brightest stars will land. From here on in they can only add to the hype and hysteria that surrounds NFL front offices.

The media in the past has brought forth stars like Carson Wentz into the light. Yet, they have done their fair share of over-hyping players. Teams like the Browns have fallen prey to such deception in the past. Though top prospects are always slated to stardom by the media, no one knows how things will play out. Because of this promising prospects can turn a team sour as easily as they can improve them.

A Good Magician Never Reveals Their Secrets

Since the dawn of the NFL, we have seen teams’ success waver over time The 1970s Steelers ruled the league with an iron fist, as well as the Cowboys in the 1990s. Since then, those teams have been remnants of their old selves. We’ve seen flashes of their former prosperity, but they have never fully returned to it.
In comes the 21st century Patriots. Since 2000 New England has made the Super Bowl eight times, more times than they have missed the playoffs (three). The only remaining figures from their Super Bowl run in 2001 are Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. So comes the question that is lodged in the brains of fans, media members, and even front office executives: how the hell have the Patriots been elite for so long? The answer is simple, but at the same time it is not. The “Patriot Way” is what makes this team so special.
Like the 31 other teams in the league, the Patriots build for the future through the draft. The words “Patriots” and “rebuilding” have not been in the same sentence for quite some time. They have never needed to undergo a full rebuild that we see so often in the league. They haven’t needed to wipe the slate clean and start anew like the Browns have needed to do so many times in the past decade. Instead of starting completely over the Patriots slowly upgrade themselves with young prospects. All these microscopic changes over time fail to turn any heads because every team does the same. This whole process is not anything new, it’s the way that the Patriots execute it that makes it work. They bring prospects in to be the future, as any team.

Courtesy of SB Nation.

The Patriot Way

But why is it that New England’s prospects are different from anyone else’s? If anything, shouldn’t they be not as good due to the Patriots consistently having low draft picks due to their success? On paper that is true, but New England has a divergent way of bringing rookies up into the league.
Coach Bill Belichick hates the noise that the media emanates. Especially when they try to act like they know football. He refuses to buy into the hype for most top prospects. He does not look at prospects for their talent, but instead how they can help the Patriots. The bottom line is that football is a team sport, and though Tom Brady is talented he cannot win on his own. Thus, the Patriots’ mantra is “do your job”. Flashiness and highlights will only get you noticed by scouts. But, Bill Belichick is willing to pass up on anyone that cannot put their team ahead of themselves.
While the cameras surround prospects slated to be first round pick, Belichick takes the road less traveled. He scouts players that are overlooked by everyone else. Why? Because they are willing to give their all to play football. That kind of fire is what is wanted in New England. Lower draft picks will fight for their career, no matter what it takes. Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Elandon Roberts are a few examples of players taken on the back end of the draft. They fought tooth and nail to even be drafted, and that discipline and determination helped them become the starters that they are today.
That same principle goes for those who go undrafted. A whopping eighteen Patriots appearing in the Super Bowl back in February went undrafted. The most famous of them all is Malcolm Butler, who set a precedent around the league to not underestimate undrafted rookies. Every player starts their career the same way. Whether it is a DI or DIII school, players all must play at the collegiate level before going pro.

Courtesy of NBC Sports.

One Man’s Trash

The New England Patriots are successful because they know what it takes to win. Sometimes a team-first attitude is more important than talent. The Patriots bring in players who are widely disregarded and convert them into key role players. All these players share one common thing: they want to prove that they can play. With determination like that anything is possible. The “Patriot Way” is not a saying, it’s a mindset. Former Patriot Kevin Faulk learned about this approach during his career in New England. In an article for The Player’s Tribune, he writes,

“The Patriot Way ain’t about nothing but winning, man. That’s it. See, Coach Belichick is the kind of guy who doesn’t care what you do on your own time. He wants you to know football and he wants you to come to work every day and do your job to the best of your ability. Anything else, he doesn’t really care.”

It might be wise to watch the undrafted pool in April, because Bill Belichick could find himself a new shiny player to electrify his team with.


Follow Mike Clement on Twitter: @MClementMedia.


Cover image courtesy of USA Today.