Dedication to finding value in every move has football fans asking, “What comes after a dynasty?”
The Patriots just completed the greatest regular season in the history of football, and perhaps even American sports as a whole. Their mission is far from done, with three more victories required to make it the greatest season ever, but there’s something else I want to talk about: what comes after February 3rd?
The Pats, having lost their own first round pick due to that pesky little “spygate” issue, would feel the heat of not having a first rounder of their own this off-season, except that the 49ers bailed them out by essentially giving away the 7th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. In a sad twist for the rest of the NFL, not only did the Patriots turn the 28th pick in the 2007 Draft into the #7 pick in 2008, they acquired a 4th rounder last year as a side note–a side note they turned into #81, Randy Moss.
With such a high pick, what should New England do?
Given that they have an overall excess of talent, and if they choose to do so can re-sign or improve their roster through free agency to the point where almost every position will be filled prior to the draft, they have a few options:
Select a potential stud with their pick, taking the best available player, perhaps filling a need for a young middle linebacker with Ohio State LB James Laurinaitis.
Trade down, picking up extra assets to help continue their incredible run of success since Adam Vinatieri made them champions against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Currently Dallas is the only team with multiple first rounders (#22 from the Browns and their own pick, still to be determined based on their playoff finish), but trade activity should pick up in the months leading up to the draft, giving teams a chance to net an extra first rounder or other attractive assets that would allow the Pats to move down and still pick up a quality player in the first round.
Based on their history under Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli, I would expect the Pats to eschew option #2 for either option #1 or #3, with an inclination towards #3. Stockpiling young players with great talent is always nice, but especially when you avoid paying top-dollar–which is what a top-5 pick costs. Instead of paying one player $40 or $50 million over 6 years, why not trade down and get three or four players for the same cost?
Squeezing the most possible value out of every opportunity–via the draft, trades, or free agency–is the foundation of the philosophy that has led to the question “What comes after a dynasty?” getting airtime on the NFL Network, while the man who once led the opposing viewpoint, Mike Ditka, is out of coaching and his pick-who-would-be-king, Ricky Williams, will likely continue his epic odyssey for a new team in 2008.