The “Patriot way” was something Bob wanted to distance himself from
Much ado has been made about “the Patriot way” since Bob Quinn first arrived in Detroit back in January. In his introductory press conference, Quinn did his best to distance himself from that narrative. “I’m not going to try to come in here and cut and paste everything we did with the Patriots,” he said, “We will create our own identity.” However, Quinn has only been here for a little over three months, and has had little time to shape that identity. I must say – so far, his moves seem to have been inspired by the New England philosophy. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; there’s a reason they’ve won four of the past sixteen Super Bowls. Part of that reason is their focus on defense, particularly in the early rounds. If the Patriot way is any indication of how Quinn will draft, he could forgo the offensive line and take defensive players in the first two rounds.
From 2000-15, the same time-frame in which Quinn was employed by the team, the Patriots had fifteen first round picks. Ten of those selections were defensive players. Of those ten, seven made Pro Bowls, All-Pro teams, or both. (Those seven players have combined for 18 Pro Bowls and nine All-Pro teams.) This means that New England has had success at finding Pro Bowl defenders in the first round at a 70% clip. By comparison, the league-wide average for that time period – in which 252 defenders were taken and just 101 went on to make Pro Bowls – was 40%.
Detroit, on the other hand, had nineteen first round picks from 2000-2015, and used only four to take a defensive player. Two of them turned out to be Pro Bowlers (Suh and Ansah), but they still weren’t nearly as successful at drafting Pro Bowl defensive talent as the Patriots. During this span, the Patriots (66.67%) took a defensive player in the first about three times more frequently than the Lions (21.1%) did. Their record during that time period was 187-69. Detroit’s? 87-169 – a full hundred games worse. During those years, the Patriots also spent 13 of their 22 second rounders on defense, which is a rate of 59%. In eleven drafts in which they held at least one first round pick and one second pick, they went defense in both rounds six times. It’s said that defense wins championships, and this dichotomy seems to reinforce that notion.
The “Patriot way” drafts defense early
What might be more telling is the Patriot tendency to shy away from taking offensive linemen in the first two rounds. In only two of thirteen eligible drafts did they take an offensive lineman in the first round (they’ve taken a tight end in the first just as often). In just three of fourteen eligible drafts did they take one the second round. There is not a good precedent for the Patriots going O-line early.
This draft class has a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, especially along the line. However, it is not a great year at offensive tackle. The Lions have a need there, but they’re at an odd position in the draft. The top three tackles figure to be gone by no. 16. The next tier of guys represent a significant drop-off, and are reaches at that point, but most of them also project to be off the board by the time Detroit picks in the second. Don’t forget, the Lions also have needs along the defensive line and at strong safety. If Quinn feels as if he can get a first round talent at no. 46, or if there’s a player he really loves there, don’t be surprised if he goes defense back-to-back. It’s the Patriot way.