Bill Belichick may be the best coach in the NFL. If not, he's the most sainted figure who ever went six years without winning a Super Bowl.
The appeal is that he keeps his team in the playoffs almost every year and seems to be thinking a step ahead of everyone else in terms of building his roster.
Take the selection of Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett in the draft.
Got him in the third round, No. 74 overall. Belichick was hailed as the man who can turn around a head case, allowing an attitude-challenged talent to mature behind Tom Brady until Mallett suddenly sees the light and blossoms into the next great one.
Surely Mallett is in a better situation than the four quarterbacks who went in the first round -- Cam Newton (No. 1 to Carolina), Jake Locker (No. 8 to Tennessee), Blaine Gabbert (No. 10 to Jacksonville) and Christian Ponder (No. 12 to Minnesota).
Given that Mallett backing up Brady is like Aaron Rodgers waiting behind Brett Favre, there's a case to be made that he is also better off than second-round picks Andy Dalton (No. 35 to Cincinnati) and Colin Kaepernick (No. 36 to the 49ers).
The true genius of Belichick, however, won't come when Mallett takes over after Brady steps aside.
Instead, Belichick waits a couple years, keeping a tight lid on any issues he has with Mallett, praising him in public. The quarterback will flourish in a preseason game or two, and maybe even in injury relief of Brady during the regular season.
Then the Patriots take what was a third-round pick and trade him for a first-round pick. Belichick is deified all over again without ever having turned around the wayward talent that got him all that positive ink in the first place, and acquiring an unknown commodity in the exchange.
Keep it up, and Belichick can go a few more years without winning a Super Bowl and still wear his crown.
Now here's an educated guess at how the Raiders and 49ers ranked within their divisions in the draft:
1. Oakland: Went with skill over production (cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke in third) and had usual projects (tight end Richard Gordon in sixth, receiver David Ausberry in seventh). But the Raiders also went to the heart of their problems -- offensive line (Stefen Wisniewski, Joe Barksdale) and secondary (Chimdi Chekwa and Van Dyke), and all appear to be mature and willing to learn.
2. Denver: No. 2 overall pick Von Miller gets a lot better if Elvis Dumervil is recovered from a torn pectoral. Free safety Rahim Moore of UCLA was the draft's best center fielder and will learn from veteran Brian Dawkins. Tackle Orlando Franklin (second round) could start immediately. Value pick in seventh round is Nevada tight end Virgil Green.
3. San Diego: Not sure why they passed on a true nose tackle in Phil Taylor in favor of Corey Liuget in Round 1 when they run a 3-4. Third-round pick Jonas Mouton is the kind of player who could thrive in that system, however.
4. Kansas City: Took an imposing head case wide receiver (Pitt's Jonathan Baldwin) to go with their existing imposing head case wide receiver (Dwayne Bowe). Third-round pick Justin Houston reportedly flunked a drug test. The new Raiders. Good value on Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi in the fifth round.
1. Arizona: Kudos for passing on all non-Newton quarterbacks in favor of LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, my favorite player in the draft. Running back Ryan Williams and tight end Robert Housler will help whatever quarterback the Cardinals land in free agency.
2. 49ers: Seems like a lot of positional switches and adjustments (including top pick Aldon Smith), which could be a problem if the lockout drags on. Kaepernick is immediately the people's choice at quarterback. Running back Kendall Hunter will keep Frank Gore fresh.
3. St. Louis: Really thought one of the first three picks should be on someone to give running back Steven Jackson some much needed rest. The top pick, defensive end Robert Quinn, didn't play football last year.
4. Seattle: Is it just me, or did Alabama coach Nick Saban appear to be flabbergasted when the Seahawks took Crimson Tide lineman James Carpenter with their first pick? An uninspiring crop on its face, although seventh-round pick Lazarius Levingston may have the draft's best name.
Jumping to conclusions
The Lions suddenly have a clue.
Reading between the lines, Raiders coach Hue Jackson thinks that might be the case, as well.
"I didn't see Sam Bradford. I didn't see Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan," Jackson said. "That's just my opinion."
Jones cost the Falcons their No. 27 pick, second- and fourth-round choices this year and first- and fourth-round picks in 2012.
Contact Jerry McDonald at email@example.com.