I was talking today to Brian Woods, commissioner of the first-year FXFL, about the kickoff of his new league and the start of play this weekend. In the course of our speaking, he proudly mentioned several recent signees that were with NFL teams this summer.

“We just signed Jeremy Gallon, who was out of Michigan and drafted by the Patriots this year,” Brian said. “In fact, we have two players the Patriots drafted this year in our league.”

That statement really gave me pause. The fact that both OG Jon Halapio (6/179) and Gallon (7/244) are not only ex-Patriots, but not even in the NFL anymore, was not lost on me. In fact, it reminded me of a conversation I had with an AFC Director of College Scouting at the combine this spring. He was discussing scouting in general, and mentioned that New England, despite the fact the Belichick brand is still one of the strongest in football, has failed to find talent the way it used to.

“Some of the players they took this spring we had as undrafted free agents,” he said. “I mean, in the fourth and fifth round, I had guys calling me saying, ‘can you believe the guy the Patriots just took?’ It’s been like that the last few seasons. It’s going to take a toll on them.”

You’ve probably read a lot about Tom Brady’s struggles this season, and in some quarters it’s become fashionable to ask if he’s done. But let’s look at the receivers the team has put on the field in the last 2-3 years. Just this week, the team cut Kenbrell Thompkins, a player they were starting last season. Aaron Dobson, a second-rounder in ’13, has been a healthy scratch several times this season. Meanwhile, though they’re carrying Josh Boyce (4/102/2013) on their practice squad, he’s far from a contributing member of their offense. Their 2012 seventh-round WR Jeremy Ebert is out of the league.

In the old days, the Pats were finding players like Deion Branch (2/65/2002) in the early rounds and Troy Brown (8/198/1993) in the latter rounds. Things have become so dire that they’re having to plug the holes in their receiving corps by signing castoffs from other teams like Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell. In fairness, it’s rare that a team has a starting tight sent away on murder charges, and the injuries that have kept Rob Gronkowski off the field have been particularly damaging. 

Still, injuries are part of the game, and when you roll the dice on players flagged for character issues, those decisions could blow up in your face. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots’ scouting department can right the ship in time to give aging Brady one last shot at a title.

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