FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots have undergone significant change on their coaching staff in 2019, which head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged has changed the way the team has scouted prospects for the 2019 NFL draft.
Belichick, who was in a chattier mood than some might have expected, said at his Wednesday pre-draft news conference that there has been less scouting involvement from coaches compared to past years. Offsetting that, however, is the continued work of a scouting department that remains intact, led by director of player personnel Nick Caserio.
Belichick opened his news conference with a statement that lasted 6 minutes and 30 seconds, and it detailed how the 43-year-old Caserio, a onetime stockbroker who often keeps CNBC on his office television, has one of the organization's most important roles.
Whether it is players who are already in the NFL or college prospects entering the draft, Caserio "literally sees every player," according to Belichick. Caserio also takes part in all coaching staff meetings during the year.
"So it gives us a tremendous opportunity for him to connect with the coaches and understand the schematics of what's going on with the coaching side of it, and to try to integrate and correlate the players we're evaluating on all different levels," Belichick said.
That makes Caserio's role unique across the NFL and especially critical in a year when the Patriots are tied for an NFL high with 12 draft picks, with six landing in the top 101.
Belichick said one of the biggest challenges in preparing for the draft is whittling down a high total of players to a manageable number -- "several thousand to call it 100 or so in the final analysis." A record 135 college underclassmen are part of this year's draft, surpassing the mark of 119 from last year.
He said one of the strains of the process is a "continuing smaller sliver to evaluate players," which was a reference, in part, to college pro days being condensed to about a two-week period. As a result, Belichick said director of pro scouting Dave Ziegler and members of his staff chipped in more on college scouting this year.
When you are tied for an NFL high with 12 draft picks, with six in the top 101 ... pic.twitter.com/oh0RsyjeQh— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) April 10, 2019
Belichick also praised the work of director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort for a yearlong effort, saying Ossenfort and his staff deserve a lot of credit for the success the team has had. Nancy Meier, the team's director of scouting administration entering her 45th season with the franchise, was recognized for her exemplary work, as was college scouting coordinator Brian Smith.
Speaking about Greg Schiano's departure from the coaching staff and how that has affected scouting, Belichick said: "We're not talking about an unprecedented event here. We've dealt with changes before and continue to deal with them."
Belichick said the club will continue to host college prospects at Gillette Stadium this week and into next week before pulling together all film, character and medical evaluations for the draft on April 25-27 (ESPN and ESPN app) in Nashville, Tennessee.
The result is hopefully to come away with "as good a predictor as possible as to how the player will fit in and perform on our team, and in our system, in New England regardless of what the league value is for the player. It's really what the player can do for us is what the final evaluation goal we're trying to achieve."