Patriots coach Bill Belichick was a guest on Sirius NFL Radio’s “Movin’ the Chains” program with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller this afternoon, and he shared insight on the NFL Draft.
Some of the highlights from this perspective:
Front-7 evaluations could eventually define success. In the final analysis, this is the area that Belichick believes could define the draft. “I think that’s really going to be a key part in this whole draft. I think when we look back on it in a couple of years, and evaluate it, it will probably come down to which teams are able to evaluate those front-7 positions the best. There are going to be a lot of those players taken high, whether they [are] defensive linemen or defensive ends/outside linebackers.” When it comes to the defensive ends/outside linebackers, Belichick then pointed out a trend in college football; there simply aren't a lot of true linebackers at the end of the line of scrimmage who play in a two-point stance. "You have to make that decision, with the Robert Quinns and the Justin Houstons of the world, and all those guys, how well you think they can play on their feet, or how much you want to play them down. We dealt with that last year when we drafted Jermaine Cunningham, but when you look through the league, just about everybody's got those players. Last year, it was Koa Misi down to Miami. You just have to project how well those guys are going to be able to play on their feet, or how much you want to play them down, and treat them pretty much as defensive ends even though you have a 3-4 base defense. Those are tough decisions, tough evaluations, but they are every year."
Patriots and trades. Belichick pointed out that “we’ve definitely been contacted by teams below us, offering [us] to move back, and [teams] seeing if we want to move up into a better position. Of course, that usually doesn’t get finalized until draft day, but there definitely seems to be a lot of interest in our draft picks. As you know, we’re not afraid to trade them.”
Having the 28th and 33rd picks. The Patriots have selections close to each other – 28 and 33 – and Belichick touched on that dynamic. “We kind of have two picks there, pretty close to each other, and sometimes that has some dynamics – it’s one of two spots somebody can move into, instead of just one. One way or another, if teams want to deal, I think we’ll be one of the teams that they might want to talk to.” Belichick added that there are plenty of good players on the board and the goal is “sooner or later [to] convert those into productive players. That’s really our goal, to take those three days and improve our football team and get better football players on the team. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”
Quarterbacks on Belichick’s mind. Belichick referenced the league-wide interest in the quarterback position. It sounds like he thinks that’s a key in this draft. “It will be interesting to see how the whole quarterback thing plays out and how quickly those quarterbacks come off the board. It seems like there are a number of teams interested in them. That may or may not have an effect on the [trade] movement in the first round, relative to that position.”
Bigger corners in this draft. Belichick mentioned that "this is a year where there are more bigger corners, guys who are 5-10, 5-11, or 6-feet than we've seen at a long time at that position. At least 80 percent of the corners on everyone's board would be in that category, which is not always the case." On the flip side, Belichick noted that this is a year with a lot of smaller running backs.
Depth along the lines. Belichick pointed to defensive line and offensive line as positions of good depth in the draft. "The offensive tackle is a very interesting board," he said. Part of what makes it interesting is that there is less concern with a group of tackles when projecting them to guard than what there would normally be.
Draft board taking shape. Belichick said the Patriots are at the stage where they are establishing their final values and going through final medical checks. “Then you get to the last couple of days before the draft and you really can start to formulate some draft strategy based on other teams, other needs, and the calls you start getting.”
Weeding through misinformation. Belichick said teams can gather information right up until draft day, but he stressed that the “most important thing that a player has is his 3 or 4 years of production and performance. That carries a lot of weight and that’s already in the books. That plays the biggest role in where the player’s actual value [ends up].”