Patriots president Jonathan Kraft joined ESPNBoston.com Radio (Listen here Monday-Friday, noon-2 p.m.) for a wide-ranging, 21-minute interview with host Adam Jones on the Patriots' draft philosophy, why he thinks his team is in a better position than any other for this year's draft, his take on the lockout and much more. Click HERE to listen to the full interview.
Here are a few of his comments from the interview:
• What areas are you looking to upgrade?:
“As we approach the draft with the core of our team probably in a better place in terms of certainty than any other team in the league and [having] 3 of the first 33 [picks] and 6 of the first 92, we can really afford to do whatever we think makes sense at the moment. That’s why I think this weekend will be very dynamic for us.”
• Kraft on the team’s overall draft philosophy:
“The last couple of drafts we’ve been able to do a good job of both getting players as well as stockpiling picks. If you have a lot of currency going into a draft and still feel certain about a guy ... Like last year, Devin [McCourty] was our guy. We traded down a couple of times because we understood who was beneath us and we were willing to take a risk based on what we thought their needs were and who they had seen that Devin would still be there and would allow us to [trade down to get him and] stockpile [additional picks].
“We were lucky that Devin was down in New Jersey in a [Rutgers] program that Bill [Belichick] knows well with a head coach that he knows well. And thus he was able to get a lot of one on one time with the kid. When you can have a situation like that, that’s perfect. Where you don’t think that other teams have as much information as you do and you can trade down, still get the guy you had targeted at a position of need and end up with extra picks.
“Now we have to be good enough this year to take advantage of those picks with good talent to bring into the team, while still hopefully overstocking for the next couple years.”
• Does criticism of the Patriots’ recent trend of trading down bother you?:
“No, it doesn’t, I think that’s the beauty of being a fan. ... We have traded up before in the first round, that’s not an unusual thing to do. … You think about ’07. We came out of that season with I believe the oldest starting defense in the NFL, and one of the things that we wanted to do coming out of that draft was to get younger on defense, but a goal of this organization is to stay competitive.
“We left that ’07 season and since then we’ve added guys on defense through the draft, like Jerod Mayo, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Brandon Spikes, Darius Butler, Jermaine Cunningham. We went 16-0 [in 2007], we took a step back [in 2008] to 11-5 without Tom Brady, 10-6 [in 2009], 14-2 [in 2010] while we’ve assembled that talent
• Kraft on the risks of trading up into the top 10:
“Bill has total authority to do whatever he thinks is in the best long-term interest of this team. Period. And the only time money gets factored into it … money is not a constraint, the constraint is the salary cap. ...
“Those top 10 picks, you better be 100 percent right -- [Jerod] Mayo is the one guy we’ve taken up there and we felt very strongly about him -- but you better be 100 percent right because otherwise you can truly cripple your team by using one of those top picks on a player. ... If you’re going to move from the bottom third of the round up to the top 5 or 10 picks, it’s going to take currency in future draft picks and you’re going to be committing a lot of money against your cap for somebody that’s not a proven commodity and that’s a risk."
• What’s the value of your first second-round pick (No. 33 overall), which is the first pick of Day 2 of the draft?:
“I think it’s an extremely valuable position to be in. Teams are going to look at their boards, at the players that are still left, who’s drafting ahead of them in the second round, and hopefully there’s somebody there who says ‘we need that pick; we need to be certain we put this player on our team.’ But we may have a situation where there’s somebody sitting on the board where we say ‘no matter what somebody gives us it’s not going to be enough because we never expected that guy to be there.’ Those are going to be great options to weigh.”
• Kraft's perspective on the NFL lockout:
“This isn’t going to get solved in a court system through litigation, it’s got to get solved at a negotiating table through negotiations. Negotiations sometimes are difficult, tedious and painful. But unless two sides are sitting at a table looking at each other in the eye and talking to each other, it’s hard to ultimately get to the finish line.
“We were sitting at the bargaining table when the players chose to stand up, walk away and decertify and file an antitrust lawsuit, and that’s why we’re in court right now. I think that little fact gets lost in a lot of the rhetoric. We were sitting at a mediation table in Washington. The party that got up from that table and took action first was the players’ association. That’s just a fact. It bothers me when people point to the lockout. The lockout was a response to that to protect out legal rights once another side had chosen to do that. We much prefer to be sitting at the table [negotiating].”
• Looking back, do you feel you got good value in trading away Richard Seymour (which resulted in the Patriots getting the No. 17 pick from the Raiders in this year’s draft)?:
“I think you have to wait and see what we’re able to do with that pick. Obviously Richard had been a huge part of this team ... but it was becoming apparent to us that we probably weren’t going to be able to sign him long term. There was one year left [on his contract] and how do you go out and get the most value? Because if you lose him in free agency and get a compensatory pick it’s a third. Was there an opportunity to do something better? It was a very tough decision. This is what we thought gave us the best opportunity for long term value. ...
“Talk to me in three years after we see what we’ve been able to do with the pick. Then I’ll tell you whether it was the right decision.”