INDIANAPOLIS -- What we learned from Thursday's media session with Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio:
1. Deep draft for receivers. Caserio pointed out that this year marked the highest number of underclassmen to ask for an evaluation from the NFL, and the number of underclassmen in the draft has strengthened the depth of the overall class. As for where the draft is strong, Caserio started with the receiver position. He also noted the offensive line and front seven on defense.
2. A lot of sub defense. When analyzing the important issue of what base defense the Patriots might play -- 4-3 or 3-4 -- Caserio re-directed the topic by noting that the Patriots were in their sub packages about 65-70 percent of the time in 2011. This echoed remarks made by Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland earlier in the day with Miami's defense. This shouldn't sweep the 4-3/3-4 issue under the locker room rug -- after all, it was important enough for Bill Belichick to make significant changes in 2011 with no offseason to teach the 3-4 -- but it is an interesting stat to spotlight.
3. No getting specific on contract talks. Caserio didn't get into details on contract talks with some of the team's free agents (he pointed out there are 17 players scheduled to hit the market). When asked about defensive ends Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, he said the team got "real good production" from both in 2011.
4. Nothing to report on retirement chatter. When asked about reports and speculation that offensive linemen Matt Light and Brian Waters could retire, Caserio said the team is at an early point in the offseason and more time is needed. "You deal with it as it comes. Whatever happens, happens. Right now, we're just focused on the draft and getting ready for free agency. Then, we'll worry about everything else," he said.
5. Offseason program to begin April 16. In a change from years past, the offseason program now doesn't start until mid-April. "Really, the offseason program doesn't start until April 16 when players can show up in your building, and the OTA's start a few weeks after that," he said. "We're two or three months before we step onto the field with whatever players we're going to have on our team. We're taking our time and we're not in any rush to do anything at this point."
6. How scouting was affected by Super Bowl. Playing into early February has some members of the organization playing catch-up on the draft. "I would say where we are in terms of the timetable, we're probably about at the same spot [with scouts and personnel men]; as far as maybe as coaches getting involved in the evaluations and some of that process, maybe we're a little bit further behind because of the efforts were geared in another direction," Caserio said, praising the team's scouting staff.
7. Doesn't appear to be changes on the coaching staff. Caserio deferred questions on the makeup of the coaching staff to Bill Belichick. At the same time, he indicated that other than offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien (Penn State) and tight ends coach Brian Ferentz (Iowa) departing, "there hasn’t been too much change."
8. No ruling out a free agent based on his agent. Would the Patriots potentially not pursue a free agent because they have a past disagreement with an agent? Caserio answered a variation of that question, which could have been tied to receiver Brandon Lloyd (who is repped by Tom Condon). "As long as I've been in the position I've been in, we've never ruled out a player based on who their agent is," Caserio said. "I talk to agents all throughout the course of the fall, whether it's about bringing in [a player] for a workout, whatever the case may be. I'd say we have a good working relationship with a number of agents, and we deal with them on a daily basis. We're never going to rule a player out because of who their agent is. We never have and we're not going to."