Unlike last year, Patriots have flexibility early in the draft

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is scheduled to hold a pre-draft news conference Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET., and while such addresses are usually short on specifics to protect competitive advantage, it would be consistent with Belichick's past to highlight how different 2018 is from last year with of one of his favorite draft buzzwords: flexibility.

The Patriots have a lot of it.

Because of that, more options are in play for them during the 2018 NFL draft than there were last year, when they weren’t picking until early in the third round as a result of trading their first-rounder (No. 32) for receiver Brandin Cooks, then sliding back eight spots from the end of the second round (No. 64) to the early third round (No. 72) in a trade for Kony Ealy.

Belichick and the Patriots staff essentially were bystanders through two rounds, but they won’t be this year, and that’s just the way Belichick likes it. They can attack this draft, and most likely will do just that.

With two first-rounders (23, 31), two second-rounders (43, 63), a third-rounder (95), two sixth-rounders (198, 210) and a seventh-rounder (219), Belichick has chips to move up if the right opportunity presents itself, or to move back.

History shows he does both depending on how the board falls.

Consider that the Patriots have made 20 draft-day trades to move up in Belichick’s 18 years overseeing the draft.

He also has made 21 draft-day trades to move down.

And when factoring in draft-day trades involving players and/or future considerations, he’s made an additional 21.

Of Belichick’s 18 drafts, there was only one -- in 2004 -- in which he didn’t make a single draft-day trade.

One of the last times that Belichick held a pre-draft news conference was 2010, as he has passed on the responsibility to director of player personnel Nick Caserio in recent years. One of the first things Belichick noted in 2010 was how the team had four picks in the first two rounds (the same as this year) which “certainly gives us the ability to move from where we’re at if we feel that’s the right thing to do.”

Setting up those trade opportunities is often done in advance. As Belichick said in 2010, because there are only 10 minutes per selection in the first round, “you don’t have time to call 31 teams, it’s not an efficient way to operate.” So preliminary conversations take place leading up to the draft that gauge a team’s interest in either moving up or down.

Most teams around the NFL know this by now, but Belichick is always open for trade business -- up or down. But a little reminder never hurts, and so it wouldn't be a surprise if Belichick uses his morning news conference to spread that word once again across the NFL.