Stacking the Patriots' draft board

In Thursday's weekly chat on ESPNBoston.com, KTP wrote the following:

"We all know that the Patriots generally try to use "value" as a barometer in their drafting decisions. Do you have any idea how they approach trying to quantify value. For instance do they give each prospect a number grade then simply select the highest number when it is their selection? Or do they have some sort of formula that says certain positional groupings are more valuable if the players available relatively equal? If you don't draft for need how do you decide between good players at different positions?"

This hits at one of the fundamentals of the scouting/draft process -- how teams "stack" their board.

Bill Belichick enters his 12th season in charge of the Patriots' draft. Over the years, he's detailed how the team executes its "stack", with one of the most detailed explanations coming back in 2003.

There is the vertical stack and the horizonal stack.

"When you stack your board, you're going to look vertically ... The way we do it, we look vertically by positions. Here's all the quarterbacks, here's all the tight ends, here's all the running backs," Belichick said at the time.

"[Then] horizontally across the board, you try to get some kind of value of ... This cornerback and this guard, and this linebacker and this tight end would have about the same value. They'd come in and they'd be role players for us. They're never going to be starters. Or whatever their value is.

"And so when you're sitting there trying to make your picks, you may be looking at three or four guys and they're all kind of about the same. You're five or six picks away and whichever one of these guys we end up with, we take them in this order, but we could live with any of them."

But Belichick also detailed how sometimes there is one player who is far and away above the remaining players on the board. That could spark the team to seek a trade.

"Sometimes you're sitting there and you have three or four guys in that category and you have one guy that you feel like is sitting up there and is significantly higher and you're not saying, 'Well, he's just going to come in and be a role player and he'll never be a starter.' You're saying, 'Well, this guy could come in and he's going to be a starter for us, now it might take a year and he has a little developing he has to do, but we feel like this guy can come in and he can be a starter for us.' That's when you sit there and think about, 'All right, do we want to try to jump up and get this guy if we don't think he's going to fall to us and give up whatever we have to give up to move up and get him, or do we want to stay here and hope he's on the board -- he probably won't be -- and we'll end up with one of these other guys.'

"It just comes down to draft management. Sometimes you try to trade up and get him, and [sometimes] nobody wants to trade with you and you sit there and let it come to you. That's basically the process."