FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was a guest on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s “Movin’ the Chains” program Wednesday, and here are four things we learned from the interview:
1. Vincent Valentine helps fill the Akiem Hicks void. Third-round defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (6-foot-3⅝, 329 pounds) of Nebraska was one of the biggest players in the draft, and the team will be focusing on his conditioning as he arrives in town. “This guy is a big, strong guy who played against some pretty good players -- [Iowa’s Austin] Blythe, [Michigan State’s Jack] Allen -- in the Big Ten. And he’s a massive guy. We’ll get him in here, try to get him going early, get him in shape and try to take advantage of the things he does well.”
“Last year, we kind of played the rotation there -- we had Hicks, Branch and Brown -- and they gave us some good play on the interior of the defense. All those guys are probably a little bit more run defenders, just in terms of their size and strength, and ability to control the line of scrimmage. So, at some point, you’re probably going to have to do a couple things: run the ball and stop the run.
“To be able to have some guys on the interior that we think can help us in that capacity, we lost Hicks in free agency, we have Malcom and Alan coming back and we were able to sign Terrance and add Vincent into that mix. So those are big guys, and they help you on the interior part of your defense in a couple different ways: No. 1, run defense, and No. 2, they might be able to free some things up on the perimeter.”
2. Jacoby Brissett improved with ball security. The Patriots like to see players improve and Caserio noted how the quarterback had 17 fumbles as a junior and “a lot of that is just moving the ball in the pocket.” In his senior season at NC State, Caserio noted that “he cut that down to four”, which is the type of improvement the club wants to see. The Patriots brought Brissett to town before the draft and were “very impressed” as he struck them as “very mature.” “Football is very, very important to him,” Caserio said.
3. Joe Thuney arrived on the team’s radar at his pro day. Offensive-line coach Dante Scarnecchia spent time with the third-round pick at NC State’s pro day and “came away really impressed with his overall mental aptitude and position versatility.” That’s when the team’s interest in Thuney (No. 78 overall) intensified.
4. Belichick-Payton dynamic triggered initial draft-day trade. The Patriots’ initial trade on Friday (the draft's second day), in which they shipped their second-round pick (61) to the New Orleans Saints for a third-rounder (78) and fourth-rounder (112), was a result of the two head coaches working together. “Coach [Bill] Belichick was on the phone with Coach [Sean] Payton as we were making the pick there, so we made the trade with New Orleans,” Caserio relayed.