FOXBOROUGH – The NFL draft is like the first day of spring to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the first day of a new season.
That day was Thursday, as the first round got underway. Kraft was at Gillette Stadium as host of the team’s draft party for season ticket-holders and told them that at the end of the weekend every team owner will feel like his team got better, “but in our case, I know it to be true.”
New England began the draft with just five picks, but Kraft was confident that Bill Belichick and the front-office staff were ready for anything that might come their way.
“This is like going into a game and calling an audible all of the time, because no one knows, no one is being truthful about what they’re going to do, so you have to be prepared,” Kraft said. “I know our folks are very well prepared, have wonderful product knowledge on what the other teams are doing and what their needs are and positioned around us and we’ll see what happens.”
Belichick has made multiple trades on draft weekend each year he’s been with the Patriots, and it seems inevitable that he would do so again this year, particularly with his team lacking selections in the middle rounds.
“On paper it doesn’t look like we have a lot of ammunition, but all you need is one team that really wants [to do a trade],” Kraft said.
Shortly after the draft began, AFC East rival Miami traded up to draft pass rusher Dion Jordan, and the Jets used their first pick on cornerback Dee Milliner. The Jets used their second first-rounder on defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. But the Bills traded down — something the Patriots have long done with their first-round pick.
Kraft was unfazed by the thought that his team would not draft a player on the first night.
“You know what I’ve learned? I don’t want to win the PR battles today; I want us to have whatever works to make our team better. We have a plan of what to do and whom to pick, and at the same time, given what comes our way, we’re prepared,” he said. “We’re the only team that’s had two quarterbacks start [the season] in 20 years, we have the longest-serving head coach now, and we have a lot of experience working together and trying to continue stability and we’re not going to rush.
“We have the privilege of thinking long and doing whatever makes our team better this year and next year.”
But whichever players do end up calling Foxborough home, Kraft knows they have a lot of work ahead of them.
“I think it’s going to be very hard for someone who gets drafted to come in and start on our team. You never know, and maybe there are 2-3 players who have an opportunity to do that,” he said. “The NFL is a business of quality depth management; I’ve been saying that since the beginning.
“If you want to be successful year in and year out in this business, you have to have depth and you have to have a plan. It doesn’t happen by remote control. This is a big part of it, but a big part of it comes when the draft is over and all the homework we’ve done on all of the players who are eligible and the street free agents we’ll get. There’s an area where there’s tremendous value, probably people who could make our team in various roles.”
After addressing the crowd, Kraft called 25 police officers and first responders to the podium, all of whom had been involved with the Marathon bombings and their aftermath. Each received a game jersey with BOSTON across the shoulders and the No. 1 on the back.