FOXBOROUGH -- Bill Belichick knows whom he does and doesn't like in next weekend's draft. He knows the player(s) he wants in the first round. He knows what he would like to do, and he knows what he will not do (such as trade up 15 spots in the first round to No. 6). Above all, he knows not whom the 20 teams drafting ahead of the Patriots like and don't like, whom they want, what they'd like to do, and what they won't do.
So, to some extent, Belichick is like many of us -- pretty much in the dark until a week from Saturday, when a lot of mock drafts will be ruined.
"You never know," Belichick said yesterday. That's even more true this year, because the mystery starts right at the top with San Diego and Oakland. "And the further back you are," Belichick continued, "then the less predictable it is. And teams move. Right now, we're behind Miami. Are we going to be behind Miami on draft day? I don't know. Maybe somebody else will move up, maybe [Miami] will move up. Who knows?
"I don't think you can sit here today and try to predict, `Well, we think so-and-so is going to be there.' That's just wishful thinking."
The Patriots coach reiterated that he isn't giving any thought to dealing both his first-rounders (21 and 32), one of his two second-rounders, and a fourth to Detroit for the sixth overall pick and the Lions' fourth in order to draft University of Miami safety Sean Taylor, as rumored, or any trade with Detroit, for that matter. Belichick even called the reported scenario "ridiculous."
"Won't happen," he said. "There's no way . . . I'm not saying it's a bad trade. That's just not something that we would be interested in doing . . . I don't even want it out there that we would be considering that. To me, it would be embarrassing to even think about that."
If Belichick is looking to get into the top 10, he's going no higher than No. 7, which, for now, belongs to Cleveland. "It's not going to be six," Belichick said. "I think you can rule out five, four, three, two, and one, too."
Denver has already swapped first-round picks with Cincinnati and moved up seven spots to No. 17. Whatever moves, up or down, the Patriots make in Round 1 likely won't happen until draft day. "We don't have any set plans where we're going to go somewhere or not go somewhere, but if the opportunity's there, we all know we're not afraid to do that," Belichick said. "If that's what we think is best for the team and best for that situation, then we'll try to do it.
"A lot of teams have talked to us about moving back in exchange for multiple picks and that kind of thing. I think those will probably all be draft-day decisions. I'd be surprised -- although I certainly wouldn't rule it out -- but I would be surprised to see pre-draft-day [trades] in terms of moving up or down a couple of spots."
For the next 10 days and right up to the draft, the Patriots will continue talking with just about every team picking after Detroit about a possible trade. Once the commissioner starts calling names, then the calls really start to mean something. Right now, though, everything is preliminary.
"You only have 15 minutes on the clock," Belichick said, "so you don't want to be dialing around the league saying, `Hey, do you want to trade?' `No.' `Do you want to trade?' `No.' It's a lot better to get that set up ahead of time. `Look, if our guy isn't there, we're going to be interested in moving out. Would you be interested in moving up?' `No, we're definitely not moving up. We're trying to move out ourselves.' OK, well then you're not going to be calling them during that 15-minute time. Maybe if they change their mind, they'll call you, but you just don't have time to carry on 31 conversations.
"You kind of try to identify the teams that you think might be interested in working with you at a certain point and then when it comes time, sometimes their situation changes and they're not interested anymore, or sometimes you're not interested anymore, either. `We're going to stay where we are and we're going to pick here.' You just try to get a feel for who might or might not be interested in working with you at that point in time. Then, when you're close to the clock, or on the clock, then you start calling, `Hey, are you still interested? Is this something that you would want to do?' `Yes, we would be, call us back when you're on the clock,' or, `No, we've moved on.' `OK.' "
The real negotiation "usually comes maybe a pick or two picks before," said Belchick. "If you're going to be on the clock in two picks, then maybe you talk to a team and say, `OK, now if we're on the clock and your guy is there, what's this deal going to be?' Again, you want to try to avoid running into the end of that time limit. You want to say, `OK, our guy is not there, we're going to move out.' `OK, our guy is there, we're going to move up, here is what it is.' `Right.' `Right.' And turn it in and go.
"As each [player] comes off [the board], then you start thinking about how it's shaping up. `Do we want to be there or don't we, and what is it going to cost?' Sometimes you start calling the teams and just see how motivated they are to move back. If they're motivated to move back, it's a lot easier to make the trade. If there's a guy they like, they'll move back, but you're really going to have to fork it over because there's a guy that they really want to stay there and take, so you have to make it worthwhile. It just comes down to who wants it the most."
What most believe the Patriots need most is a running back. Belichick sees depth in the draft at the tailback position, and, when asked, spoke highly of Oregon State's Steven Jackson, Michigan's Chris Perry, and Tulane's Mewelde Moore. He agreed that this is one of the deeper and more talented group of receivers in years. The defensive line and cornerback prospects "aren't bad," and the class of linebackers is better "than I've seen in a couple of years."
A year ago, Belichick said one of his main objectives was to make his team, especially on defense, younger and faster. That hasn't changed with a second Super Bowl title in three years. "You can't get younger in one year," he said. "We got younger and we got faster, but I would like to get younger and faster again this year. Any player, we'll take it anywhere."