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NFL Draft

The picky type

Patriots have certain draft standards, but don’t always follow them to letter

By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / April 26, 2011

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When it comes to drafting, each National Football League team has its own unique system for identifying players who interest them and then executing their picks.

The Patriots, heading into their 12th draft under coach Bill Belichick, are among the more deliberate.

“This system was in place before I arrived here,’’ said director of player personnel Nick Caserio. “When Scott [Pioli] and Bill came in 2000, this is the system that they put in place, so there may be some facsimiles of this throughout the league. I can’t speak to other teams. I know this is the way that we do it.’’

It certainly has served the Patriots well as 101 draft picks have helped the team to unmatched heights in the salary cap era with three Super Bowl titles, four conference championship wins, and eight division titles, including last season at 14-2.

More than most teams, the Patriots adhere to a specific physical profile for many positions. The qualities for each position were laid out in Sunday’s Globe through an extensive database project on all of the Patriots’ draft picks under Belichick.

But the Patriots don’t stick to the profiles stringently. If they did, computers would make their draft selections for them.

A player’s on-field production, of course, is paramount. There are also issues of character and a person’s communications skills within a team and scheme.

Those and other factors are subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But for the most part, the Patriots stick to their positional profiles. When they do stray outside the lines, it almost always has been in the later rounds.

Some have worked out — famously — but most have not:

OT Greg Robinson-Randall, 2000 fourth round Out of Michigan State, he posted the slowest 40 (5.57) and short shuttle (5.14) times ever by a Patriots draft pick. Linemen don’t have to be fast, but they need some agility. He started in the 2001 Super Bowl season and then bounced around before landing in the Arena Football League.

QB Tom Brady, 2000 sixth round It’s hard to say whether he fits the profile since he was taken in Belichick’s first draft, but his notoriously poor results at the scouting combine went against the athletic profile the Patriots have for quarterbacks. Brady has seemed to work out OK.

S Hakim Akbar, 2001 fifth round He left school early (Washington) and didn’t find much success. At 6 feet, he’s the tallest safety the Patriots have drafted. He had a position-best 43.5-inch vertical jump, but Akbar’s 4.69 in the 40 was the slowest for his position. He played in just six games before being released.

QB Rohan Davey, 2002 fourth round The LSU standout was the shortest (6-2) and heaviest (245 pounds) of all six quarterbacks drafted by Belichick. He had good timed runs but his vertical jump (25.5) was better than only Brady (24.5). Davey’s Wonderlic score of 17 was just two below the overall league average but lagged well behind the other known scores for Patriots quarterbacks: Brady (33), Kliff Kingsbury (31), and Zac Robinson (26). He never started an NFL game and last played in the NFL in 2004.

NT Dan Klecko, 2003 fourth round The first tackle taken by Belichick turned out to be an anomaly, so they likely learned something. By a wide margin he was shortest (5-11) and lightest (283) and had the shortest arms (30.8), but he stood out in the agility drills. He started six NFL games and was used at fullback some before bouncing out of the league.

CB Asante Samuel, 2003 fourth round He was at or near the bottom in arm length, hand size, bench press, vertical jump, and all the timed distances, including the slowest 40 at 4.49. Obviously, the Patriots saw the right things because he helped them win two Super Bowls and has been voted All-Pro twice, including once after signing with the Eagles in 2008.

TE Spencer Nead, 2003 seventh round The BYU product certainly looked the part and even ran well, but his vertical jump was 7 inches below the positional average (35.09) and his broad jump (8-5) was nearly a foot behind. Besides size, the Patriots like their tight ends explosive. Nead never played for the Patriots and appeared in just 10 career games.

WR P.K. Sam, 2004 fifth round Nearly 3 inches taller (6-3) than any other receiver drafted by the Patriots, the Florida State standout was also on the lower end of the position for hand size (8.3), vertical (34.5 was second-lowest behind Matthew Slater), and 40-yard dash (4.56 tied for slowest with David Givens). He played two games for the Patriots and is now in the CFL.

OLB Shawn Crable, 2008 third round Crable was the tallest (6-5) but also the lightest (245) outside linebacker picked. Only Tully Banta-Cain was faster in the 40 than Crable (4.64). But his vertical jump of just 28 inches was well below average. The oft-injured Crable was cut twice last year by the Patriots and hasn’t drawn much interest elsewhere.

There have been others drafted from outside the profiles, but for the most part the Patriots have held true to their system. When they’ve gone outside, they’ve usually done it later in the draft to minimize risk, and it’s to their credit that they haven’t made many major mistakes early in the draft.

That’s because Belichick and the Patriots stick to their system. It works. They have the rings to prove it.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @greg_a_bedard.

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