Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who won’t be talking to the local media before the draft, spoke for 16 minutes earlier today with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller of Sirius NFL Radio.
He had some interesting thoughts on the draft trade possibilities -- Belichick said teams are interested in their picks -- and some of the positions and trends in the draft:
On whether this is the time when the draft board comes together…
I would agree with that. You spend a lot of time going through the spring, going through piles and piles of information and at some point you’ve got to take all the information and assign some values and set your board and kind of figure out how things are falling into place. That’s kind of the stage that we’re at right now, trying to establish our final values, go through all our medical checks and all the other bits and pieces that come in that aren’t the final thing but they’re just part of the puzzle and you just look at the pieces and then make your decisions. You get to the last couple days before the draft and you really can start to formulate the draft strategy based on other teams and their needs and the calls you start getting and things like that.
How hard is it to weed through the misinformation?
I think you can get information up to draft day. I think we’ve all seen that with different examples of players from year to year but I’d say for the most part the most important thing that a player has is his three or four years of production and performance at a college playing football and that’s what we all have to go on and that carries a lot of weight. And then of course there are some other factors that could weigh in but that’s the most important thing and that’s already in the books and everybody’s had a chance to evaluate it. I think that plays the biggest role in where the player’s actual value and peg is.
Draft before free agency…
It’s just working in reverse of the way it usually works…It’s just a little different way of doing things but I think from our standpoint, the draft is still the draft and I don’t we’ve assigned any different values than we did in other years. We’ve ranked the players the same and on draft day try to make the decisions that are best for the New England Patriots. We’ll approach it the same way but it will definitely be different.
Will there be more movement?
It’s interesting. I think all 32 teams have kind of their own philosophy and their own way of doing things and sometimes that changes from year to year based on needs or based on turnover by the decision makers in that organization. I think you really have to wait until draft day, kind of see how it all plays out but we’ve definitely been contacted by teams below us offering to move back and seeing if we want to move up. And we’ve also been contacted by teams behind us looking to move up into a better position. Of course that doesn’t get finalized until draft day. But there definitely seems to be a lot of interest in our draft picks and, as you know, we’re not afraid to trade them, we’ll do what’s best for the team. So we’ll evaluate those opportunities and if they come up on draft day and take it from there. But I think it’s always a hard thing to predict. So much depends on the actual names on the board and as you know when you trade a draft pick in the first round you’re not trading for pick No. 21, you’re trading for a specific player that you want to take with that pick and that’s what it’s about. It will be interesting to see how the whole quarterback thing works out and how quickly those quarterbacks come off the board. It seems like there’s a number of teams that are interested in them and that may or may not have an effect on the movement in the first round relative to that position.
Sitting at No. 33, that pick should get a lot of action…
Well, I can definitely see that. And we’re sitting there at No. 28 in the first round as well so we kind of have two picks there pretty close to each other and sometimes that has some dynamics…it’s one of two spots that somebody could move into instead of just one. One way or another teams will have to, if they want to deal, I think we’ll be one of the teams that they’ll want to talk to. But there’s plenty of good players on the board and as you know, you can’t take those draft picks and throw them at your opponents. You’ve got to actually take a player and the player’s got to go out there and help you win so sooner or later you’ve got to convert those into productive players and that’s really our goal for next weekend is to take those three days and improve our football team and get better football players on the team so hopefully we’ll be able to do that.
There are a lot of hybrid players in this draft, how do you feel about this class?
I think that’s really going to be a key part of this whole draft, I think, when we look back on it in a couple years and evaluate it. It will probably come down to which teams are able to evaluate those front seven positions. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of those players taken high, whether they be defensive linemen or defensive ends/outside linebackers or outside linebackers/defensive ends, however you want to look at it. The teams that are able to come out with the impact players in that group relative to the teams that take players and they aren’t able to contribute for them has a lot to do with who’s able to gain the most out of this draft so that will be an interesting part of it. I think that’s just kind of the trend in college football these days. You don’t see a lot of true linebackers at the end of the line on their feet. Most of them play with their hand down and you have to make that decision with the Robert Quinns and the Justin Houstons of the world and all those guys…how well you think they can play on their feet or how much you want to play them down. We dealt with that last year when we drafted Jermaine Cunningham but when you look through the league just about everybody’s got those players and last year it was like Koa Misi down in Miami…you just have to project how well those guys are going to be able to play on their feet or how much you want to just leave them down and treat them pretty much as defensive ends even though you have a 3-4 base defense. Those are tough evaluations but they’re there every year.
When I found out Ryan Kerrigan was a really good high school basketball player, that intrigued me that he could make that kind of conversion…
Well you know Purdue doesn’t drop him a lot into coverage but they do it some and you can definitely see it. They’ve had a really good history with those outside rushers with Ray Edwards and Rosevelt Colvin. Of course we had Colvin and now (Rob) Ninkovich and Kerrigan coming out. So it’s been a very good, productive position for Purdue and they’ve had them every year it seems like and certainly Kerrigan looks like he’s another one that’s going to be part of that legacy. It’s an interesting position and one that that’s school has had a lot of success with.
There are a lot of tall defensive backs this year, how will they transition?
I think this is year where I think there have been more bigger corners – guys over 5-10, 5-11, over 6 feet really – that we’ve seen in some time at that position. And certainly the majority of the guys on everybody’s board I would think at least 80 percent of the corners on just about everybody’s board would be in that over 5-10.5 category, which is not always the case. Especially this year, there are so many small running backs. I think sometimes they just clump together like that. But it’s a difficult evaluation. I think one of the things we see in college football is that jailbreak tear screens in the dive option package where the quarterback gives the dive or he keeps the ball or they fake the dive and then they just throw the ball out on slip screens to the outside receivers. And you don’t see as much of the downfield passing game in college as what we do in the NFL and at times it makes it hard to evaluate that because you just don’t see receivers running the intermediate route that we run in the NFL because we don’t have the rules that favor those jailbreak screens like the colleges do. So we have to see how these guys will defend curls and in cuts and comeback routes and double moves and things like that. You just don’t see a lot of that in college football these days. It’s a difficult evaluation and that’s part of the challenge of it is just trying to figure out which guys will be successful in a different type of passing game than what a lot of them are seeing in college football.
A pretty good year for offensive tackles?
Offensive tackles and defensive linemen. I’m with you. There’s a lot of depth at those positions and the offensive tackle is a very interesting board with guys that can play looks like left tackle but may have some flexibility to play right tackle. There are some other players who are good tackles and have to move into guard but I think there’s less concern that they’ll be able to make that transition then maybe what there were in some other years with those players. I think if you take some of those guys that you still try them at tackle but you know if they can’t play tackle you feel like you have a good quality guard. So it’s definitely a group that has good depth at that position. And some degree they can play both left and right tackle and I think there’s less pure left or pure right tackles than what there were in some of the other drafts that we’ve seen.
Getting antsy with the lockout?
What we’ve tried to do is focus on the things that we can do and which is just evaluate our film from last year and try to make improvements in our own scheme and system, look at our new opponents even though the schedule is not out yet we know who we have to play next year that we’re not as familiar with. And of course there’s the draft process and we’ve still done the free agent process even though we don’t know when that’s going to happen or what the rules of it are going to be. At some point all those NFL players that aren’t under contract, some of them are going to be under contract and they’re going to be playing. So we can still go through all those preparations that we would normally do and then when the gun goes off and it’s time to start then we’ll start but in the meantime we’ll keep working on the things that we can do to prepare for the 2011 season.
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