Below is the full transcript of Bill Belichick’s press conference with reporters and opening remarks following the conclusion of the Patriots’ second day in the NFL draft.
Bill Belichick: “It’s a day of preparation all the way through just trying to go through the second and third round and take a look at the players and the teams and so forth, putting it all together. We had a number of conversations prior to the draft. We really felt like Ras-I Dowling was a good pick for us there. Big corner, good tackler, been in a good program there in Virginia with coach [Al] Groh and Mike London this past year. [He’s] a guy that’s played in a system pretty similar to what we’ve run. Very impressive kid. Then we had a little movement down there, took [Shane] Vereen and then traded back and ended up taking [Stevan] Ridley and [Ryan] Mallet. It seemed like there was some conversation on just about every pick. I can’t really remember what all of it was, but again, in the end, we just felt like moving back and picking up the extra pick would enable us to make the Oakland trade, which was kind of ongoing. That’s something that we’ve been talking about here for a little while with them that finally got consummated. Coming out of the draft with the five players that we have – a lineman and three skilled players on offense and a corner on defense – and a couple of high picks next year, I feel like we had a pretty decent couple days. And then we’ll just go back tonight and try to take a look at what’s left on the board and what we have left in the way of picks and keep plugging away and try to find players that can contribute or maybe we think develop on the football team. Still got a long way to go here, but this is where we are for right now.”
What specifically drew you to Ryan Mallet?
Belichick: “We just felt like he was a good player. He’s had a lot of production. He’s won everywhere he’s been: high school, college. He did a good job at Michigan. They came in and changed offenses and that was definitely beyond his control. I think he’s been a successful, productive quarterback all the way through his career: high school, college. He’s an impressive guy to talk to.”
What did you think of his arm strength?
Belichick: “Very good. I don’t think that’s any issue at all. He played a very good offense with Coach Petrino at Arkansas and they do a lot of pro-style type things, so I think he handled that very well as far as throws, accuracy, mechanics, all the mental stuff – making changes, adjustments, protections, those things. I’d say he’s pretty far along relative to some other quarterbacks we’ve seen.”
No misgivings about the off-field stuff with him? You’re comfortable with him?
Belichick: “Obviously we’re comfortable with him; we took him.”
So far you haven’t drafted a pass rusher. Do you feel like you have players here and you don’t need to upgrade?
Belichick: “We have some young players on our roster and I think that those players – in all the various positions, not just at that specifically – but I think younger players will still continue to develop. But there are good players up there on the board and we got the ones that we felt were best for us. There are other players that are good players, too, that went to the other teams. That’s the way it always is.”
Ryan Mallet led some last minute drives at Arkansas. Does he have those leadership intangibles?
Belichick: “Yeah. Again, this guy has been very productive. He’s been a winning quarterback all the way through his career and he’s won a lot of games – some at the end, some at the beginning. He’s been a very productive guy – not just statistically, but more importantly in terms of wins and losses and doing the things it takes for his team to win.”
Can you talk about Ras-I Dowling and his injury problems last year?
Belichick: “We feel like he’s healthy. He had a year that was, I’m sure, not the kind of year that he wanted to have. But he’s a good player, been a solid player down there. Played opposite of [Chris] Cook, a kid that came out last year that went to Minnesota. I definitely think he’s healthy. He worked out this spring. We were down there. I think he’s ready to go. He’s got a lot of qualities that we like in a corner: he’s a smart kid, been in a good program, done well in that system. We can see him playing all the different types of coverages that, at some point or another, we would use. He’s a good tackler, plays well in the kicking game, so I think he’ll be a good addition for us.”
Do you see him strictly as a corner or does he have some safety versatility
Belichick: “He hasn’t played safety, but I think he has the size, ball skills and tackling ability that you could probably make an argument that he could project in there if you wanted him to. I think for right now, we’ll play him at the corner, but he is big. He does tackle well. He’s tough. He’s got good range, good ball skills. I wouldn’t say that he couldn’t play in there, but that isn’t really what he’s done.”
Are you surprised Ryan Mallett was available so late?
Belichick: “We’re not really surprised about what’s on the draft board. You just take it as it comes and make the picks that you feel like are best for you team. We don’t worry too much about what everybody else does.”
Do you see him as an eventual successor to Tom Brady down the road?
Belichick: “I don’t know. Come in and let him compete and let them see what they can do. It’s the same for all the rookies. Give them an opportunity to play and see how they play. It’s up to them.”
How do you weigh off the field issues when you talk to college players who might have had those issues?
Belichick: “We evaluate the total player, all the things that the player has: his height, his work ethic, his speed, whatever it is, and put it all together and try to put a grade or a value on that player. And when it comes time to pick, we look at all the options that are up there and try to take the one that we think is best for our football team. And it includes everything. You take all the pieces of the puzzle, you put them all together and there’s what you have. You decide which one you think is best for you at that point in time.”
How much do you think it will benefit him to have Tom Brady mentor him?
Belichick: “I don’t know. Every player that comes to our football team is going to have the opportunity to learn from our coaching staff, see the veteran players on the team and compete with them and with the teams that we play against. Everybody will have that same opportunity. There are a lot of great veteran players here that I think all of us can learn from, that have great work ethics and do things that make them great professional players. So every player will have the opportunity on the team to see that. How it will work out, I don’t know.”
Obviously the philosophy seems to be take the best player available. For quarterback, it seems a bit different given you only have one on the field at the time. Does he have to be so far above all the other players on the draft board knowing he might not be able to get on the field for a while?
Belichick: “I think you have to take some of those things into consideration and certainly I think you have to look at the situation of how high you can take on at that position. You get into the situation like San Diego did a few years ago where they took [Philip] Rivers and had to get rid of [Drew] Brees – or had to get rid of somebody. I think when you do that in the first round, it’s a little bit of a different scenario. Once you get past that first round, I think it changes a little bit. We felt – I mean, look, I don’t think you can have too much depth at that position. We’ve all seen what can happen there. We got by last year – or really the last two years – with basically just two guys. And you put your whole team at risk if you don’t have a quarterback that can run it, so it’s good to have depth at that position. We’ll see how it goes.”
Was that something you were uncomfortable with having only two quarterbacks on your roster the last few years? It seems historically teams usually carry three.
Belichick: “Some teams do, some teams don’t. I think if you look through the league there were a number of teams that only carried two, and we carried a third on the practice squad. Really, we were happy with Jonathan [Crompton] last year. Jonathan will compete at the position, as well. He’s certainly a guy that can hold his own at that position, too, so we’ll have good competition there and we’ll see how it goes. Again, it’s an important position on your team and we’ll have good players there and let them compete and see how they can do.”
Can you talk about the two running backs that you drafted today?
“I think that Vereen and Ridley obviously play the same position, but I think they are very different players. Both have been very productive in college, Ridley more so this past year, but even when he had an opportunity to play earlier in his career when they had other backs, they always kind of rotated the backs through there at LSU, that he’s been a very proactive guy both in the running game and in the passing game. He’s a bigger, physical back, good running style, gets a lot of tough yards. I’d say Vereen is a little bit more elusive, a little bit more of a space back, has good hands. I think both of those players can help us in the kicking game and they both have been productive at high levels of competition. I think they will complement each other well. We’ve had a little bit of age at that position, so this gives us a couple of young guys that will provide competition for the players that we have in that position.”
You said you enjoyed your conversation with Ryan Mallett. Is that in regard to his football knowledge or his personality?
Belichick: “He’s definitely a football guy. He’s a great kid to talk to, and he’s very into football. You can’t wear him out; as long as you want to talk about it, he’ll be there. However many hours it is, he’s ready to go watch the film or go talk about a new technique or a route or a read or whatever. His father is a football coach. He’s grown up in a football family, which I can definitely relate to. Either you get sick of it or you marry into it and you love it. It’s one of the two, and I think he’s, like I said, very much a football person. Both his parents are educators and he’s a kid that’s eager to learn and has a great thirst for knowledge for football and for his position, which there is a lot going on there. I think that he’ll certainly get an opportunity to receive a lot of knowledge at that position around here, so we’ll see how it all manifests itself.”
With Dowling you talked about keeping him at corner for now. Did he show the ability to play inside at college?
Belichick: “He didn’t play much inside in college, no. He basically played on the left side and Cook played on the right side – looking at it defensively, who played left corner and who played right corner. That’s basically where he played. Again, we’ll take a look at his skill set. I’m not saying he can’t play inside, but he really didn’t play much there in college. He played on the perimeter. I mean, sometimes when they were in man coverage and it would be slot formation, either corner would go over on the slot, so it wasn’t like it never happened, but for the most part he really played on the perimeter.”
Was he a big special teams contributor more recently in his career or did that taper off later on in college?
Belichick: “Yeah, not as much, not as much, but I think there’s no doubt about his ability to do it. He’s an excellent tackler. He’s a big, physical kid that can handle himself in coverage teams. I’m sure he’d be able to compete with our players in terms of punt return, holding up people, and things like that. I think that he can contribute for us there as well – more so than the return game, just as part of the coverage units and a blocker in the return game and that type of thing. But I definitely see him as having the ability to help us there.”
You have Leigh Bodden, Devin McCourty, and now Dowling as physical corners. Is that a coincidence or is that a response to maybe a trend in the league?
Belichick: “I think those players certainly have a lot of value for your football team on all four downs. They protect well in the kicking games, and it seems like every week, we’re going up against big, physical receivers in this league, whether it’s Braylon Edwards or Brandon Marshall or you can go right down the line, the San Diego receivers, Pittsburgh receivers. Everybody’s got them and being able to tackle and being physical and being able to jam guys and things like that, playing the kicking game, I think those are all good qualities for a corner to have. Certainly coverage is a big part of it as well, but having physical corners out there is … I think every defense likes that.”