Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked about the team’s selection of offensive tackle Nate Solder with the 17th pick in the NFL draft and trading the team’s 28th pick to New Orleans.
Here’s his opening statement:
So we went into the day with four picks in the first two rounds and still came out of it that way, so we felt like the trade with New Orleans was a good value relative to the players that we had on the board and what those picks are going to be tomorrow. So that’s why we made the trade. And Nate [Solder] was a player that we’ve been on for a long time. Of course we hired Moses [Cabrera] who was at Colorado last year, so he certainly gave us a little insight into him. Nate has been a solid player for Colorado, [a] left tackle and certainly there are a lot of things that he’ll need to do to improve, but I feel like he’s a good, talented guy, a hard-working kid, and if he can keep doing that, then I think he’ll be able to contribute for us and we’ll work him at left tackle. Overall, we’re heading into tomorrow with the same number of picks, just located a little bit differently than they were when we started today. Hopefully we can continue to have good quality in the future years as well. So that’s where we’re at.
Click the Full Entry button to see the Q&A with reporters that followed Belichick’s opening statement.
Q: The trade with the Saints was kind of interesting. Obviously, they liked Mark Ingram. You have No. 33 tomorrow. Seems like a very good deal for you. Is that the proverbial good trade for both teams?
BB: Well, we thought it was a good value for the pick and we feel like there are players on the board that will give us good value at our picks that we have tomorrow. We certainly gave up something in moving back, but we felt like what we got in return for that was beneficial to the organization and the team.
Q: How important is it to have a couple of No. 1’s even if they’re both in the 20s or the 30s as they could be next year?
BB: Well, right. I mean, you just don’t know how that’s going to go. That’s part of the unknown. We saw how that worked out this year and other years. We can look at that, but that’s a question that we won’t be able to answer. I think when you make it, you make it for the value of the pick. How important is it? I couldn’t put a gauge on it. I just think that each pick you have, you have an opportunity to help your football team and in that particular place, we felt like we would be able to still help our team this year and put ourselves in position to get a quality football player next year as well.
Q: How important was it to have Dante Scarnecchia go out Monday to work out Nate Solder?
BB: It’s a piece of the puzzle. He’s been a pretty consistent player for them at Colorado; It’s not like he was any big secret. We’ve done a lot of work on him. Our scouts have seen him, and just the way it worked out in scheduling the coaches and so forth – Colorado isn’t really on the way too much, so Dante just didn’t get there and that’s when he got there, at the end of the process.
Q: When you go from a tight end to an offensive lineman like Solder did, does that make you take notice even more because it means you have a versatile and athletic player?
BB: I think you can definitely see Nate’s athleticism. I don’t think that’s that unusual. I think there are a lot of tackles – not a lot, but there are certainly a number of tackles who started off at tight end and kind of grew into the position. But you know, Nate was a three-sport athlete in high school so you get some idea of his athletic ability there. And certainly when you watch him play, you watch him pull, you watch him run, you watch his athleticism, for a big guy, he moves well. He’s pretty light on his feet, and I think you see that all the way through. You saw it in high school, you saw it earlier in his career, but even though he’s put on the weight and gone from 280 or whatever it is three years ago to 315 or whatever the exact numbers are. It’s been a solid progression, but athletically he still handles himself pretty well for that weight.
Q: How would you assess what’s left on the board on the defensive front seven?
BB: I think there are good players on the board, really, in a lot of positions. We’ll kind of take tomorrow to reassess how exactly everything stacks up and restack the board just like we did going into today. Teams have selected, so they’ve added a player to their roster and I think that affects a little bit of probably what will happen tomorrow, so we’ll take a look at the value on the board and kind of what the teams have done and take a look at where we’re at. I think right now we just tried to get through today and we’ll regroup tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep, regroup tomorrow and take a look at it then.
Q: As it stands now with the league, can you bring him in and give him a playbook?
BB: We’ll double check on that. We are bringing him in, right? So he will be coming in. We’ll do what we’re permitted to do.
Q: Given that teams have the night to think over tomorrow and what’s available, how much interest do you think there will be in that top pick tomorrow?
BB: I don’t know. We’ve already heard from a couple teams that have expressed some interest in it. I can’t tell you what the other 31 teams are doing. We barely know what we’re doing, but a couple teams have called about that that are kind of in the middle of the round, so I’m sure there is somebody that they like, kind of like New Orleans saw a player that they liked. So we’ll just play it by ear, but I think right now the most important thing for us is to regroup, get a good night’s rest, kind of take stock of everything and reassess the board, take a look at ourselves, take a look at what some of the teams around us might be doing, and then see what happens.
Q: I remember you saying last year that because of the break you probably get more interest in that pick than you have in past years when you roll right into the second round.
BB: I think that’s probably true. I think that teams will reassess and look at the second round like they looked at the first round. Because I think there are still a lot of quality players up on the board. There are players that are going to be able to help teams in this league. Certainly, we hope that we’ll be able to get production out of whatever we do with our picks and I’m sure the other teams that are in this round feel that way as well. There are several teams with multiple picks in the round, as we have: Washington, Oakland, teams like that, so we’ll see how it all plays out.
Q: When it comes to first round picks, some guys are going to be projection-type players and some guys you know what you’re going to get, is Nate Solder one of those safe players?
BB: I don’t think there’s a position projection with him. He’s played left tackle and I think that will be his position in the National Football League. How good it is and all that, I mean, that’s a whole other story, but I don’t think it’s taking an end and converting him to outside linebacker or taking a corner and converting him to safety or that kind of thing. I think his position is the one he’s been playing, but it’s still obviously a different level of play and his techniques and there are a lot of things that he’ll have to improve on. But he’s a smart guy, hard-working kid, he’s already graduated, he’s a good worker, so hopefully he’ll take the coaching that he gets from our staff and Dante and be able to improve and develop at a position that he has some experience at.
Q: Anything in the first round surprise you at all? A lot of the pundits were commenting on the surprise of the quarterbacks and where they went. Were you surprised at all?
BB: You never know what another team thinks about a player. That information is kept pretty well under wraps. There were a lot of teams that obviously felt strongly about certain players – Atlanta or what have you – and traded up and got quarterbacks or receivers or whatever, so I mean, if those are players that they felt that strongly about, then it doesn’t surprise me that they moved for them. You just don’t know [from] where we sit how a team feels about a guy. But even if they have a need at a particular position, you just don’t know how strongly they feel about an individual player.
Q: As your pick came up at No. 17 or as it was approaching, did you give it any thought or did you have any opportunities to move up at all?
BB: There’re always conversations it seems like on every pick, but we felt pretty good about what was on the board and picking Nate there. I think we turned the pick in relatively [quickly]….I think really that pick was in there pretty much on time. Whatever discussions we might have had, I can’t remember if they came when we were on the clock or whether it was before that. But I don’t think it really got too tense there.
Q: As you got to No. 13 or No. 14 with one of those guys who was slipping a little bit because of the quarterbacks who went early, was there anybody who was slipping who maybe you had an eye on?
BB: You know, again, that conversation for us just goes on throughout the draft. Teams that are picking ahead of us say, ‘Hey, do you guys want to move up?’ or we might talk to them and say ‘What are you guys looking to do here?’ If they say, ‘No, we’re going to stay and take out player’ then that’s the end of it. It’s just kind of knowing what’s going on in front of you. Sometimes they call us; sometimes we call them. I think that’s just kind of the process of knowing what’s happening. I wouldn’t characterize it as a great desperation to do anything one way or the other. That’s just sort of the way it works, at least from our standpoint. I can’t speak for other draft rooms, but that’s just kind of the way it works for us.
Q: You talked about the athleticism of the tight end switching to tackle. Is that a trend league-wide where the more athletic guys play on the edge now or is that something that just fits your system?
BB: No, I don’t think it fits our system; I think that’s just what happens to kids. Kids grow and develop and let’s face it: there’re not many people that size with that kind of athletic ability roaming around. It’s an unusual skill set for players that size. It was a similar situation last year with Thomas Welch from Vanderbilt who started out as a quarterback and then went to tight end at Vanderbilt and then eventually grew into tackle. Some guys grow into 290 pounds and some guys don’t; they stay at 240 or 250 and they stay as defensive ends or tight ends or that type of position. But guys that just are able to put on that kind of weight with a program and nutrition and so forth at the college level end up being defensive linemen or offensive linemen, depending on probably how well they run, for the most part. I think it just depends on the kid. And some kids mature and they come out of high school and they’re already 290 pounds, so they outgrew it in junior high.
Q: You know Nick Saban, and you are probably familiar with the players from Alabama. How tempting was it to take Mark Ingram and can you share your thoughts on him? Was he a factor when he fell to No. 28?
BB: Yeah, there are a lot of good players. There were a lot of good players on the board. There were at 28 or earlier and there are good players there now. There are only a few guys that have been picked, really. There were a lot of good football players up there. I think I would just, since you brought it up, take this time to Nick and all the other people down there at Alabama that have been great to us and have good friends and people that I care a lot about, and certainly we have connections to the team down there with some of our players and former players, that we just send out our heartfelt best wishes to what they’ve experienced down there. I can’t imagine how devastating that was and I know the facility was only a block or a few hundred yards away – whatever it was – from being torn apart, too. So it’s a tough situation and I just hope that everything came out as good as it could for them. We already know a couple people that were involved in part of that devastation, so we’ll try to reach out to them and give some assistance when we can.
Q: Given this opening with the labor situation, do you have plans for camp?
BB: Today, honestly, we’re just trying to get through the whole draft process. We’ll kind of get reorganized on some of the other things in due course, but right now I just feel like our time needs to be spent trying to maximize our opportunities this weekend with the draft. We’ll sort all the rest of it out as quickly as possible, but this really is the priority for me.
Q: Dick Steinberg was almost always about taking the best athlete no matter what the need was. With all the picks you have the in second round, philosophically how much would you reach to find that player?
BB: I’d say philosophically, that’s pretty much where I am always: try to take the player that you feel that’s the best player. It’s great to say ‘OK, we needed this position, so now we have a card to put up there in that spot,’ but if that player isn’t able to really fulfill that area or that position then you’re coming back here the next year looking for the same thing again. Or it’s really ‘We took him, but we really need better than that,’ or ‘It wasn’t quite what we want.’ But I think if you find a player that’s good value for your team, you can never have enough good football players. So sometimes you think you have more than what you need at a certain position, but usually that stuff works itself out one way or the other. You get an injury or two, which inevitably happens in this sport, and what looks like an extra guy that you don’t need, ends up being a valuable guy. I learned that at the Giants. The second or third year I was there, we had drafted Lawrence Taylor, we had Brad Van Pelt, and I know we took Carl Banks with the second pick in the draft, and that pick was crucified. ‘What a stupid pick. Why would you take Carl Banks? What could you do with him. He’s just going to sit there and watch while the other two guys play.’ Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor were really the two bookends to that defense all through the ‘80s and took us to a lot of victories and two Super Bowl championships. That was another ‘stupid pick’ that looked like ‘why would you do that?’ And of course that was with no free agency too, so you only had so many picks, that’s how you improved your team, unless you made a trade. But that ended up being one of the best selections while I was there. Another example of that was when we took Butch Woolfolk and then followed that up with Joe Morris. And that was another ‘stupid pick’ of ‘why take Joe Morris when you had already taken a running back? What are you going to do – get two balls out there and give one to each guy?’ Again, Joe Morris really took us to the ’86 championship. I think if you believe in your system and you believe in your grades like you said, you’ve studied that all year, those are the players that you have a conviction on and [you’re] probably better off staying with them on draft day rather than trying to regrade a guy five minutes before you pick because of some arbitrary reason. Go with what you believe in.