- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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Passing along a handful of quick-hit thoughts from Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio's pre-draft news conference.
1. No clear-cut top position, but depth in the secondary, offensive line and receiver groups. "I wouldn't say [there's one position that is] head and shoulders [above the rest]; I would say there are some groups that there's quite a bit of depth, there's some good productive players. The secondary I think is an area, both the corner and the safety position, I think one of the things that's probably unique about that position, you've seen a few more players that have actually played multiple positions. Some have played safety, some have played corner, some have played the nickel position like [University of Florida safety] Matt Elam. There's, I'd say, versatile players in the defensive backfield; they're not necessarily confined to one particular spot. ... The offensive line is a good group. There are some good players in that group and there's a fair amount of receivers that are in a group as well."
2. With just five picks, does the mindset change and you attempt to create more flexibility by trying to add extra picks? "I think that sort of materializes in and of itself. Even going into the draft last year, we really hadn't had any substantive discussions about moving up or moving down. It just kind of happened to materialize once we were in the draft room. ... Could that happen when we get to the draft room on Thursday night? Possibly, but if we have five picks, we have five picks. We'll take it as it comes. I don't think it changes our philosophy. We're going to know the board top to bottom like we do every year."
Would you like more picks? "We'll take whatever we can get."
With so few draft picks, might undrafted rookies be a bigger focus this year? "Rookie free agents always play a big role in the draft. If you just look at our track record through the years, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Dane Fletcher, Justin Francis, Marcus Forston, Brandon Bolden, those guys last year. They are always a part of the equation. Just from a sheer numbers standpoint, the roster is right around, let's call it 70 players, give or take. We're going to be adding 20 more players to the team before we go to training camp, so that could come from draft picks, it could come from undrafted free agents. Whether or not they play a larger role this year, possibly."
3. Forecasting the first 28 picks. "It's difficult, but, let's just say we stay at 29, there's going to be 28 players that are going to come off the board. How are they going to come off the board? It's kind of hard to tell. You may have some degree of knowledge or you may have a feel one way or another. ... But where we're picking, it's hard to say, 'These 28 guys, they're going to be gone when we pick.' That's a little bit of a dice roll."
4. Wish list: improve. "I think our wish list is to improve the team. That's the bottom line."
5. Do we ever overstate the importance of the draft and lose sight of the fact that there are other avenues that contribute to the team-building process? "I think the draft is a part of the process. Really, the team-building exercise, it kind of never stops. It's ongoing, it's just specific to one segment of the year. Most of the time, free agency comes before the draft. We had one instance where it didn't. The team-building process is nonstop, it's ongoing, and once we get post-draft, there will be a period during training camp -- like Rob Ninkovich, just to pick a name, I think we signed him in August 2009 in training camp. And Rob has ended up being one of the better players that we've had in our program. It's constant, it's going, it really never stops, and in the end, the most important thing is to do whatever we can to help our team win games."