- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are our top takeaways from Tuesday's pre-draft news conference (noon ET) with New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio:
Surprised to hear defensive line as depth spot. Asked for the defining characteristic of the overall draft, Caserio cited the record number of underclassmen (nearly 100) and pinpointed receiver, running back and defensive line as spots with good depth. The inclusion of defensive line was a bit of an outlier compared to what we've heard from most media analysts. Defensive end, in particular, has been cited by many as one of the lighter positions in the draft, but Caserio and the Patriots might see it differently. "I'd say there's a deep group of defensive linemen that are different types of players," he said.
Rookies mostly to fill out the roster. Caserio noted there are 65 players on the roster, leaving 25 additional spots to fill. "A large bulk of those will probably come next week, and a few weeks moving forward, as well," he said of the draft and undrafted free agency. The team has eight draft choices, so this sets the expectation for a large class of undrafted players, a crop that might be more talented than the norm because of the depth of the draft.
Team well-positioned to compete today. Unlike last year, when the Patriots had a noticeable absence at the receiver spot and almost telegraphed their intentions, the club looks better-positioned this year to go in a number of different directions. "If you look at our team, where we are today, if we had to go out there and play a game, we feel like we could field a competitive team," Caserio said, adding that it creates flexibility to pick the best players regardless of position.
Strategy will unfold on draft day. Caserio said the club's strategy will evolve as the draft does. "I don't think there is a set formula going into it, how we're going to approach it," he said. If there was a set formula, Caserio wouldn't share it in this forum, anyway.
Perspective on Boston Marathon, scouting staff and Patriots Hall of Fame. Caserio opened his news conference with remarks about the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, while saluting members of the organization who ran this year for charity. He also cited the work of director of college scouting Jon Robinson and his staff and then congratulated the three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame -- cornerbacks Raymond Clayborn and Ty Law and coach Bill Parcells -- while adding this about Law: "He probably thinks he can go out there and cover people, knowing him and his mentality and his competitive nature."