The New England Patriots have earned a reputation for trading down in the NFL draft. They’ve proven just as likely to trade up, however.
The Patriots have traded up and down in the draft 17 times apiece since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000. They have traded up in the first round four times and out of the first round just twice. Since the Patriots hold the No. 32 pick in the 2015 NFL draft, they can’t trade down in the first round, only out.
The value in trading out of the first round is to acquire more picks, both in that year’s draft and in the next. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio hinted that a trade up might be more possible because of how many players the team currently has on its roster.
“There’s not as many spots as there has been in the past just from an overall roster standpoint,” Caserio said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. “I think we’re around 73 or right around there — 73 or 74. I think in years past we’ve been a little bit lower, but the roster is more full relative to where we are in the whole process. Right now, we have nine picks. We’ll see how that goes if we end up using those nine picks, and then there’s players we’ll sign after the draft.”
The Patriots actually have 75 players on their roster, unless Caserio knows about a transaction that hasn’t been announced, so the team has just 15 spots available for draft picks and undrafted free agents. The Patriots went into the 2014 NFL draft with eight picks, then traded down in the third round to pick up an additional selection. Of the nine players the Patriots selected, only six made their 53-man roster.
“I would just say any time you move up or down, it’s really usually player-specific or player-driven,” Caserio said. “So, if there’s players that you graded a certain way or that you valued a certain way relative to other needs, other teams, supply and demand at that position, that can dictate whether you feel it’s necessary to move up. Or if you feel like you can get a similar value, a similar player at a lower level and acquire picks, then you can move down. A lot of that, too, is, ‘OK, where are you in terms of your overall roster?’ We’re not talking about infinite numbers of spots, so if you move back, you’re going to accumulate picks, maybe you end, if you move back, use those picks to move back up. …
“If there’s a player in range, then you look at what’s around you and look at another team, and you think based on your research, ‘OK, they have a need. We’ve sort of identified this player with that team. OK, maybe this is an opportunity to do it,’ then that kind of is that impetus to make that move. If you don’t feel that way, you might be able to say, ‘Look, if we sit here, we can get one of three or four players.”
Caserio said the Patriots haven’t talked to any teams about a draft-day trade yet, but phone calls could be made next week. The 2015 NFL Draft begins next Thursday in Chicago.
Thumbnail photo via Doug Kyed/NESN