Patriots Draft Notes: Nick Caserio Talks Player Evaluation, Lauds Hall of Fame Finalists

by abournenesn

Apr 19, 2016

FOXBORO, Mass. — The 2016 NFL Draft is fast approaching, and the New England Patriots are hard at work analyzing which players would best help the team return to the Super Bowl and win a fifth championship.

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio held his pre-draft press conference Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. Here are some notes from what he had to say:

— The Patriots currently have a 100-pick gap between their second pick in the third round and their next selection after that, which comes in the sixth round. It’s possible they could move up or down in that range depending on how the draft board falls.

“The most important thing is knowing the draft from top to bottom,” Caserio said. “A couple years ago, we had five picks, and we ended up with more. It can move both ways, so I think the most important thing is knowing the players, knowing who you’re talking about, and then if you are going to make a decision to move up from where you are, who are you moving up for and what’s the rationale.”

He added: “We’re prepared to pick either way, whether it’s from No. 96 to No. 196, whether we move. We’re prepared, we’re flexible.”

— So many college offenses run the spread, a formation not often seen in the NFL. College quarterbacks spend so much time in the shotgun, which prevents them from learning how to effectively run an offense under center. It’s also tough for offensive linemen to develop quality run-blocking skills in these college offenses that throw 50 to 75 times per game.

Caserio explained how the Patriots determine if a player from this kind of situation would be able to make the difficult transition to the pro game.

“You have to spend time with the player, understand what they’ve been asked to do,” Caserio said.
“Whether it’s a pre-draft workout, pre-draft visit, an interview, or the whatever it may be, you’re trying to ascertain information from them and find out what they were asked to do, and say, ‘OK, here’s what we’re going to ask them to do, do we feel he’s equipped enough to make the transition and handle that adjustment and information.’ ”

— Caserio said the players added to the roster through free agency won’t prevent the Patriots from drafting players at those same positions. He used an example of the Pats drafting offensive tackle Nate Solder in 2011 despite already having Sebastian Vollmer and Matt Light on the roster.

“You try to make the decisions that you feel is best for your team, based on the players you’re looking at on the board,” Caserio said.

— The Patriots have two second-round picks at Nos. 60 and 61. Teams with multiple selections in Round 2 often are able to roll the dice on a high-risk/high-reward player. The Patriots don’t have a first-rounder, so Caserio was asked if that scenario would change how they approach the second round.

“I don’t think it really changes the overall philosophy,” he said. “You still go through the same process. The reality is our process hasn’t really changes this year, relative to what we’ve done in previous years.”

— The Patriots announced last week that former linebacker Mike Vrabel, running back Kevin Faulk and cornerback Raymond Clayborn are the finalists for the 2016 class of the team’s Hall of Fame.

Caserio called it a “great group,” and he also made mention of Vrabel’s impressive receiving ability.

“He probably thought he had the best set of hands than anybody in the NFL,” Caserio said. “… He always talked about how his hands were better than (former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver) Hines Ward. He played linebacker, he played tight end, played free safety in practice.”

Vrabel, of course, tallied 10 touchdown receptions in his regular-season career, in addition to catching a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers and another in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Caserio says there’s depth throughout the 2016 draft >>

Patriots must adjust without first-round pick >>

Thumbnail photo via Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports Images

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