Caserio: Patriots have only 50-75 players on their draft board

Caserio: Patriots have only 50-75 players on their draft board

FOXBORO -- There will be about 300 players drafted at the end of the month, but the Patriots only consider 50-75 players as draft-pick worthy for their program. 

That's what director of player personnel Nick Caserio said on Tuesday when he met with reporters for his annual pre-draft press conference. He acknowledged that the pool of players the Patriots are picking from is smaller than the norm.

"I would say it varies year to year, but I would say our draft board is smaller than most," he explained. "We are trying to find players that we feel comfortable with on all levels that we would actually draft. Not that are going to get drafted. Three-hundred players or whatever it is are going to get drafted. It's players that we would draft, that we would actually feel comfortable with in our program in some capacity."

That seemingly miniscule group doesn't include the number of players that the Patriots are anticipating don't get drafted but in whom they'll have interest.

"The Jonathan Joneses, the Brandon Boldens, the David Andrewses, who, could they have been drafted? Sure. Absolutely," Caserio said. "They didn't get drafted for whatever reason, but that's going to be another pool of players that come into our program, and some have had some more success than others.

"You have a couple of different groups. Here's the draft group. Here's the undrafted group. We spend a lot of time on the players that we maybe think are not going to get drafted. They could get drafted, but if they don't get drafted, we definitely want to work with that player because of X, Y and Z. We try to identify those. Andrews definitely fell into that category. Brandon Bolden was another player who fell into that cat. Jonathan Jones fell into that category. Drafted players, those are important. Undrafted players, they're equally important."

The Patriots currently have 15 undrafted players on their roster, including Ryan Allen, Danny Amendola, James Develin, Chris Hogan and Brandon King. That pool of players could factor significantly into the composition of this year's training camp roster as the team has 63 players under contract and seven draft picks. Though they may add or subtract picks when the draft arrives -- and though they could have a high-profile addition in Malcolm Butler -- that could still mean close to 20 undrafted players making up the 90-man roster. 

So while their draft board may be smaller than that of other teams, that doesn't mean they won't have their eyes on a couple dozen players they're projecting will not hear their names called on draft day.

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."