No hard feelings at draft as Patriots scouts understand roles


No hard feelings at draft as Patriots scouts understand roles

It seems we’ll never run out of Eagles-affiliated folks that are willing to air grievances regarding former head coach Chip Kelly.

Last week, a story on NJ Advance Media had a former member of the Eagles front office detailing how Kelly ran herd over the draft and alienated his scouting department.

An anecdote near the top of the story was meant to illustrate how unreasonable Kelly was.

“Right before that draft, the scouts set the board. Then Chip got a hold of it and totally turned it around. Scouts had no say at all in that draft. Anybody that Chip didn't want, that player's card got removed from the board and thrown in the trash. Those guys were never even in the discussion.

"Almost immediately, you had a lot of scouts looking around and wondering, 'Why am I even working? Why the hell are we even here?' We put all of this work in, put the information in and Chip changed everything and took whoever he wanted to take."

Reading it, I couldn’t help thinking that controlling the draft board and deciding who to select wasn’t only Kelly’s right but his responsibility. The same way it’s been in New England.

The biggest difference, seemingly, is that the Patriots’ scouting staff understands its role is to evaluate and gather intel and there it stops. They might be consulted. They might be asked to make a case. But the scouts – and other members of the coaching staff who are part of evaluations – aren’t living with the expectation that they are stacking the board.

It’s up to Bill Belichick and GM Nick Caserio make the calls because those two are intimately involved with overall roster decisions, team-building and financial forecasting. And they are the ones who need to be the trigger-pullers on the frequent draft-time gambles.  

To expand on Bill Parcells’ old draft metaphor about the head coach being able to shop for the groceries if he’s going to cook the dinner, everybody in the organization can’t be in the kitchen at the same time .

Not that the scouting staff should feel disrespected or voiceless, but the expectation – at least in New England – is that the scouts’ role generally doesn’t extend past evaluation and information.  

In Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback odyssey this morning, he spoke to Kelly – now the Niners coach – about a variety of topics.

King also drew the Patriots’ comparison with this anecdote.

“I’m reminded of 2011, when the Patriots had the first pick of day two, No. 33 overall,” King wrote. “The scouts, I’m told, were expecting the Patriots to pick one of two front-seven players, Jabaal Sheard or Brooks Reed. Instead, Belichick went with his gut, taking a tall corner with an injury history, Ras-I Dowling. He ended up being a bust. Sheard, particularly, and Reed haven’t been superstars, but they’ve had significantly better careers. Point is, you never heard a peep out of the Patriots, mostly because Belichick earned the right to pick whoever he wanted, with three Super Bowls at the time to his credit. And Kelly will get the skepticism until he wins.”

I was aware of the Sheard vs. Dowling debate which, with Sheard now on the team and an important contributor, has come full-circle.

As King said, there was some disappointment in the scouting department that Sheard was passed over because, while they don’t necessarily have a draft-day voice, they are going to have a rooting interest in seeing their evaluations taken to heart.

The flip-side of Sheard-Dowling came in 2013, though. The Patriots traded out of the first round, and their first selection was the 52nd overall. Belichick and Caserio used that pick to select Jamie Collins. Again, there was some disappointment among scouts that a player from a poor college program who hadn’t totally distinguished himself at one position was going to be the flagship pickup of the draft.

Collins has been outstanding.

There are two takeaways on this.

First, what King said – success quells organizational grumbling – is true but only to a point. Having well-defined job descriptions and hiring staff that willingly accepts their roles and the decision-making chain is fundamentally important than mere success. The process of building a team is going to be a mixed bag of personnel hits, misses and reboots. Resisting the urge to second-guess, backstab and say, “He shoulda listened to me…” is easier if you understood your role in the first place.

Second, when you look at the Patriots’ second-round selections over the years (as our Phil Perry did recently) you see there’s a helluva lot more going on than picking the best player. Calculated risks are taken. You might hit on a future Hall of Famer – Rob Gronkowski. You might hit on a Pro Bowl-level player – Collins. You might miss on an injury-riddled player like Dowling or Aaron Dobson or a guy who can crack the regular defense (Tavon Wilson).

The expectation from scouts that a head coach would defer to the board they “set” is more absurd than the vision of Kelly flipping cards into the trash.

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year. 


Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry go over the moves the Patriots have made this offseason and rank their favorite moves and what to expect from those players.

(1:00) Ranking the Patriots acquisitions so far.

(5:30) Will Danny Shelton or Jason McCourty have a bigger impact n the Patriots defense?

(13:00) What can Patriots fans realistically expect from Cordarrelle Patterson?

(16:00) Are the Patriots a better team now than they were at the end of the Super Bowl?

(17:00) What is the next position in need for the Patriots?

(23:00) How concerning is the tension level between Belichick/Brady/Gronkowski, when should Patriots fans start to panic?