Now that the dust has settled on the NFL Draft, it's worth taking a look beyond New England to see how teams across the league built their rookie classes. Of particular interest on this end were the drafts orchestrated by first-year general managers who learned the art of team building under Bill Belichick.
Both the Titans (under Jon Robinson) and the Lions (under Bob Quinn) made choices over the weekend that seemed to align with Patriots philosophies all the way into the later rounds.
The MMQB's Jenny Vrentas got a chance to discuss the process with Robinson after the third round, and he admitted that his time with the Patriots influenced his choices.
Starting in 2002, Robinson worked his way up the scouting ranks under Belichick, eventually earning the title of director of college scouting in 2009. He retained that post until 2013 when he was lured to Tampa Bay to serve as its director of player personnel.
For his first draft in Tennessee, Robinson began by making what some consider to be the ultimate Belichickian move: He traded down.
For the No. 1 overall position, a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder, Robinson got in return the No. 15 overall pick, two second-rounders and a third-rounder. He also snagged a first-round pick next year and a third-round pick next year from the Rams.
Robinson later flipped the No. 15 pick and the No. 76 pick and a sixth-rounder next year for what eventually became the No. 8 overall pick, No. 157 and No. 253.
At No. 8 he chose Michigan State's mauling offensive tackle Jack Conklin. At the top of the second round, Robinson selected Clemson's edge-setting defensive end Kevin Dodd, who has plenty of upside as a pass-rusher. And in the third he went after Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson -- who drew comparisons to Patriots second-year lineman Malcom Brown from Pro Football Focus -- as well as massive Alabama running back Derrick Henry.
The theme there? With their trades, the Titans were able to build depth on their roster, and they did so with big, physical athletes.
"My background is mostly in New England, obviously, for 12 years and we were a big football team," Robinson told Vrentas. "We always had big, strong backs, whether it was Corey Dillon or Laurence Maroney or LeGarrette Blount. On the offensive line we had Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder and Logan Mankins for a long time, all bigger guys. And then on defense, we had Vince Wilfork and, back in the day, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel. We won a lot of football games with those big guys."
The Lions took a similar path as their new front office tried to establish what it wants to be with its 10 picks.
Quinn spent an even greater amount of time in New England than Robinson did, joining the team as a player personnel assistant during Belichick's first year at the helm in 2000. He, too, climbed the scouting ladder and was named director of pro scouting in 2012. The Lions hired him before the Patriots playoff run ended this past season.
In his first draft as the lead decision-maker, Quinn also seemed to employ a size-does-matter approach. In the first round, with the No. 16 overall pick, he drafted Ohio State tackle Taylor Decker, who some have compared to Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. In the second, Alabama's athletic defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson was the choice. In the third, Quinn stayed in the trenches, getting a monster 6-foot-6 interior offensive lineman who is position versatile and scheme versatile in Graham Glasgow from Michigan. One round later, the Lions picked a big, hard-hitting safety in Miles Killebrew (6-2, 217) from Southern Utah who could eventually fill a Patrick Chung-type role as a hybrid linebacker and looks like an immediate fit as a special teamer.
While the Patriots won't necessarily tell you every last reason for why they drafted the way they did, with more and more Patriots-influenced front offices littering the NFL -- the Titans and Lions recently joining the Falcons and Buccaneers in that regard -- it provides us with a little bit better sense of the types of players Belichick and Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio might like to have on their roster.