FOXBORO – The Patriots have had a year to get their minds around the fact the NFL confiscated their first-round pick. All rock-kicking, table-flipping and/or crying into their beer is long since over if it ever happened.
But the reality of it will be felt next Thursday. It will be tangible as the scouting, personnel and coaching staff watches the best talent go to other teams for the first 29 selections of the draft.
That led reporter Mark Dondero of WPRI in Providence to ask Nick Caserio if he and Bill Belichick have discussed how “asinine” it is that the team doesn’t have a first-rounder.
“Our philosophy is that we control what we can control,” the Patriots Director of Player Personnel said in his annual pre-draft press conference. “Our job is to prepare for the draft and whatever our picks are, be prepared to pick. A lot of that’s out of our hands so there’s nothing we can do about that. No sense in spending extra time on it because there’s nothing we can do about it. We’ll just prepare for the draft and take advantage of our opportunities when it’s time to pick.”
Asked to acknowledge that the team has been very successful hitting on first-round selections and that the loss of the pick has lasting impact, Caserio said, “We’re prepared to pick when we pick. There’s been many years we haven’t had a first-round pick and we adjusted accordingly. We can’t control where we pick it’s out of our hands.”
Caserio’s 20-minute media session was dominated mostly by philosophical draft talk. We probably missed the boat on asking player-specific questions about additions Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and others and subtractions such as Chandler Jones and Dominique Easley.
Still with the draft looming, questions about how a team balances the risk-reward of players such as Easley, or how it deals with gaps between picks, seemed germane.
Caserio was eventually pressed about whether the team altered its approach after it swings and misses on draft picks. Tavon Wilson, a second-rounder who mostly played special teams in his four seasons with the Pats was mentioned. But there have been plenty of other second-round misses (along with some hits).
In response, Caserio distilled the Patriots process – every team’s process – into a brief answer.
“We go through the same process every year,” he said. “We evaluate the player. We meet with the player. We spend time with him. We project him into a role. Sometimes it works the way you think it’s going to. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
And the reality is, the later the pick is made, the harder it is to project and the likelier it is that it won’t work out as often as it does early.