We're more than a week removed from draft weekend. Rookies will be making their way to Foxboro soon. But that doesn't mean we can't wonder how things might've played out differently.
That's exactly what the Patriots did after the draft, according to former assistant to the coaching staff Mike Lombardi. On The GM Shuffle, his podcast with Adnan Virk, Lombardi explained that Bill Belichick and his staff would've gone back and looked at the draft to see what they could've learned from the process -- almost like breaking down film after a game to see what needed to be corrected.
Lombardi used the Raiders draft as his jumping-off point for the discussion on the importance of reviewing the weekend.
"You should always take snapshots of the board," Lombardi said. "Good teams take snapshots of their draft board. Let's say at No. 14 we take a snapshot. At No. 19 we take a snapshot. At No. 24 when we're on the clock [we take a snapshot].
"What you want to do [following the draft] is you want to go back in the room. You want to look at this and say, 'You know what, I think we blew an opportunity here.' We picked [Josh] Jacobs at No. 24. Look at the board here. We could've done this. We could've done that.' Then do it for the second round. Do it for the third round. What happens is you just start becoming a very false duality A-to-B, A-to-B, A-to-B as opposed to really taking a step back and looking at it."
Lombardi, who was in the Patriots "war room" for drafts during his tenure in New England, explained the Patriots are among those teams that take snapshots of their board mid-draft.
"This week, the smart teams, like New England, they've taken snap shots of the board. They know when they were sitting there at the bottom of the second and they traded out, they lost potentially some good players. They got the guy in the third, they picked, I think, Damien Harris in the third. But they lost some good players.
"They'll go back and re-visit, was that the right trade to make? Would we rather have a receiver, say Jalen Hurd who got picked by San Francisco at the top [of the third round]? Or the defensive lineman from Boston College? Whatever it is. You have to look at that and analyze it because if you don't, then you're just sitting there. Then you're just a fan."
The Patriots made four trades on Day 2 of the draft, but the one to which Lombardi is referring is when they dealt No. 64 -- their second second-round pick -- to the Seahawks. In return, Belichick received pick No. 77 and No. 118. That left the Patriots staring at No. 73 as their next pick, with No. 77 right on its heels.
That gap from No. 64 to No. 73, though, as Lombardi referenced, saw some intriguing Patriots fits fly off the board. Zach Allen, the defensive lineman from BC, was taken at No. 65. Hurd went off to the Niners at No. 67. San Jose State tight end Josh Oliver -- who has Rob Gronkowski-sized hands and some intriguing traits as a move tight end -- was selected by the Jaguars at pick No. 69.
When it was time for the Patriots to pick at No. 73, they opted to trade back again. In that deal they packaged No. 73 and No. 205 to get No. 87 and No. 162.
Perhaps at that point in the draft they felt as though the player they wanted all along would still be there at No. 77. That's where they ended up taking Michigan pass-rusher Chase Winovich. If that was the case, then why not continue to trade back and pick up draft capital?
The flip side to that . . . Perhaps the Patriots had their eyes on Allen or Hurd or someone else at No. 73. When one of those players didn't get there, then the call was made to trade back again.
By trading out of No. 73 and picking next at No. 77, the Patriots lost the opportunity to take running back David Montgomery (No. 73), tight end Jace Sternberger (No. 75) and receiver Terry McLaurin (No. 76). Had they felt very strongly about one or more of those players, they could've pounced at No. 73. They didn't.
But consider this alternate reality: The Patriots take Allen at No. 64 and Sternberger at No. 73 -- a combination that might've been met with rave reviews from fans and addressed a need at the tight end spot. The Patriots instead ended up with Winovich at No. 77, Harris at No. 87 and Hjalte Froholdt at No. 118. Pick No. 162 was traded to the Rams, who dealt it back to the Patriots, who eventually used it to help them land defensive lineman Byron Cowart at No. 159.
Belichick and Nick Caserio ended up with a nice haul with the way things played out. But would they have preferred something different? It might be a while before any of us can say for sure. But those are the kind of "what if?" scenarios good teams roll through in the aftermath of the draft, according to Lombardi.
"When you're sitting there watching it," he said, "instead of patting yourself on the back saying, 'Oh God, we got this board graded out right.' No, you gotta figure out what you could've done better. Look, we're in the information business. If you're not analyzing the data, how are you gonna get better?"
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.