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How do the Patriots draft?

According to an article in the Denver Post, by Jeff Legwold, the New England Patriots take a minimalist approach to the NFL draft. The team scouts out every possible player they might have the smallest interest in to find out how that player would fit in with the Patriots. It's a common fact that the Patriots have worked out over 200 prospects around the country; Legwold reveals what happens next.

While most teams list all potential picks on their draft board, with grades on everyone from potential first-round picks to rookie free agents, teams such as the Patriots, Broncos and Chiefs work from a much shorter list. Players who don't fit the team's framework, on or off the field, are removed from consideration before the draft starts.

If that doesn't make sense to you, here's a summary.

  1. The Patriots workout as many players as they have interest in.
  2. The Patriots bring some extra players in for a private workout.
  3. The Patriots rate the player "yes" or "no"

That's it. Most teams will have draft boards of over 300 players, to have a sense of where players could and should be drafted in relation to every other prospect. The Patriots don't do that- they have players that they want and when they think they can and should be drafted. If the Patriots don't want the player, then they don't include them on their draft board. This method works well for the Patriots due to our consistency as a playoff team- we have the ability to select the best player who fits our team.

I don't think this method should be applied to the Broncos or Chiefs. Especially the Chiefs.

The Broncos and Chiefs are two teams trying to build up a winning way, which means neither are playoff teams. Usually, non-playoff teams have a lot of holes that need to be filled; holes that are typically filled via the draft. By eliminating so many potential players for a non-playoff team, that means the team could be missing some excellent value in many positions. The Patriots have the luxury of not needing to worry about plugging every possible hole- we have a couple issues and can focus on filling them.

The Patriots appear to enter the draft with blinders on- they get the players they want if they're available and, if they're not, they trade down or to the next year. While the team was chastised last year for passing on Michael Oher and Clay Matthews, perhaps neither player was on the team's limited draft board. Neither player were ideal fits. Does this method blind the Patriots from some great potential players? Absolutely. But, most importantly, does it allow the team to grab the best players who fit our aim? Yes. When the Patriots get players from the draft who fit the team, year in and year out, we, as fans, start to wonder about "what ifs" and "could have beens" instead of looking at the players we have actually selected. This method has led us to some excellent drafts and great value picks- and I hope it continues to bear fruit for years to come.

The article is a great read and I highly recommend taking a look at it.