The New England Patriots do not officially employ a general manager; head coach Bill Belichick does de facto serve in this capacity. Belichick is not the only one responsible for building the team, though, as director of player personnel Nick Caserio is another key figure when it comes to constructing the Patriots’ roster.
In the past, Caserio has been credited with orchestrating trades as well as scouting free agency signings and potential draft picks. And every year prior to the draft, the 41-year old steps in front of the media to hold a press conference talking about the college players selection process.
This year was no different as Caserio spent more than 20 minutes talking about the Patriots’ offseason and the upcoming draft (as a side note: he sounded exactly like Bill Belichick at times). And one of the questions he was asked was how the current absence of picks in the two rounds alters the team’s preparation.
According to Caserio, it does not. "You want to know players top to bottom," the John Carroll alum noted. As a result, the process of evaluating does not change simply because a player is not supposed to fall to a certain pick in the draft. After all, the scouting department’s job is to assess each prospect as well as possible no matter the ultimate grade he receives. "You never know when the information becomes important," Caserio pointed out.
Especially when it comes to trading for players on other teams or signing free agents, New England’s draft evaluation becomes critical again. According to Caserio, the team relies a lot on the pre-draft information gathered on players. Interviews, grades and background information are all collected in a database; one that grows every single year and includes every player in the NFL.
New England’s player personnel director pointed to one specific example: Kony Ealy. The Patriots traded for the defensive edge in March – moving down a mere eight draft spots to do so – and the pre-draft information saved in the team’s database played an important role. Ealy visited the team before getting selected in the second round in 2014 and the notes gathered back then helped the Patriots’ staff project whether or not the 25-year old would be a fit for the team’s system.
Naturally, the same also goes for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and unrestricted free agent signing Stephon Gilmore. New England gave up a lot to acquire both players and without an extensive record of information to fall back on, the team would likely not have felt as confident investing as it ultimately did.
"You are building a reservoir of information," Caserio said about gathering information prior to the draft. "You never know when you’re going to utilize it, but it’s there." And building this reservoir does not change even though the Patriots are currently not slated to pick until the 72nd selection.