Even though there are more than 200 players drafted every year, the New England Patriots don’t waste their time with most of them. In fact, the Patriots have one of the smallest draft boards in the league because it allows the team to isolate the few players that would be perfect fits within the organization.
The Patriots also don’t have many draft picks, so it’s probably a good thing to limit the window shopping. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio shared the team’s approach.
“There’s good football players top to bottom [in this draft] I would say across positions,” Caserio explained. “So our job is to find the ones that fit for us and the reality is, look, there are some players that fit; there’s some players that don’t. In the end, we end up with 50-75 players that we would draft from top to bottom. That’s a small number but that’s where we end up. So that’s the decision that you have to make. I mean, it’s a small pool but that’s our process. We have to make the decisions that are best for our team, not necessarily what the player is going to do for somebody else. That’s all we can really do and control.”
The Patriots don’t care if the Jets have a draftable grade on a player, or if the Cleveland Browns have a 500 player draft board. They’re only going to look at the players they want and no one else. And despite the upcoming draft being regarded as one of the deepest in memory, the Patriots are sticking to a small board.
“I’d say [the draft board size] varies year to year,” Caserio continued. “I would say our draft board is smaller than most. We are trying to find players that we feel comfortable with on all levels that we would actually draft.”
As for the players that don’t make the top 50, there is still a chance they could end up in New England- they’ll just fall into the “undrafted” pile.
“There’s going to be some players that aren’t drafted that we’re going to add to our team,” Caserio added, “like the Jonathan Jones’s, the Brandon Bolden’s, the David Andrews who, could they have been drafted? Sure, absolutely. They didn’t get drafted for whatever reason but that’s going to be another pool of players that have come into our program I would say and some have had more success than others.”
Jonathan Jones was short, Brandon Bolden was suspended by his team, and Andrews was extremely light for an offensive lineman. All of these were flags for the Patriots, but their production in college earned them a ticket to the Patriots camp, where they proved they could overcome whatever preconceived notions the New England scouting department applied in the draft process.
“We spend a lot of time on the players that we maybe think are not going to get drafted,” Caserio said. “I mean look, they could get drafted but if they don’t get drafted we definitely want to work with that player because of ‘X, Y and Z’. We try to identify those. Andrews definitely fell into that category. Brandon Bolden was another player that fell into that category. Jonathan Jones fell into that category.
“There’s draft picks [and] they’re important. OK, undrafted players – they’re equally as important. And there’s going to be other teambuilding opportunities to add players to your team throughout the league that we’re not even talking about right now.”
Some players are undrafted due to injury, some due to physical limitation, and some due to off-the-field problems. The Patriots find a way to add a couple of undrafted players to the roster every season and turn them into valuable contributors.
The fact that the Patriots draft board is so small is not a limitation of the scouting process. It means that the team is confident in the work that they’ve done- and that there will always be alternative ways of fleshing out a roster.