Bill Belichick probably isn’t spending a lot of time on First-Pick.com or Fanspeak.com, but mock drafts are something that the New England Patriots head coach endorses around this time of year.
“Sometimes we do that, yeah,” Belichick told reporters during his pre-draft press conference Friday at Gillette Stadium, via Patriots.com. “I’d say sometimes it just sparks a conversation.”
The old-fashioned, around-the-table simulation doesn’t help the Patriots further familiarize with the names in the 2018 NFL draft class – or tell Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort which round a prospect will go in.
It does, however, act as an in-house dry run to ensure that the war room is familiarized with all possible outcomes at draft slots other than their own.
And that requires thinking for others who have done the same work that they’ve done. Kind of like scouting the scouts.
“We might internally say, ‘Okay, how about Player A and Player B and Player C,’” Belichick said, “and if you did a mock draft where each guy has a team and say, ‘Your turn. You pick this pick.’ And now you look at the board and say, ‘It’s our turn to pick and oh gee, here’s a scenario we hadn’t really thought about. We didn’t really picture that this guy would be there.’”
The Patriots will soon be in position to find out just whom will be there. With the rights to No. 23 overall from the Brandin Cooks trade as well as No. 43 overall from the Jimmy Garoppolo trade, altogether, the organization approaches April 26 with five of the draft’s first 95 selections. Some rated highly will fall into New England’s range; others rated low will rise ahead.
And the Patriots will only be able to pick for themselves then.
“Again, we don’t know what the other teams are going to do. We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Belichick continued. “Many of them probably don’t know what they’re going to do, either, depending on what happens in front of them. But again, it’s just an exercise to just kind of complete the process of preparation. That’s the way it is on draft day, too.”
Belichick estimates that 98-99 percent of the Patriots’ hay is in the barn in terms of prospect information-gathering. The team’s vertical and horizontal draft boards will continue to be fine-tuned over the coming weeks as medical re-checks come back and numerical grades are cross-compared between the likes of eighth-ranked cornerbacks and third-ranked guards. Niche players will be weighed against three-downers. Seasoned production against top-conference competition will be weighed against ascending talents at lower levels. And players deemed undraftable fits may get one final vetting to determine whether they are seventh-round or priority-free-agent options.
The Patriots don’t want any morsel to go undigested. Neither do the other 31.
“There’s a lot of times you’re sitting there looking at the players – ‘I thought this player would be there and he’s long gone,’ or, ‘I didn’t think this player would be there and he’s still there.’ One of the problems with that is if you haven’t done enough work on a player and he’s still there but you really don’t know the player as well as you should because you thought he wouldn’t be there, then that puts you in a little bit of a dilemma when you’re kind of in the unknown, which you don’t want to be.”
Mock drafts are not the answer to the unknown. The draft itself is an imperfect science.
But they serve a purpose other than passing time leading up to it.
“It’s hard enough when you think you know what you’re doing,” Belichick said. “It’s even harder when you’re kind of guessing because you just didn’t anticipate this. I’d say that’s kind of the purpose of the mock draft. We don’t sit around doing it all day, but we do it as an exercise just to kind of, as I said, stimulate.”