Fresh off a new contract extension that will keep him in New England beyond this year’s draft, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio traveled to Indianapolis earlier this week as part of the group — one that also includes recently retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia — representing the organization at the NFL scouting combine. Caserio’s role is again expected to be a rather active one, especially in the interview process.
Just like last year, and with head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick arriving in Indianapolis later during the week, Caserio will likely conduct formal interviews with college prospects. And with every team having 45 such 18-minute interviews available this year, he will likely spend quite some time speaking to players. After all, gaining as much information through those talks is one of the essential parts of the combine.
Caserio recognized this during a recent one-on-one with Patriots.com’s Megan O’Brien. The 44-year-old was asked about the ins and outs of the combine and explained what the event means for the Patriots and how they approach it.
“There’s a lot of different avenues to get information, it’s really how you utilize your time and your resources,” Caserio told O’Brien. “There’s an on-field component, there’s an in-person component, there’s a medical component. It’s really an information-gathering tool slash area. The best part about it is that you essentially have the entire league and all those 300-somewhat players in one centralized location.”
“It’s really all about what the goal is, and if you can maximize your time and can get as much out of it as you want or not,” the veteran Patriots staffer continued when explaining his and the organization’s view on the combine. “Really what the combine... especially with the testing, you’re just collecting data points.”
While the on-field workouts Caserio mentioned are the most prominent part of the week-long event, and have been moved to the evening this year in order to maximize the viewing experience for TV audiences, the combine goes far beyond 40-yard-dash, broad jump and the like. New England also uses it as an opportunity to connect with agents and simply add to the files on potential draft pick through medical evaluations and interviews — of which the team has had quite a few already.
That being said, Caserio acknowledged that the combine was not the be-all and end-all of player evaluation and that even those not among the 337 invited this year can still find their way to the Patriots or success elsewhere in pro football: “Fortunately, we’ve had some success with players in this program that didn’t go to the combine. Because they’re at the combine doesn’t necessarily mean one way or another the player is going to work out.
“Some of our better players through the years — Sebastian Vollmer, Julian [Edelman] — they weren’t at the combine. Our big thing is it doesn’t really matter how they get here, it’s what they do when they’re here. And really, every player’s given the same opportunity and performance will dictate how big of a role they do or do not have once the season gets started,” added Caserio.
The Patriots are therefore viewing the combine as what it is in its simplest description: just another tool to help teams gather more information in the process that is roster construction and long-term team building.