The first round of the NFL draft came and the first round of the NFL draft went, and it saw the New England Patriots not add a player but rather explore the trade market: despite the board seemingly falling favorably from the team’s perspective, it decided to send its lone pick of Day One — the 23rd overall selection — to the Los Angeles Chargers in return for two additional choices in the second and third rounds of the event, respectively.
As a result of the move, New England now enters Friday with five instead of three selections in the fold (as well as 13 overall). While there are numerous factors playing every decision and potential trade, one important motive was pointed out by the Patriots’ director of player personnel, Nick Caserio, during a media conference call immediately after the conclusion of the first round: the team wanted more flexibility to target a particularly deep area of the draft.
“I think there’s a number of players in a pocket here, probably these next two to three rounds across positions,” Caserio said. “When you go back and evaluate what happened tonight — six or seven tackles went, six or seven corners went, it was six receivers, four quarterbacks — going into the draft the expectation was that this was probably how it was going to shake out. There’s certain positions that may have a little bit more left over moving forward.”
When the Patriots were first on the clock, highly-rated linebackers like Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray or LSU’s Patrick Queen were still available as were wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State or Michigan interior offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz. While all four of them eventually came off the board in the slots after New England’s original selection — Murray, for example, went to the Chargers at No. 23 — there is still some considerable talent left on both sides of the ball as Caserio pointed out.
That said, the Patriots did not necessarily head into the draft with the goal of moving down the board and accumulating more selections on Day Two. Caserio added that the team always had to be prepared to make a pick, and that a “handful of players” were being discussed before ultimately deciding to engage with the Chargers on the trade down — one that now does give New England considerable ammunition for the second day.
“Right now we have five picks,” said Caserio about the Patriots’ situation. “They’re kind of spread out a little bit — the one at the top of the second and then really all littered throughout the third round. I’d say it’s similar to 2009, we ended up popping those four second-round picks together, that was the [Patrick] Chung-year: we took Chung at the top of the second round and ended up picking four players at the end of the second round. It’s a round later [now], just gives you a little flexibility to maneuver around in the middle there a little bit.”
Flexibility, as can be seen, is the name of the game for New England heading into Friday.