While the New England Patriots were able to keep director of player personnel Nick Caserio in the fold this offseason by extending his contract, the organization had to watch another member of its front office depart on Monday: director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort, whose contract with the Patriots had expired after late April’s draft, has reportedly agreed to become the Tennessee Titans’ new director of player personnel.
With Ossenfort headed to join fellow ex-Patriots Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson in Tennessee, New England has a sizable hole to fill in its front office and find a new head for its scouting department for the first time since 2014. How will the club therefore proceed? Let’s take a look at five possible replacement candidates, all of which in-house options to take over Ossenfort’s old position.
The longest-tenured member of the Patriots’ college scouting department, Brian Smith has been with the team since Bill Belichick’s arrival in 2000. By 2010, he had worked his way up from coaching assistant to assistant director of college scouting and two years later was named the team’s college scouting coordinator. Given his experience in the system, Smith appears to be a prime candidate to take over for Ossenfort as the new head of the department.
Ziegler appeared to be the next man in line to succeed Nick Caserio if he had left New England. With Caserio staying put, however, the Patriots may opt to move him to Ossenfort’s old role. Ziegler would bring plenty of experience to the table after spending seven seasons as a member of the team’s scouting operation: the first three as assistant director of pro scouting, the last four as director of pro personnel. The 42-year-old, who started his NFL career with the Denver Broncos and was a college teammate of Caserio and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, is an up-and-comer in NFL executive circles. His contract with the team runs through the 2021 draft.
Wolf originally arrived in New England earlier this offseason as a consultant to the front office. Before joining the Patriots, he worked numerous roles: starting his career in the Green Bay Packers’ pro personnel department in 2004, Wolf worked his way up the organization to become director of pro personnel (2012-14), of player personnel (2015), and of football operations (2016-2017). In 2018, he joined the Cleveland Browns as assistant general manager but was let go again earlier this year. Following a short stint in Seattle, he moved to New England in March.
Matt Groh & Brandon Yeargan
It would be a surprise if one of New England’s two national scouts jumped to the top of the college scouting department in the wake of Ossenfort’s departure, but they are certainly worth keeping an eye on. Matt Groh and Brandon Yeargan have been with the Patriots since 2011 and 2013, respectively, and started their careers as scouting assistants before being promoted to area scouts. Since last season, the two are serving on the national levels and appear to be on their way up the ladder.
As can be seen, the Patriots have some internal options to fill Ossenfort’s old role even though no clear line of succession is visible. Brian Smith should be considered the front runner based on experience within the department, but both Dave Ziegler and Eliot Wolf have strong cases as well. Matt Groh and Brandon Yeargan, meanwhile, are dark horse candidates. Either way, it would not be surprising if one of those five men took over as New England’s new director of college scouting when all is said and done.