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Nick Caserio Pre-Draft Press Conference Transcript

Posted Apr 19, 2012

New England Patriots Director of Player Development Nick Caserio addresses the media during his pre-draft press conference at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, April 19, 2012.


NC: Good afternoon. Good to see everybody. I think the last time we spoke was probably at the combine when we were assembled as a group. Glad everybody found time to take out of their schedule when we're talking about the Red Sox or the Bruins or anything else Boston sports related. I'm glad that we could fit the draft in there. We're winding down here, we're a week away from the draft next week. I'd say the majority of the work at this point is done. It's a matter of cleaning up a few loose ends. We just finished up with our pre-draft visits yesterday. We had our 30 visits that concluded. As far as interactions with the players, that's probably the end of it. I say that, but there have been instances or examples of us the week of the draft going down to see players just to make sure that we have all the information that we need. It's an exciting time, it's an exciting time for the organization, for the whole football operation and we'll see how it goes next week. I'll take some questions and go from there.  


Q: Can you expand on deadlines and things you have going forward for the next week until the draft? What are the types of things that you're still looking for?  


NC: Sure. I think really it's a matter of just organizing a lot of the information that we have. At this point we have everything I would say for the most part that we need as far as the evaluation. We'll meet with our medical personnel, we'll go through the medical component because that always factors into it. There's some other testing that we do with the players that they've done at some of the all-star games. I think it's a matter of pooling all the information into as concise a profile as we possibly can on a player which encompasses a number of things. Once we have that kind of profile, then at this point it's a matter of going through the board and I would say generally speaking it's fairly well set but there's a vertical stacking and a horizontal stacking so then you start to go through it by position and look at the position individually but then relative to another position and then you start to work horizontally across. I would say those are some of the discussions that we're going to have at this point or into next week. The other thing that will come into play is we'll probably have a little more contact with some of the other clubs as we get a little bit closer to the draft, we'll have some of those discussions. I'd say big picture the majority of the things have been completed. Now it's just a matter of just pooling information, making sure that we feel comfortable about what we have on a player. Like I said, if there's anything outstanding that we don't feel good about, I've personally gone out the day before the draft or even a few days before the draft to see a player, to work out a player that maybe we haven't had as much exposure with during the spring or during the process. We'll leave all avenues open, we'll explore it to the best of our abilities, this way come Thursday and the weekend, we're ready to go.  


Q: Is it an uncomfortable situation right now to look at your draft board and see that you don't have a lot of selections at the back end of the draft. Is that something you'll likely address?  


NC: Possibly. Historically, there's been a lot of movement as it relates to our picks. Right now is where we are but the door is always open. I would say that those things kind of evolve as the draft sort of moves along. We'll see how it goes. If we end up acquiring some of those picks back, great. If we don't, then we'll be prepared accordingly. I think we just have to let that play itself out and then see how it goes.  


Q: Is that something that you might be bearing in mind as players 100 to 250 go off the board?  


NC: Possibly. But I'd say that we'll still know that group of players, 100 through 250 or whatever it is so that we're well versed so if there's an opportunity to make a decision on a player that we can go ahead and pull the trigger if we have the chance to do so.  


Q: Given what players you've been able to acquire in free agency, are you more able to draft with a best player available philosophy as opposed to need at this point?  


NC: Sure, I think it's a combination of things. Really, it's how can you improve your football team? I would just say, as it relates to the roster, we're at 74 [players] right now. Just in terms of actually adding players, there are certain limitations I would say. We don't even know what the number of the roster size is actually going to be. Conceptually, let's say we're working off of 80, let's just say it's 80, then the players that you draft won't count so you have a little bit of wiggle room. But I think the most important thing is you try to build your roster and then the players that you draft, you're drafting them because you feel that they can improve your team regardless of the position. We've always felt that we'll take the best player that we feel is on the board that fits for us.  


Q: Is there a number of players that you'd like to have in place for the rookie camp?  


NC: I don't think we've really quantified that. It's varied year-to-year. Some years we've had more, some years we've had less. It's contingent upon how many picks you have, how many players you end up signing at the end of the draft. That varies year-to-year. We don't really say, 'OK, we need x amount of players for our rookie camp.'  


Q: Have the rules changed because of the lockout last year as to who can be at rookie camp? Are the rookies from last year allowed to participate?  


NC: To my knowledge, no. It's strictly for rookies, whether drafted rookies or rookie free agents that you sign.  


Q: Can you contrast the team building process last year with the lockout to what you guys are going through this year?  


NC: Right, I guess it's just sort of flipped. But I'd say that the process and the mindset is really the same. When we drafted Nate [Solder] last year, he was the best player and then we had some pretty good tackles that were already here. I'd say, in the end, you're looking for good players to improve your team regardless of where they come from. I think that mindset will always stay the same.  


Q: In the end when you trade down and add picks for the next year, is that almost like buying stock in the next draft? You don't know what it's going to look like but at least you have some latitude - is that a decent analogy?  


NC: Maybe. It all depends on what you feel makes the most sense at the time. We've traded back, we've traded up. It comes in many shapes and sizes. You try not to look too far into next year because there's an air of uncertainty. You don't really know what that quantity of players is going to look like. You may have some idea throughout the course of the fall when you're going through it but I'd say for the most part you're focused on that year, you're focused on those players and you're just trying to figure out the value of the player, what his role is going to be for your team relative to where you're picking.  


Q: You don't really set out saying, 'OK, we need to add this 2013 pick.'  


NC: I'd say the focus is certainly more short-term on draft day than it is longer term.  


Q: How would you categorize this draft?  


NC: I'd say the influx of the underclassmen. I think it's the most that applied for an evaluation through the league this year. Actually, I think it's the most underclassmen that have declared and made themselves available. So the underclassmen are certainly a big part of the draft. I'd say like every year, there are different positions, there are certain positions that are deeper than others. I think the quantity of front seven players, I'd say is higher than it's been in the past. There are some other positions where maybe there aren't as many players. It evolves and it rotates every year. I'd say every draft is sort of different just in terms of quality and quantity of player.  


Q: How hard is it to look at Shawn Loiseau's film from a Division II school and get a sense for how he's performing compared to a guy like Dre Kirkpatrick who plays in the SEC?  


NC: Sure, the level of competition is a big part of it but when you're looking at lower level competition players, whether it's I-AA, Division II or Division III, you're looking for that player to really stand out relative to the rest of the competition. If he's a productive player at that level, part of you is anticipating that that production will carry over. Now, to what degree that is, that's another question. There's a little bit more uncertainty because the players that he's playing against on a week-to-week basis are different than, let's just say, Luke Kuechly, who he's playing against on a week-to-week basis.  You have to factor that into consideration. I'd say it's certainly part of our alert system, which we kind of talked about last year. You put the lower level of competition tag on him so that you know he's been a really productive player, you're not going to discount that but it has taken place against a lower level of competition. You're trying to balance all those factors out, but in the end, if a guy is a good football player and he's a productive football player, that speaks volumes. You just have to figure out how that's going to translate over into our level.  


Q: Back to 2007, you and the Buccaneers are tied for the most draft picks. In the past two years you've added a lot of veteran players in free agency. Is that need for veterans because of how complicated you guys do things on both sides of the ball or is it because you haven't quite executed the draft as well as you might like?  


NC: In the end, you're trying to balance the two. We've brought in veteran players, we've brought in younger players. The most important thing for us is to bring players into our program that we feel good about and we think are going to have a chance to develop. I would say that sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it works out with a veteran player, sometimes it doesn't work; sometimes it works with a younger player. There are a number of factors that you're trying to balance off. In the end, the most important thing is finding players that fit your program, fit what you do, wherever they come from.  


Q: How well do you guys think you've done in the draft?  


NC: That's for you guys to analyze.  


Q: You look at the need for quarterbacks and how much teams will spend to move up to get one. When teams are going to move up into the top 10 for Ryan Tannehill, do you ever say to yourself, we've got this guy here, in Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett? Could you use that as a chip?  


NC: If those calls come then we'll listen. If it's something that we feel makes sense, then we'll consider it.  


Q: Do you ever make a proactive call to a team?  


NC: In terms of?  


Q: In terms of saying, 'I know you guys may be looking for a quarterback, we've got this guy,' but not even specific to quarterbacks.  


NC: I'd say most of those discussions are pretty generic or general. We'll reach out to a team and just say, 'OK, you pick here, we pick here' and just see whether or not they even entertain whether it's moving up or moving down. You're just trying to gauge what their level of interest is in doing any sort of business or any sort of transaction. But I would say honestly, those sort of materialize the day of the draft. I would say, just relative to where we're picking right now, we'll talk to teams and kind of get a general sense of the landscape but until that actual moment comes, until we're actually in the draft room and the phone rings, we'll listen and if it's something that makes sense, we'll consider it and if not, then we won't.  


Q: Relative to where you're picking, how much do trades above you impact you? Are there spots that you have your eyes in case of a trade or that you might want to move up?  


NC: I think really you just look at the board and you kind of see where players start to come off the board. If there's a point in time where you say, 'OK, we might think about whether it's moving up a slot,' I think it's all relative to the players that are available. I wouldn't say, 'OK, we want to go from 27 to OK, we'll only go as high as such and such a pick.' I don't think you really rule anything out. Really, honestly, you have an open mind as it relates to those things and you just kind of look at it relative to the players that are on the board.  


Q: With that in mind, do you look at the teams in front of you? Do you weigh the interests of other teams? How do you organize their interests and how much do you weigh it when you're trying to decide whether or not you should move up?  


NC: I think those are some discussions that we'll have next week. Our pro scouting staff, Jason [Licht] and Bob [Quinn] and those guys, we put together a needs analysis, or a needs book if you will and just try to look at the team, look at the landscape of the team, look at the players that they've added, look at the players that they've lost so you maybe get a general sense of where the team is at this particular point in time. So you have an idea. Maybe there's a player they visited or that they've earmarked or may coincide with some of the players that you've looked at. You kind of weigh all those things and ultimately you decide, OK, if it makes sense and who are those players or if another player at another position has the same value. We'll certainly look at that, I'd say that's definitely part of our week before the draft process, just kind of having understanding of where other teams are with respect to this time of year.  


Q: With the understanding that this scouting process goes all the way back to the college season, how much of a danger is it to over think things at this time of year?  


NC: You want to be careful not to put too much stock in one particular thing. There's honestly, there's a question, I don't care who the player is, there's going to be a question about any player, some have a little bit more than others. I think the most important thing is to evaluate the player's performance on the field and their production and some of the other factors that come into play, you have to weigh those as well. I'm sure there's a lot of jostling back and forth, up and down, but part of it is instinct, and feeling as well, but you want to be careful not to overanalyze and out-think yourself and then you put yourself in a tough spot. Try not to make it more complicated than it needs to be is probably the best way to approach it.  


Q: How much is character factored in?  


NC: We factor everything into the equation so it's part of, we were just talking about the whole big picture evaluation of a player, whatever those questions may be. Sometimes you'll find that some of the information is misinformation so that's why you want to make sure you have the correct information on a player. Sometimes there's a lot, I would call it 'street scuttle' or 'road scuttle' and sometimes there's really no verification of that so that's why it's important for every team to do their own homework on a player and then ultimately make the decision that they feel that they're comfortable with.    


Q: Is doing that homework a face-to-face conversation with a player or using your instincts whether it's a February through March fa├žade or if it is the real person?  


NC: Sure, I'd say that's definitely part of it. You have to try to figure out what's real and what's not given whatever the background may be. There are other avenues that you can explore in addition to face-to-face and it's important to have the right information. I think a lot of times there's a lot of misinformation that gets out there. In the end, you have to use your judgment and gut instinct and trust that the decision that you're making, that you have all the accurate information, that you feel good enough about whatever it is because you could have a conversation with a kid and this has happened, where you call them on something and they lie to your face. Then you have to figure out what's right and what's wrong. There are a number of things that go into it. A little bit of a game of poker to a degree.  


Q: You said you made visits right before the draft. Any examples over the years?  


NC: Sure. We actually went down, Dante [Scarnecchia] went down last year and saw Nate [Solder] the week before. There were a couple things we wanted to get some clarification on. It kind of solidified a few thoughts that we had. In the short term there's an example right there. Was that the end-all, was that the reason that we made the decision? I wouldn't say that necessarily was the case but I'd say that was a part of it so you put all of that together. Nate is an example. There are other examples like that.  


Q: Any like that that you've had personally?  


NC: Yeah, whether or not I want to disclose that, that's another situation. Yeah, I can't even remember the year honestly, when it was, but I went and worked out a player, I want to say it literally was the day before and it was a later round draft pick as it turned out. But you get put on the spot a little bit because not a lot of people have seen the player or spent as much time with them - this is back in the day when I was just trying to figure it all out.  


Q: You've talked about production. What about the influx of underclassmen with one less year of productivity, how do you balance that? And does that create a market for the seniors who get overlooked if everyone rushes to take underclassmen based on potential?  


NC: Production, it at times can be hard to quantify because there can be a number of factors why a player is productive. It could be his individual skill set, it could be the offense in which they play, there are some schematic related tings, it could be a product of who they play against, defensively there might be some teams that they play against schematically that they're not as complicated or complex so there's less variation. If a guy is consistent with his performance over the course of a two to three year period, like [Luke] Kuechly just as an example, relative to a guy that maybe has had one year of production, then you just have to ask yourself why didn't he play a year earlier, why wasn't he as productive the year before? Was it a coaching issue? Was it a performance issue? What was the circumstance? You need to delve in a little bit further, especially with underclassmen because you could have a player who let's just say has been out of high school for three years or let's say he's a redshirt sophomore, who only played one year of college football at a productive level or started for one year, so you have to make that determination. Next year, do you think that performance would improve or would it decline? There are certainly factors that come into play.  


Q: How do you reconcile guys who are still making decisions about their football futures like Brian Waters and Matt Light against what you have to do in a week at key positions?  


NC: I think our thinking won't change. We'll approach it the same way and we'll deal with things on a day-to-day basis however they unfold.  


Q: Has Matt Light informed you either way?  


NC: I think Matt made some comments yesterday from what I could gather so I don't really have anything to add other than what Matt said.  


Q: In terms of character issues and concerns that you might have, is there a standard that you may have that is allowable or you might be OK with one failed drug test but not two or three? Or is each person on an individual basis?  


NC: I think it's case-by-case. It's an individual basis. You take all the information and it's case-by-case. Like I said, sometimes the information is not the correct information so you have to figure out what's right, what's not right and then in the end, your comfort level, if you feel good enough about the entire picture then you make the decision and you're saying that you feel comfortable. If you're not, then you won't.