Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke with the media on Thursday for the first time since his end-of-season press conference, previewing the 2021 NFL Draft and how the team is preparing to add some rookie players after an unprecedented season of football for everyone.
"It's been a good process to be able to continue to work and develop our team for 2021," said Belichick. "The draft process has been a little bit different this year than it was last year. This year we didn't have the Indianapolis combine but we did have some opportunities at Pro Days. That made it a little bit different, but in the end, we've accumulated a lot of information."
Sitting at 15th overall, there's plenty of speculation about what the Patriots might do. Recent mock drafts have projected them to trade all the way up into the top-10 to get Justin Fields. Plenty of others have connected them to linebackers Micah Parsons and Zaven Collins, cornerback Jaycee Horn and quarterback Mac Jones.
Of course, predicting how the board might fall and what the Patriots will do in response is a tough task, as Belichick pointed out it never quite happens the way you imagine it might.
"At 15, I think we could eliminate a few players that won't be at 15, and then you could look at a couple of scenarios and say, 'If these three players are there, which one we take? If these three different players are there, which one do we take?' You go through that exercise and talk about that," Belichick said. "There's certainly the scenarios that are worth going through as exercises to think about it and kind of prepare for. I'd say more often than not, the ones that you go through don't happen. It's usually something a little bit different."
Belichick also took some time away from the draft talk to comment on the recently retired Julian Edelman, whose loss will be felt throughout the building.
"Julian's been one of the players that's probably come further than most every other player that I've coached," said Belichick. "Play-making ability is a big part of the backbone of our team and I have a ton of respect for Julian and what he accomplished in his career, how hard he worked to accomplish it and a great appreciation for all he's done for me personally and the organization."
But with the draft just two short weeks ago, the head coach's main focus remained on the team's preparation and making good decisions once the picks start happening. After a huge free agency haul, the Patriots could still greatly benefit from an injection of young talent in some key places.
"I think the best thing we can do is do our homework, know the players, know the board, and when we walk into the room for the final exam and then we see the questions on the test when it comes our turn to pick or maybe a few spots in front of our pick, then we have to potentially start making some decisions," said Belichick. "Always an exciting time of year to see new people come on your team and for us to take another step in the team-building process. We still have obviously a long way to go. It's another step and we'll try to do the best we can and take advantage of our opportunities."