As of today, the Patriots own the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, but will they stay in that spot? A few days ago, WEEI.com reported that the reigning Super Bowl Champions are exploring the possibility of moving up via trade to the 15-20 neighborhood of Round 1.
While Bill Belichick wasn’t asked directly about that media report on Wednesday, the head coach did appear to rule out anything higher than that.
“[W]e’re not going from… 32 to eight. That’s not realistic,” he told reporters at Gillette Stadium.
Looking more refreshed and feeling more talkative than he did a couple of weeks ago at the NFL Annual Meeting in Arizona, Belichick spent roughly 20 minutes fielding questions from a roomful of familiar reporters in advance of the 2019 NFL Draft, which begins two weeks from tomorrow in Nashville.
In addition to that No. 32 choice, New England has 11 others at the moment: a pair in Round 2, a trio in Round 3, and six others total in Rounds 4, 6, and 7. Whether or not the team makes all 12 selections, however, remains unclear.
“[W]e have a lot of draft picks as we sit here today. I don’t know that that necessarily means that they will or won’t be there on draft weekend,” Belichick continued. “We’ll see how all of that goes, just evaluate situations as they come up, and try to make the best decisions we can for the football team. There’s no set goal in mind as to how many picks to have or what to do with them. We just want to try to make good decisions at every opportunity we can to improve our team in whatever way is possible and that includes everything. It’s all part of the team-building process.”
It certainly sounds like trades are being considered, which is no surprise, given how active Belichick and the Patriots historically have been during the draft weekend trade market. The head coach explained that part of that process is trying to gauge what other teams that are in and around where the Patriots select might want or need in terms of players on the draft board or potential trade commodities.
“Yeah, we track that. We track it the best we can. I think there’s a lot of misinformation that’s out there now. There’s sometimes other accurate information that you can obtain through one source or another. A lot of times it’s not the team right in front of you; it’s a team somewhere else. A team that could be, depending on what round you’re in, at a location behind you, that may be looking at a certain position or a certain player that could affect your draft strategy, as well. The team in front of you might not have any need for or you know they wouldn’t even want a type of player, maybe players that you’re considering but that doesn’t really mean anything because anybody could move up into that spot and take that player. It’s all relevant.”
Draft trades sometimes involve veteran players, either coming to Foxborough from elsewhere or being shipped from here to other cities. For the Patriots, assigning value to a trade involving a player includes a number of components, including the obvious monetary aspect.
“[S]alary is definitely a factor in what the trade value of a player is,” said Belichick. “Veteran players, depending on their age, contract situation and level of play – a starter, rotational player, a backup, a player that has a certain amount of playtime or a player that has a certain amount of production… yeah, certainly the player-for-player or player-for-pick trades are different than the pick-for-pick trades.”
Evaluations of draft-eligible players continue here at Gillette, where New England is relying even more on its scouting department this offseason and less on its coaching staff to make those judgments. Again, this is to be expected considering the unusual amount of coaching turnover the club experienced since winning Super Bowl LIII in February. That includes the recent, abrupt departure of Greg Schiano, who was never formally introduced as a member of Belichick’s 2019 staff, but was reported to have been the new defensive coordinator.
“Yeah, we’ve dealt with [coaching] changes before. We’ll continue to deal with them,” was about as much as Belichick would acknowledge on that subject.
As he and his team approach 2019, Belichick brought up the point that his 2018 squad won this past year’s Super Bowl with minimal contributions from its rookie class, which was beset by injuries. Only a handful of rookies – running back Sony Michel and undrafted cornerback J.C. Jackson in particular – saw considerable playing time on offense and defense (rookie draft choice Keion Crossen was also regularly active on special teams).
As a result, the Patriots are anxious to see both this year’s rookie class and last year’s when the team resumes on-field work in May and June.
“We’re excited to see how those  guys will do this year, obviously. It’s a hardworking group. Those guys are here [rehabilitating] on a very consistent basis and hopefully we’ll be able to get a much longer look at the 2018 draft class than we were able to get last year.
“We’re in the middle of our 30 [pre-]draft visits [with prospects] this week,” the coach concluded, “so we’ll finish that up this week and into next week… between the film evaluations, character evaluations, medical evaluations and trying to really get as good of a predictor as possible as to how the player will fit in and perform on our team, in our system, in New England regardless of what the league value is for the player. What the player can do for us is what the final evaluation goal is that we’re trying to achieve. That’s kind of what we’re working on now.”