PATRIOTS DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL MATT GROH
VIDEO PRESS CONFERENCE
April 15, 2022
MG: Good afternoon, guys, ladies and gentleman. I appreciate you taking the time here. I know everybody's got a lot going on. Holiday weekend. I wish everybody happy holidays. Patriot's Day, and I know there's a lot going on this weekend. I definitely want to wish [Director of Football/Head Coach Administration] Berj Najarian and [Player Operations & Engagement Assistant] Richie Armand here in our offices and everybody with the Patriots Foundation, a successful run on Monday. It's been a busy time around here, not just with the holidays, but free agency and in the pre-draft process. So, working through all that trying to get everything as in order as we can to be prepared here for the next step with the draft. It was nice to meet some of you all in person a couple weeks ago and nice to speak with you all here today. So, I'm going to be maybe a little bit more brief than some other people who have sat here, and we'll let you guys get right into it.
Q: What would you say defines this 2022 draft class?
MG: As a class as a whole, it's definitely working through. We've got some older guys. It's a little bit interesting to write six-year senior, so you've got guys with a lot of experience, and you've also got your true juniors who are coming out just like we always do. So, you're going to see guys who've played three years of college football and you're going to see guys who have played five years of college football and actually played five years of college football, not just been in college for five years. You're going to see both those guys I'd say, going in the first round. So, we're on top of those younger players from a very, very early stage, but we've also accumulated a lot of information on some of these players who we've been covering for a number of years. I think there's good value across the board. So, we'll just look at trying to hone in on the positions and the players that we think can best help us going forward.
Q: Why, in your mind, have there been seemingly more impact wide receivers coming out of the draft in the last couple years? And if this class is kind of compared to those two in terms of that level of player?
MG: Yeah, hopefully it just goes to the overall popularity of the sport. There's so many more 7-on-7 leagues. Those kids are playing that much earlier, refining their route running, catching the ball better, all that kind of stuff and with the growth of the game and the popularity of the game, this is what kids want to do. They want to score touchdowns. Basketball's always going to be a popular sport, baseball, hockey, but with where football's at, especially in some of these hotbed areas of the country, that's the cool thing to do. We've got another great class of wide receivers this year, and I think it's just going to keep coming. Every year there's going to be more and more of these guys, so you've got to be prepared to handle those guys, conversely from the defensive side of the ball as well.
Q: Does the recent explosion of contracts for that position make that position even more valuable in the draft because of the cost certainty of having a guy for four or five years?
MG: Yeah, I think it was easy to say at a certain point, maybe at free agency, 'Okay, well it looks like a lot of these teams are just going to wait to get a player in the draft and get a much cheaper version,' and then all of a sudden you saw some of these really big contracts whether it was day two, day three, day four, for these wide receivers and then trades for these wide receivers. Wherever teams can add an instant impact player, which is what these wide receivers are in the game today, they're going to do it and you can't just sit around and wait and hope to get one of these guys in the draft. You've got to be proactive about going to go get one of them.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the cornerback position, and I was wondering have you or your staff ever gone back to see the success the team has had, or maybe hasn't had, at a certain position?
MG: Yeah, constantly Mark [Daniels]. We're always evaluating all of our processes and the way we evaluate different positions. There's never a 'Oh, okay, well this is the way we do things.' We're constantly trying to evolve and adapt and trying to find better ways, more efficient ways of going about that. With the corner position, we've been very fortunate to hit on some of those guys. Those guys got discounted for one reason or another, and we've been willing to try and look and see, 'All right, well why is this player discounted, what can we do to put them in the best position possible to minimize some of those weaknesses or put them in the best position possible to succeed?' And we've been very, very fortunate with guys like Malcolm [Butler] and Jon Jones who we're certainly excited to have here together now.
Q: Usually the things you read about the draft are all over the place with predictions and things about the talent but there seems to be some consensus that this year's draft, there are some good players and good athletes at the top of the draft in the first round, but the value and the talent pool seems to be about the middle of the first round lasting till about the top to the middle part of the third round. Do you agree with that in terms of where the value is on this draft and how does it affect a team like the Patriots picking at 21?
MG: Yeah, I feel like that's a popular narrative every year. We're always looking for value, no matter where it is. We want our 21st pick to be valuable, just like we want our 54th pick to be valuable and kind of commensurate with where we see that player helping our franchise. There is good depth. It's so easy to just get caught up on the splash names, one through five. So, it's finding that value for the positions that you think can have, I use the word instant impact for wide receivers, and it's not just wide receivers. Hopefully your first-round pick is coming in and providing something for you right away and similarly with the second and third round picks. But I think every year it's pretty easy to say, 'Okay, well here's a group of players in that second and third round, there's just more of those players than there is to say those guys at the very top of the board.
Q: I know you can't get too in depth into exactly what you guys are doing obviously, but the last two years, the overall draft process was pretty interrupted by COVID. How much has this year gotten back to normal? Does it feel back to normal or is there still a big element of that?
MG: It definitely feels closer to normal but we're still taking elements from what we did in the past and trying to apply them this year and taking things that we did last year and apply them as well. Look, this is technology. I think we're probably holding this a little bit different. You guys are all sitting at home. I think maybe that would've been a little bit different story a few years ago. So, just like I said, with all our processes and evaluations we're constantly adapting, trying to find ways to do things better. But we're going to make use of every avenue possible. The league has kind of changed some of the rules to keep that competitive balance for everybody and also not make this just a complete wear on these prospects having to do visits and calls and make their lives not completely hellish over this two, three-month pre-draft process. But any means possible that we can use to get to know a guy better and really for them to get to know us as well. That's part of the process too. It's a two-way street. So, we'll take advantage of technology, and we'll also use having the combine this year, all the All-Star games, we were just limited to the Senior Bowl last year. Every chance we have to shake a hand, spend some time with the kid, really put the face and the personality with the numbers. We've been seeing these numbers running around for however many years and it's great to actually get to know the kids, the young men with their personality and who they are and how they fit into our culture, because that's just as important as how they're going to fit into our scheme.
Q: As personnel usage has changed and as you've looked at the landscape of the league and who you're going against and who you have to defend, how do you balance the traditional parameters profile at the linebacker position with what you're going to need going forward?
MG: Yeah, sure. It's a different game than it was 20, 30, 40 years ago and that player has also changed. There's not as many of those big linebackers, they just, they don't exist. Colleges want them smaller because they've got to be able to adapt to the college game. So, you can't just create these guys out of thin air and so it's with all the positions, it's what the college game provides us. We have to just take what they are going to give us from year to year. One year there might be a couple, high level sam linebackers and other years there might not be any. So, if you're looking to try and play with that kind of player, you've got to figure out a way to get that player. Either you're going to take them higher on the draft than maybe some other teams would, or you've got to go out in free agency and find that guy. So, it's really just as simple as there are not a lot of those guys in college anymore, so you're not going to see a lot of those guys in the NFL anymore.
Q: From a standpoint of entering into your new position, what have you done so far to round out your experience, mostly on the college side to learn what it takes to be a director of player personnel, work in free agency and get to know more of the pro scouting?
MG: Yeah, that's been great, and I've certainly leaned heavily on Eliot Wolf, Steve Cargile, Marshall Oium, who really have a lot of their background on the pro side. I've been able to do some pro stuff, but certainly not to the degree that I've been able to be involved in the draft process on the college side, so I would say first and foremost, it's trusting the people who we already have in the building, who I already have great relationships with and being very confident in their ability to do their jobs and letting them do their jobs while still being able to implement my thoughts into those different situations. And obviously we've got no better resource than coach Belichick and what Matt Patricia's able to add through all his experiences with everything on the pro side. I just try and soak that in and put it all together and help the team make the best decisions we can.
Q: What you can tell us about the DeVonte Parker trade. How did that come together for you all?
MG: Yeah, well certainly it got kick started on their end with them adding a different player and then where they were at with their wide receiver room and then having the opportunity to add a great player to our roster. They weren't just going to be able to keep everybody, and when a player became available, I would say Matt Patricia did a great job of being on that early and kind of getting the information to us as quickly as he could, and we were in on that early and it really came together well for us and we're really excited about having Devante here.
Q: You mentioned the Dolphins. Tyreek Hill obviously has a pretty rare skillset. When it comes to building a roster, how do you balance being reactionary knowing that you have to defend Hill and Jaylen Waddle twice a year versus charting your own course and making sure that you're a difficult team to prepare for in your own right?
MG: Yeah. It's finding that balance and it's no different than what teams have had to do with some of the guys that have been in this building. We've got to play them twice. Those are two very, very meaningful games. We've got to have a way to be able to combat those two players along with a lot of the other great players that they have and have been able to add. But there's multiple ways to doing that, not just through personnel, their scheme. We're very cognizant of what they've got down there, and we're going to try and find guys that can help us out in that regard but there's multiple ways to try and define different avenues to slow those guys down, but it'll be tough. They've certainly added a lot of speed there.
Q: I wanted about ask about relationships in regards to the draft. We've seen a lot of the players from Alabama coming in in recent years. How does a relationship with college coaches like Nick Saban and other coaches who are known to have strong ties with coach Belichick factor into how you approach a player?
MG: Yeah, it's easy to, given coach Belichick's relationship with coach Saban and the amount of relationships we have down there with a lot of people in that building. There's tons of Alabama players on everybody's roster. So, that's kind of an easy one. We're fortunate to have a lot of good ones as well, but I don't think I'm saying anything too controversial in that, they're the preeminent program in college football for the last, really 10-15 years. So, they're going to have a lot of players throughout the league. Our relationships at any school are really paramount in what we do. For a long, long time, that's how you know a player, is through the coaches and the support staff and all the different people that we talk to from the strength coaches to the academic department. We do our very best to try and get to know these kids as well as we can without actually getting to know them, without actually getting to sit down in the room and spend much time with them. So, the greater comfort level you can have with a player certainly goes a long way into you wanting to select that player. If you can eliminate a lot of the questions that you have about a player, then that makes you feel a lot more confident about saying, 'Hey, this guy would really fit into our program, this is a guy that we should target,' obviously has to have the skillset and be a fit for us schematically, but 'Look, this guy would bring leadership, toughness, competitiveness, dependability,' and all that comes through the different relationships that we have all across the country in all the different schools, not just Alabama.
Q: We heard from Jerod Mayo a few months ago that team speed on defense was an emphasis for you guys. Do you agree with that assessment and how that has played itself so far in the off season with your draft process?
MG: Yeah, without a doubt we're looking to get faster everywhere. It's not just defense, it's offense, it's special teams. It's not just linebacker. I think there's multiple ways to do that. I think we did some of that last year, have worked on doing that here in free agency. I know the question's been asked about these different linebackers. There's going to be different players all across the league who are considered linebackers whether they're converting from a different position in college, safety to linebacker, whatnot and that's certainly one way to get speed on the field, is just using some of these guys differently, just the caliber of athlete that you can get, the size, the speed. These days, you can put these guys all over the place and that's certainly one way to increase the overall speed of the defense.
Q: You guys made a move on the offensive line, moving on from Shaq Mason, Ted Karras signed elsewhere. You have contractual situations at the tackle positions. How much does that weigh into your draft day decision making?
MG: Yeah, without a doubt. We're aware of all those contractual situations and have to plan for the future while also trying to put our team in the best position this year. But we can't be caught shorthanded at any of those positions. So, that's very much at the forefront, trying to find guys, whether it's a guy who's a tackle in college, who's going to play guard at the next level, or does that guy have multiple values to be a starting guard to a backup right tackle? I remember in my time seeing Logan Mankins, there's a guy who had to fill in at tackle one game, shoot, we had to get through a game with Bryan Stork at tackle one game. So, having those guys, the overall versatility, as long as they're good enough at their one job to really come in and say, 'Hey, this is what this guy's going to do with the versatility, with that being the size and the skillset and then a big part of that is also mentally. It's all well and good to physically be able to handle multiple roles but if we are putting too much on the guy's plate and they're not able to handle it mentally, then really what do we have. Again, we just have a one position player. So again, that all goes to the gathering, the character, getting to know these guys through this whole pre-draft process. But yeah, offensive line, whenever we can get depth, starting level pieces, that's always going to be a priority.
Q: What are your initial impressions on having a job with this importance and working alongside someone like Bill Belichick and what the dynamic and collaboration is like between you guys?
MG: Yeah, it's been great. I mean, obviously coach is the general manager. Coach is in charge. He's been doing this a long time. The more I can learn from coach Belichick and a lot of the other guys around here, I'm going to do that. Along with coach Belichick, there's kind of three pillars of this franchise with Miss Nancy, Nancy Meyer and Richard Miller and Brian Smith. Those people have all been here a lot longer than I have, so to try and learn from them and work along with them has all been great as well as coach Belichick and some of the other coaches who have been great at getting me up to speed on different things. So, it's definitely a collaborative process. It's great working with coach. Absolutely love it. With all the input that he asks from us and just getting his ideas and the information that he has on these players through his different relationships across the country at different schools. It's been fantastic. I definitely take it as a huge honor given the people who I'm working with and the people who have sat in this chair before me, to Scott Pioli, Nick Caserio, Dave Ziegler. I think a lot of all those people and really to be in this chair is an honor knowing that they've sat in it and then really to be sitting here with all the people who I'm so fortunate to work along with.
Q: It it's been quite a while since you guys have been in this position with a young starting quarterback on a rookie contract. How does that affect what you're able to do in free agency, in the draft, just your overall offseason approach?
MG: Yeah. That's going to be throughout a period of time. It's certainly seen as, 'Okay, you've got first year quarterback, all right. If it's going well, you got five years, if it's not going so well, you've got four years, depending on contractually how you can push that out is,' You can see by the Josh Allen deal, the Patrick Mahomes deal, so that the actual size of that window I think can vary depending on how you handle it contractually. And then, that allows you to add different pieces here and there with what these quarterbacks are getting paid. We just saw it again here this week and the percentage of the salary cap that they're eating up per team. It's certainly something to be mindful of and really excited to have Mac in his second year and see where he can continue to grow.