FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — The wait is over.
For more than three months, mock drafts have consumed New England Patriots fans since the season finale against the New York Jets in early January.
Even though more than $200 million was spent in free agency to try to improve a roster that went just 7-9, owner Robert Kraft wasn’t afraid to speak the truth about the importance of selecting top talent in the NFL Draft: “If you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft.”
Which brings us to this weekend and the 2021 NFL Draft. At No. 15 overall, the Patriots own their highest pick since 2008. What will they do with it? Are they high enough now that they can jump into the top 10 if a player falls within their reach? Are they willing to stay put and draft in their current spot? Or will Bill Belichick trade back to acquire more capital later on?
12 Sports will have previews of the NFL Draft from Patriots headquarters in Foxboro tonight on 12 News starting at 4.
At 8 p.m. – Yianni Kourakis will join reporters and analysts around the country to break down the first-round picks. Watch it live right here on WPRI.com.
Later tonight, flip over to 12 News at 10 and 11 for insight about the moves made by the Patriots.
Below are some notes and quotes ahead of Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft:
- 2004 is the only year Bill Belichick didn’t make a draft day trade
- The Patriots have selected at least one offensive lineman in seven straight drafts (2014-2020)
- Expect movement. In 21 drafts Bill Belichick has made 82 trades. Second most in that span is the Eagles at 61 trades.
Belichick on Kraft’s comments that the team’s drafting has not been good enough in recent years: “We’re always looking to get better, always try to evaluate everything we do and find a better way to do it. That’s not necessarily an annual process with the draft, but something we do on a regular basis throughout the course of the season, whether it’s whatever period of time it is. Always looking to do a better job. There are some things that last year that were unique to the draft process. As I mentioned, some of those are similar this year, some are different. We certainly use some of that experience to improve the process this year, at least we felt like we improved it this year. But ultimately, we’re still going to try to evaluate the players and make the decisions that we feel are best for the football team. We will continue to do that, and that’s really what we’ve always tried to do. I don’t think the mission’s changed.”
Belichick on this year’s QB class: “As always, there are some interesting players. I think we talked earlier about the draft process. Some players didn’t play. Some players played a full season. Some players played a partial season. When you look at the players at that position, I think you see a lot of differences in the 2020 season. A lot of it’s by conference but there are some other circumstances as well. It’s an interesting class. It’s an interesting group of guys. Some are very strong in some skills. Some seem very strong in other skills. It’s definitely an interesting group.”
Belichick on evaluating when to draft a specific player: “Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what round you take the player in. Once he walks in the door, he’s a New England Patriot player. He puts on the uniform and goes out there and competes. It doesn’t matter if he’s in the second round or fifth round. That doesn’t matter once he’s on your team. So, whatever his positives and negatives are, whatever he brings to the table, whatever weaknesses you think he might have or all the other things you brought up, whatever those things are or aren’t, they’re the same no matter where that individual player gets selected. Ultimately you want to maximize the value of the picks, but the player is the player. Whatever his strengths and weaknesses are, that’s what they are and you try to put a value on that. You try to figure out what that player will do for your team when he’s on your team. What his role will be, what his level of performance will be. That’s part of the process that you use to select him. It’s important with every pick. It doesn’t matter what number it is or what round it is. It’s kind of each pick is its own process, the level of talent of the player certainly changes as you go through the rounds of the draft but I’d say from a process standpoint, it’s pretty much the same. If you get into a later round you might want to take a shot on a player, a Julian Edelman-player that’s maybe, you know there’s some development in that player because he’s going to play a position he hasn’t played before or whatever the circumstances happen to be. But, as far as the other parts of it – the work ethic and the aptitude and character and so forth, commitment to football and that type of thing – those are part of every conversation and every draft pick.”