1. One of the most notable lines from Robert Kraft’s conference call Wednesday was an acknowledgment that the Patriots’ drafting has been less than recently, but he’s seen a change this year. “I don’t feel like we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope and believe I’ve seen a different approach this year,” the Patriots owner said relating to recent drafts. So, what did Kraft mean by seeing a different approach this year? There are a number of different possibilities. Is Bill Belichick deferring more to scouts than in the past? Did the scouting department change how it evaluates prospects? Was Kraft not a fan of Nick Caserio and things are better now that he’s gone? Is Kraft really high on Dave Ziegler and/or Eliot Wolf? All of those could be potential possibilities, but it’s likely none of them are the real reason for the comment. Sure, there could have been a few tweaks with how the organization evaluates players, but after 20-plus years of running the organization, Belichick isn’t going to drastically change the way he prepares the draft. Ziegler and Wolf obviously have more prominent roles with Caserio now in Houston, but by in large it will be business as usual in this area come draft weekend. With that being said, Kraft certainly indicated this is an area that needs to improve as he acknowledged the organization needed to spend the money it did this offseason as a result of poor drafting. “In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency,” Kraft said. “… Really, the teams who draft well are the ones who will be consistently good.”
2. Some took Kraft’s 30-minute conference call as putting Belichick on notice. That was not how we took it. Kraft said at one point the NFL is designed for teams to go 8-8 every year. He’s well aware of what Belichick has been able to do for the last 20 years and also knows how big of an impact Tom Brady had on the team during that time. He understands it’s likely the year after losing the greatest quarterback of all time isn’t going to be what it was. But, that excuse doesn’t last forever. Losing Brady doesn’t impact how young defensive players adapt to the NFL. Not having Brady doesn’t excuse N’Keal Harry’s sub-par start to his NFL career. A down year in 2020 was to be expected, but things need to start to trend upwards. It doesn’t necessarily mean immediately getting back to the AFC title game every year, but winning more games and putting a more entertaining product on the field would be an acceptable start.
3. Kraft described 2020’s 7-9 season as “horrible,” but the reality is it could have been even worse. While the organization certainly took a financial hit by not having fans in the stands, it did save them from some potentially embarrassing situations. How many times would the offense have been boo’d off the field? Too many to count. And then the two final home games meant nothing, so how bad would it have looked to see all the empty seats at Gillette Stadium with fans who decided not to show up? Especially in front of a Monday Night Football audience in Week 16. While it certainly was a bad year, it could have been even worse.
4. As the draft gets closer, the more and more it feels like if the Patriots are going to draft a quarterback, it won’t be in the first round and will be from the second tier at the position. The top five appear very likely to go well before the Patriots are on the clock and that will leave them looking at the position in the later rounds. It is worth noting there’s a steep drop off, and beyond Kyle Trask, it’s all developmental players. Other QBs who will likely be drafted at some point include Kellen Mond, Ian Book, Sam Ehlinger and Davis Mills.
5. While ESPN’s Todd McShay has Justin Fields falling all the way to No. 11 in his latest mock draft, we’d be stunned if any of the top five quarterbacks make it past No. 7-8 overall. Teams are desperate for QBs and looking ahead to next year, it’s not expected to be a very good group. That combined with several teams who really need quarterbacks, there is almost certain to be an early run and if any of the top five do make it to No. 7 or 8, it wouldn’t be a surprise at that point to see a team try and move up.
6. If that happens, this could play into the Patriots’ hand at No. 15 as they could get a player who potentially is a top-10 talent. While the organization has obviously struggled with drafting wide receivers, it may not be a bad idea to try again. This class is expected to be another great one, and the Patriots are in need of a No. 1 option at the position. For those who question a rookie being able to make an immediate impact, just look to the last few years with rookies making immediate impacts with their new teams.
7. It is hard to say what it means, if anything, but it was notable to see Josh McDaniels at a few pro days this past week. He was with Belichick at Alabama and then on his own the next day at the University of Florida. McDaniels hasn’t attended all that many pro days in the past, so that is why it generated some attention. He’s been in the war room on draft weekend, so perhaps this is just him doing more homework on the prospects.