There have been roughly a million mock drafts written up in the last month or so, and most have the Patriots taking a quarterback in the first round — usually with the caveat of them moving up to grab one of the fab five field generals.
Bill Belichick is always open to trade talks, and during his annual predraft media meeting Thursday, he gave some insight into how things work when the club is thinking of jumping up from its current spot, which this year is No. 15.
“I would say normally something will happen and there could very well be a player there that either you don’t expect to be there or maybe he is a couple of spots — maybe at 12, 13, he’s still on the board and you really thought he’d be gone in the first six, seven picks,” the coach said. “And then the question comes: Do you try to move up and get that player that’s fallen a little bit?”
Currently armed with 10 picks, the Patriots have plenty of capital to hop up if a player they covet slips. The Patriots have made 28 draft-day trades to move up since Belichick took over the program.
The last time Belichick traded up in the first round came in 2012 when he did it twice to grab stout defenders Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.
Belichick has also traded down 28 times on draft day, and there’s a constant war-room conversation going on as players are plucked.
“Those are the scenarios you go through,” Belichick said. “Which players would you move up for to get? Which players would you not move up for that you would wait and decide if you wanted to pick there at the spot that you’re at?
“And what players — if certain players weren’t there and you felt like, ‘well, the value of that pick might be the same whether you’re at 15 or at a lower position’ — it’s the same thing in every round, but you’re talking about the first round.
“If you feel like you can get the same player, the same quality of player or maybe the player that you like for whatever reason you think would be available at 20, then maybe you trade back to 20 and take him there and take that value at 20 rather than taking it at 15.
“I’m just picking numbers here out of the hat, but the concept is, that’s really what it is: Who you move up for, who do you take if you stay, and what players are on the board. And if players are on the board that you feel like don’t add a lot of value or maybe they’re not the kind of fit for your team that you’re looking for in that particular situation, then maybe you say, ‘OK, we’ll consider moving back.’ ”
As for the QB class, which includes five consensus first-round picks in Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields, Belichick, as expected, wasn’t tipping his hand.
Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels attended Jones’s pro day at Alabama, and McDaniels was at Fields’s second pro day Wednesday.
“As always, there are some interesting players,” said Belichick. “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 also addressed the comments made last month by Robert Kraft that the club hasn’t done well in the draft the last few years but the owner has seen a different approach in 2021.
“Well, we’re always looking to get better, always try to evaluate everything we do and find a better way to do it,” he said. “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 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 credited his staff with preparing for the draft and helping to come up with answers for the “final exam” in less than two weeks. The coach said Matt Patricia, who rejoined the franchise this offseason, has been “heavily involved” in draft preparations.
“Dave Ziegler, Eliot Wolf, and Matt Groh have really carried the ball on this,” Belichick said. “They’ve done a ton of work and their respective staffs that they oversee, as well. But in particular, those three guys have really done a tremendous amount of work, evaluation, and organization, and have done a great job of putting things together.
“So it’s been great to spend a lot of time with them and to go through the process.’’