BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots selected 10 players at the 2020 NFL Draft, filling some needs up and down the roster. It was a unique and interesting experience for coaches around the league, as the draft was held in a virtual setting due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who did his drafting from Nantucket, shared his thoughts on the team’s 2020 draft class in a conference call shortly after the final pick came off the board. Belichick offered up his thoughts on the players that he and director of player personnel Nick Caserio selected, how they went through the scouting process, and the makeup of the current roster after making their 10 picks.READ MORE: 3 Hurt In Boston Police Cruiser Crash In Roxbury
He also gave a quick scouting report on his dog, Nike, who became the star of the draft on Friday night.
(Transcript provided by New England Patriots)
Bill Belichick: First of all, this is obviously a very interesting draft, the way the whole thing was conducted and so forth. It was really a great effort by everyone. Certainly the people on our end did a tremendous job. Nick [Caserio], his staff, Dan Famosi, the IT people, all the coordination, everything that went into it. There was a lot of preparation. Really went smoothly on this end. The league, that was an efficient operation as well. The trades and the communication that we had with them, pretty normal like it normally would be in terms of timing and so forth. There didn’t really seem to be any glitches, at least not any that I was aware of. We were certainly involved in a number of trades. Those all went off well. So it was really a very, very smoothly run draft. Again, organizationally Nick and his staff, Monti [Ossenfort], Dave Ziegler, the scouts, really again did an excellent job of getting the information at all points, whether it was at the start of the draft process or all through in the spring, combine, our different Webex meetings. Very well-organized and efficient that enabled us to operate pretty smoothly and seamlessly the last three days. That was good. This is always a good opportunity, important opportunity, to try to improve the football team. I feel like we did that this weekend. We drafted 10 players, then free agents in the period right after the draft in the last couple hours. Look forward to eventually getting those guys, being able to work with them. In the meantime we’ll do what we can do in terms of giving them information and trying to bring them up to speed with the playbook, training methods and so forth. We’ll work through that. Be a little different than what it’s been in the past but we’ll make the most of it. Excited to work with these guys. I know Nick covered the first couple days of the draft so I’ll skip over that. Today we waited for a while until we were able to pick [Justin] Rohrwasser as our kicker. He’s had really an impressive career. Big leg, kicks the ball well. Not great conditions, but handled it well. A mature kid, strong kid. We got to the offensive line with [Mike] Onwenu and [Justin] Herron, then came back and got Cassh [Maluia] as an inside linebacker. He played with Logan Wilson. That was a pretty good tandem. Then Dustin Woodard, who played both guard and center inside. Added some depth in terms of offensive line, tight ends, obviously a kicker, big safety and three linebackers that have some versatility. Plus guys that are coming in as undrafted free agents which we’ve always gotten contributions out of somebody from that group as well. We’ll see how all that ends up. That’s pretty much my update. Appreciate everyone being here and following up, that we’re all doing well in this remote environment, safe and healthy. Look forward to getting to the other side of it.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the wide receiver group. Obviously you didn’t draft a wide receiver in this three-day period. What does it say, how does it reflect upon the wide receiver group that you have currently and how much faith you have for a lot of those younger players to make progress in year two, N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers?
BB: We’ll see how all that goes. I’m sure all our young players will improve in year two. Got a first-round pick on N’Keal last year, second round pick on [Mohamed] Sanu. That was really off this draft. Obviously have Julian [Edelman] and a number of other young players. I think that will be a very good group. There’s a lot of different ways and times to build your team. The draft is one of them. As I mentioned, whether it’s Sanu or free agents signing like [Damiere] Byrd, whatever the case might be, there’s multiple ways to build your roster, and this is one of them.
Q: The Michigan influence, you have two players drafted from Michigan, a tight end obviously Asiasi who started at Michigan, moved out to UCLA. Then Chase Winovich. What is it about the Michigan program you like?
BB: Sometimes it just works out that way. It’s not really an intention to go in to draft a lot of players from one school or another. We’ve talked about that before when we had guys from Rutgers and so forth and Alabama. We’ve had different schools where I guess that’s been a little bit of multiple players from that school. Honestly that’s not anything we really think about. Just trying to take advantage of the opportunities to draft and put players on our team. Wherever they come from, they come from. It’s more coincidence than anything else. Certainly it’s a good program. From talking to Chase about some of the players, he was very complimentary about his teammates. I feel like they’re all good players.
Q: Obviously every draft is unique, player situations are unique. When you look at the group you’ve assembled here, what might be unique about this group or commonalities they might have had that stand out to you?
BB: Well, as you said every group is different. We’ll see how it goes with this group of guys. Collectively we’ll have to maybe sit back and take a little broader look to answer that question, put all together. The short answer for me would be every player has something that we feel like is valuable to offer to our team. I think this is a pretty hard working and mature group. We’ll see how all that plays out, too. It’s a little different in college than it is in the National Football League. The challenges will be different, all that. Certainly seem to have represented themselves well in our interactions with them, what we’ve been able to determine from our scouts and so forth. It seems like a pretty solid group.
Q: A lighthearted question. Can I get a 40 time on Nike?
BB: He’s fast.
Q. Sub 4?
BB: Not as fast as the rabbits he’s chasing, but he’s close. He’s not that fast, but he’s fast.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the quarterbacks. Last night Nick said you guys would add one to join Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. Is that going to come through the undrafted free agent route?
BB: Yes.READ MORE: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
Q: Can we confirm that it’s J’mar Smith? There’s a report that just came out when we started that you might be close to lining that up.
BB: Yeah, we talked to a lot of players after the draft. I wouldn’t confirm anybody until we actually have a signed contract. We’ve had plenty of cases where we thought we had an agreement with the player and it didn’t happen, and in some cases something’s happened where maybe we weren’t able to keep an agreement with a player due to physical or some other contractual issue that might pop up. We’ll announce them once we verify them and they’re done. You can report them however you want to report them. We talked to Jamar, no question, yes.
Q: On the position, only about 12 get drafted on average if you look at the last 10 years. For you in this draft, is there just a couple that you had draftable grades on? How does that work as you’re navigating through the draft on whether you actually pick a quarterback?
BB: Well, that’s a long answer there. We could talk about that for a long time. But the bottom line is that we’re evaluating that position along with all the other ones. If we feel like we find the right situation, we’ll certainly draft them. We’ve drafted them in multiple years, multiple points in the draft. Didn’t work out last three days. That wasn’t by design. It could have, but it didn’t. Again, there are multiple ways to build your team. We’ll see whether or not we get word of another that comes up at a different point in time. I don’t know. We just tried to do the best we could with what we had this weekend. That’s what we did. We’ll see where it goes.
Q. You mentioned earlier off the top about the kicker, drafting in the fifth round. Can you go into more detail about what you saw in him? Did you see him at URI or more what he did based at Marshall?
BB: Yeah, I mean, we’ve got I want like 250 kicks of him going all the way back to when he was at URI and Marshall. We’ve seen it all. Yeah, there’s plenty of film on him. I think like a lot of players, you can see their consistency improve over the course of their career, as they get fundamentally better, get bigger and stronger, grow into their bodies like most college kids do. Yeah, again, he’s kicked in not great conditions. There’s been plenty of days that he’s had good conditions. I’m not saying it’s all been blizzards. He’s got a good leg, kicks the ball straight, has good hang time on the kickoffs, gets it up on the field goals. We’ll see how all that goes now in a little different environment here. But I think there’s a lot to like with him. He did well at both URI and at Marshall.
Q: I’m curious if by not selecting a quarterback that says something about the confidence you have in the current quarterback room with Jarrett and Brian?
BB: Yeah, no, I like both those players. We’ve had Brian a couple times. I think he certainly gives us a very solid level of play. We have a lot of confidence in him. And Jarrett had a good year last year. He improved a lot. We’ll see where that takes him. Yeah, I have confidence in both players.
Q: What was the reaction of your staff, maybe your family and everyone, to the star of Nike and what he was able to accomplish in that position? He’s all over the place on social media. But also just kind of what did the Senior Bowl do, being able to be there, especially because of the way things have gone this year with what we’re all going through?
BB: Yeah, no, that’s really a good point. As you pointed out here, there really wasn’t a lot of opportunity to get a close look at players. The Senior Bowl and the Indy combine were really those two opportunities this year for the most part. So I guess they probably stick with you a little stronger than maybe in other years because it’s pretty much all you had. The Senior Bowl is good, like it always is. It was a good group of players. Certainly players like Kyle that came from a small school, to be able to see him work against some of the other top players in the country that you just didn’t see in college was very beneficial to him and for us to see that. That would be a good example of not only being able to evaluate him defensively but also just watch him handle the ball on punts and so forth, not great conditions down there in Mobile. Those were good evaluation periods, especially in the combine with some guys that didn’t work out at the combine. That leaves a little bit of a question mark about some of their testing numbers and so forth. But, I mean, look, every team is dealing with the same situation. It is what it is. Yeah, Linda did a great job with Nike. As you can see, he’s very personable, friendly, gets a lot of attention. I’ll give her the kudos on that one.
Q. On Dalton Keene, with a player like him who wasn’t quite as productive in college, do the interviews and the workouts count a little bit more on a player like that?
BB: I mean, when you watch Dalton play, you just don’t see a lot of things that we do. The Virginia Tech offense didn’t really translate too much to a New England Patriot offense. That’s not uncommon with other players as well. It is what it is. I think the things you saw him do, which was his blocking, his effort to block, his toughness, ability to make plays with the ball in his hands, and certainly the intent of the offense to get him the ball was impressive. They did a lot of things to try to get him the ball one way or another: hand it to him, throw it to him, put him in different locations so that he could run with it or catch it and run with it. That’s what you saw. I’ve already talked to him about that, that it’s going to be a big transition for him in terms of learning our system, being I would say more detailed, more specific on a lot of assignments, particularly in the passing game, learning how to block in close quarters. Again, he shows plenty of ability to do that in size, quickness and so forth. Just he hasn’t done a lot of it. He played quite a bit in the backfield, not as a fullback, but kind of an off-the-ball, sometimes a fullback location, but not really lined up behind the quarterback, but lined in the backfield, off the lines. A little bit of a different location than what we would normally use. He’s a smart kid. He’s athletic. He’s strong. He’s tough. I don’t see any reason why he can’t and won’t make those adjustments in time. We’ll work on it.
Q: Kyle Dugger, it’s kind of a similar point about the Virginia Tech scheme, that the tight end went through, how he’s coming into the pros now. Is there a similar type of deal with a Division II player coming into the NFL? How do you foresee the challenges of translating a Division II defense into what you guys are running?
BB: Yeah, I think it’s really a good question. It’s part of the challenge of evaluating a player at a small school like that. I think the Senior Bowl really helped Kyle. There he’s running a pro defense against a pro offense with soon-to-be pro players. Whether it was one-on-one drills, catching punts, tackling, I think you could really see he was able to compete very favorably at that level of competition and his scheme represents something close to what we’d be doing. It was a short window, but it was a full week of practice, a game. I think I saw a lot of improvement during the week and feel like this is a kid that’s smart, that works hard, that has a lot of ability. We’ll see how much time it takes. I’m sure it will take some time to make those adjustments. I’m confident he’ll work hard and be able to handle the things we give him. In time he’ll be able to do them. Exactly how long that takes or will take, I don’t know. Again, I think he’s got a lot going for him in terms of his intelligence and work ethic, the natural ability he has to do things, whether it’s playing in the deep part of the field, which he did a lot of at Lenoir-Rhyne or play close to the line of scrimmage which he didn’t do as much of in college, though there’s some of it, then more in the Senior Bowl. I think we’ll just have to take our installation as it comes, watch him do multiple things, see what things he needs a little more work on or what things maybe come a little easier to him. We’ll figure all that out in time. I think he’ll be able to do the things we need him to do at that position. Without the Senior Bowl, it certainly would have been for me a lot tougher projection if he wouldn’t have been able to do that.
Q: With things up in the air in terms of when the team can meet again, all NFL teams, in person, curious how you’re going to address the extra challenge of bringing this rookie class up to speed virtually to begin with, not knowing when you can get them in person?MORE NEWS: Mask Mandate Changes Anticipated In Massachusetts; Restaurants Wait For State Guidance
BB: Right, yeah. We’ll pretty much follow the format that we’ve done with the veteran players. We’ll have a rookie mini-camp, if you will, take that time to try to orient the players the best that we can to some of the things that they’re going to be dealing with and also to try to start the process of new terminology, nomenclature, terms, so forth. Then eventually we’ll follow that up with the rookie developmental period that according to the league I think is May 11th. That will eventually merge into a full scale like OTA type meeting schedule that we would normally have, without the on-the-fieldwork, but try to use that time to bring the team together in terms of putting our plays in and so forth, also trying to help them structure their training so they can best prepare for the season. Whatever guidance and direction we get on that, when we get it, we’ll modify things as necessary. At this point I’d say we’re planning kind of a normal spring in terms of covering material and giving them information, testing them to make sure that they are comprehending it, can give it back to us. But we’ll just have to modify that as we go. Whether it’s training camp in the early part of the season, so forth, however that ends up happening, we’re ready to adjust along the way. But so far I would say after a week of meeting with the players last week that these Webex meetings have gone very well, in a way surprising, better than I would have expected. Haven’t really been any problems. Players are engaged. They’re learning a lot of material and putting a lot of time and work in it. They’re following the guidelines that we’ve given them in terms of their training program, on-the-field training program, weight lifting and so forth. There are obviously varying degrees of facilities, equipment and so forth. But one way or another I think they’re finding a way to work around it, and we are too. I commend them for that. Hopefully we can string a few good weeks together and be the best prepared we can to get ready for training camp. Certainly not what we’re used to doing, but everybody is dealing with the same situations. We’ll try to make the most of whatever opportunities there are.