By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) –It was just a few weeks ago that Patriots owner Robert Kraft had an interesting comment about the team’s drafting over recent years. Mainly, he didn’t think the team had done “the greatest job” at drafting players the past few seasons.

While Kraft was willing to dish out nearly $160 million for New England’s offseason spending spree, he said that sustained success and winning is the product of good drafting. He made it clear that the Patriots would have to up their game when it’s their turn at this year’s draft.

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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick responded to those comments during his pre-draft video conference on Thursday, saying that the team is always looking to improve its approach in every aspect of the game. He believes they have done that this offseason.

“We’re always looking to get better, always trying to evaluate everything we do and trying to find a better way to do it. I wouldn’t say that’s an annual process with the draft, but it’s something that we do on a regular basis throughout the course of the season, whatever period of time it is,” said Belichick. “We’re always looking to do a better job.

“There were some things last year that were unique to the draft process, and some of those are similar to this year. Some of them are a little bit different,” he continued. “So we certainly used some of that experience to improve the process a little bit this year. At least we felt that we improved it this year. But ultimately we’re still going to try to evaluate the players and make the decisions that we feel like are best for the football team. We’ll continue to do that.

“That’s really what we’ve always tried to do,” Belichick added. “I don’t think the mission has changed.”

The Patriots are armed with 10 selections in this year’s draft, including the No. 15 overall pick. Belichick praised the pre-draft work of Dave Ziegler, who took over for Nick Caserio as the head of player personnel, and scouts Matt Groh and Eliot Wolf, whom Belichick said “have really carried the ball” on New England’s homework leading up to April 29.

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“They’ve done a ton of work and their respected staffs that they oversee as well. In particular, those three guys have really done a tremendous amount of work, evaluation, organization and have done a great job of putting things together,” said Belichick.

It’s noteworthy considering those three have done a lot of work on potential quarterbacks over the last few months. On Wednesday, Ziegler and Groh were with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Columbus, Ohio to see the second pro day by quarterback Justin Fields.

Fields is one of the five quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first round of this year’s draft, and one of the many QBs that New England has scouted. They were on hand for workouts by BYU’s Zach Wilson and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, both of whom will be long gone when it’s time to make the 15th overall pick. Belichick and McDaniels were both in attendance to see Alabama’s Mac Jones work out, though he too will likely be gone when it’s New England’s turn to pick.

There is certainly a lot of signs pointing to New England’s interest in the top quarterbacks this year, and though they’ve also done plenty of work on Day 2 picks like Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond and Jamie Newman, the Patriots could trade up to land one of the big name passers.

Belichick also highlighted the different outside factors that are going into New England’s evaluation of quarterbacks this year, with each player having a different schedule and body of work in 2020 based on which conference they called home.

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“As always, there are some interesting players. Some players that didn’t play [in 2020], some that played a full season, some players played partial seasons. When you look at the players at that position, I think you see a lot of differences in the 2020 season,” Belichick noted. “A lot of it is by conference, but there are some other circumstances as well. It’s an interesting class and group of guys. Some are very strong in some skills, and some seem very strong in other skills. It’s definitely an interesting group.” Staff