How Patriots’ Pre-Draft Workouts Are Helping Team Plan For Future

Zack Cox

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots currently are not scheduled to pick in next week’s NFL draft until selection No. 72 — the eighth pick of the third round.

So why are they working out some players who are projected to come off the board far earlier than that?

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio answered that question Tuesday in his pre-draft news conference.

“Wherever the players are projected to pick or wherever you think they’re going to pick, you don’t not evaluate a player or not go through your process of the player just because ‘Well, we don’t think he’s going to be there when we pick,’ ” Caserio explained. “Really, none of us know when we’re going to pick at this point, so we have to be prepared. So that’s why our job is to kind of know, top to bottom, each position as thoroughly as we possibly can, which is what we do.

“As an example, when you go to a school that has multiple prospects, you don’t just evaluate two or three prospects because you think they’re going to be there when you pick. We go through our process top to bottom … because really, you never know when that information is going to become useful for you. It could be further on down the road when you have a player acquisition or if a player ends up on your team. Our philosophy really hasn’t changed. We evaluate the players, we assign the grades to the player. And then however the draft ends up unfolding, then we deal with it as it comes.”

To recap: First, the Patriots won’t know exactly where they’ll be drafting until moments before they’re on the clock. A trade into the first two rounds always is a possibility.

And even if the Patriots don’t end up drafting a player they worked out, having that pre-draft visit on file could benefit them down the road. That was the case with defensive end Kony Ealy, who worked out for the Patriots before the 2014 draft but didn’t join New England until the Pats swung a trade for him last month.

Ditto for Brandin Cooks. Patriots personnel traveled to Oregon State that same spring to meet with the wide receiver, who didn’t end up in Foxboro until the New Orleans Saints traded him there earlier this offseason.

“I would say going into the Ealy situation, he was a player that we actually worked out and we visited here to Foxboro,” Caserio said. “So we had some, I would say, baseline understanding. Now, when a player is with another team and another system, we can’t control that. We can take the information that we have and say ‘OK, here’s what we thought about the player, here’s what we thought about his football intelligence, etc., whatever the case may be.’

“The same would apply to the Cooks situation. Probably not too many people in here have been to Corvallis, Oregon, but we had people that went up there that worked the player out, spent time with him. So you’re building this reservoir of information. You never really know when you’re going to utilize it, but it’s there, which is why you want to make sure that it’s accurate and that it’s right. That’s part of our job. That’s kind of where the college scouts and that process comes into play, and it’s critically important.”

Caserio said the Patriots hosted eight draft prospects Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. That group included Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, California wide receiver Chad Hansen, Eastern Washington defensive tackle Samson Ebukam, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.

Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images

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