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Some of the highlights from Nick Caserio’s Q&A Thursday afternoon at the scouting combine

02.23.12 at 6:12 pm ET
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Nick Caserio spoke with the New England media Thursday afternoon at the combine. (WEEI.com photo)

INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio just wrapped up a 15-minute session with New England reporters here at the NFL scouting combine. We’ll have more from the Q&A shortly, but here are a few quick highlights:

His initial thoughts on the 2011 draft class: “As usual, I’d say the underclassmen are a big part of it. This is the most amount of underclassmen I think that asked for an evaluation from the league. The final numbers are fairly high. There’s depth at more positions relative to others. I’d say receiver is a position of strength. The offensive line’s a position of strength. The front seven is a position of strength. A lot of the players, front seven especially that were down at the Senior Bowl, are some of the better players in this draft. I think it’s a good draft. Like every year, each position has a little more depth or balance relative to others. That’s kind of where it is right now as we sit here at the combine.”

On whether New England’s front seven is a 4-3 or a 3-4: “We’ve been a multiple team here for a long time. So, front seven, you know, you’re basically going to [look at] off the line of scrimmage linebackers, on the line of scrimmage linebackers, whether it’s end of the line of scrimmage defensive line, whether it’s the defensive end or a rush player, and then interior defensive linemen, depending how the front is dispersed. That’s why you look at the front seven in general terms because you could really shift back and forth depending on whether it was the team or opponent we were playing. At the end of the year, we were playing a little more odd fronts. We played, I think, 65, 70 percent of the snaps were sub defense. We’re a multiple team, so, you look at those front seven players in general terms and then you get them into your program and figure out where their skill set is best going to be utilized.”

On how the uncertainty of possible free agents like Mark Anderson and Andre Carter might dictate how you approach the draft: “We got really good production from those two players. Those guys did a nice job. I think the most important thing for us is to improve our team. And this whole spring process is about team building. Whether that’s in the draft, in free agency, however that takes shape, that’s what we’ll try to do and that’s how we’ll address it.”

We’re the Patriots setback on scouting process because they played so deep into the postseason: “I’d say yes and no. Our scouting staff — specifically, the college scouting staff — the college scouts, the area scouts, regional scout Jon Robinson, has spent a significant amount of time on the road this fall. Since August basically, through November and December, whenever the college season ends. And then our staff was at all the college all-star games, so I would say where we are in terms of the timetable, we’re probably about at the same spot. Just as far as maybe as coaches getting involved in the evaluations and some of that process, maybe we’re a little bit further behind because of the efforts were geared in another direction. Our scouts have done an outstanding job as far as the preparation goes and the information we have to this point. I think we’re still gathering information. Part of the reason that we’re all here is because we’re gathering information. The interviews and the time you spend with the players is probably more important than — and I don’t want to take away what they do on the field — but what a guy does in shorts in the end isn’t going to be the ultimate determining factor. It’s going to be about his performance and then, some of his other dynamics that come into play as well. The makeup and some of the traits that we look for in our players. I think that our staff has done a great job specifically looking for where we are today.”

On the possibility of Chad Ochocinco coming back: “He’s under contract. So, if he’s under contract, he’ll be here.”

Would you rule out going after a player because of his agent? “Yeah, as long as I’ve been in the position I’ve been in, we’ve never ruled out a player because of who their agent is. I talk to agents all the time over the course of the fall, whether it’s about a workout or whatever the case may be, but I’d say good working relationship with a lot of agents and deal with them on a daily basis, so we’re never going to rule a player out because of their agent is. We never have, and we’re not going to.”

Has 2011 been put to bed? “I think we’re still going through it. We started some of that when we came back to Indianapolis. We’re still going through it, we’re looking at it. We’ll go through a player-by-player analysis, kind of a summary of what the player is and then what the player, in our opinion, his future is moving forward. We’re still going through that. Schematic review, that’s ongoing and the self-scout, we’ll look at all the runs, all the passes. You’ll go through everything. Really, it’s ongoing. I’d say the bulk of the coach’s time, that’s where it’s going to be allocated. Self-scout, player evaluation, and then start to get into a little bit of the draft and free agency. I’d say it’ll be continually ongoing. And by the time we get to the beginning of OTAs, we’ll probably have a firm grasp of everything.”

Read More: 2012 combine, Andre Carter, Chad Ochocinco, Jon Robinson
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