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Mike Lombardi on D&C: Being in Bill Belichick’s war room like ‘being an analyst for a brokerage house’

04.26.12 at 11:07 am ET
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Mike Lombardi

NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning less than 12 hours before the NFL draft to discuss his last-minute thoughts on the draft and share his knowledge of what it is like to be in the war room with Bill Belichick.

Lombardi was director of player personnel under Belichick with the Browns and has been in the war room with Belichick during previous drafts. As such, he is one of the few people who can provide a insider assessment of what Belichick might do on draft day.

Belichick traditionally trades down to acquire additional picks, and since the Patriots have two first-round draft picks this year (No. 27 and No. 31) along with two second-rounders, Belichick certainly has picks to spare for trades. Lombardi, however, said Belichick likely will not plan anything with his picks until the first 10 picks of the draft are made.

“Ultimately, where Bill is going to start getting interested is right around Kansas City at 11,” Lombardi said. “That will probably give him an idea of what potentially can be there for him, whether he needs to move up or move back. What makes Bill so good is that there’s no sense that he’s in love with a player. He’s always going to react to the board. He’s always going to make decisions based on what’s good for the team, not necessarily what he has to fall in love with for a player.”

In Lombardi’s mock draft on NFL.com, he predicted that the Patriots will select 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive end Vinny Curry with their first pick. Curry is a pass rusher who is versatile enough to fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme but has been criticized as a weak player in the running game. Lombardi was the only analyst of the seven NFL analysts to release mock drafts this week to predict that the Patriots would take Curry at No. 27.

“It’s someone from the outside,” Lombardi said to explain his choice. “He’s long. He’s athletic. He can play [multiple] positions. He can play in a 3-4. He can play in a 4-3. He can do some different things.

“I think when you get picked by the New England Patriots, especially defensively, you better be multidimensional. You better have the ability to do things, whether it’s play in the kicking game, whether it’s play two positions, whether it’s being able to feature yourself around the scheme of their 4-3 or 3-4.”

Lombardi also gave an account of what being in a draft room with Belichick is like, noting that Belichick’s draft atmosphere is controlled and sparse in personnel.

“It’s very quiet with Bill,” Lombardi said. “Everything’s very, you know, you’re studying things. It’s no different than being an analyst for a brokerage house. You’re analyzing what’s going on. You’re handicapping yourself. You’re looking at the possibilities. You’re working the trade phones. You’re trying to find out information on things to help set up what you want to do.”

Following are highlights from the conversation. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On which player in the draft is most NFL-ready: “I would say Trent Richardson is the next best player in this draft. He’s a blue chip player, he’s a top-five running back, already in the league, I think he’s a hard guy to tackle. What he does better than most people do and what you have to do as a running back is he has yards after contact, and that’s critical in the NFL. To be successful, the Patriots fans saw it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, it’s about being able to break tackles, it’s being able to carry tacklers, it’s being able to gain yards after contact that makes the back. It isn’t necessarily always having the long speed. I think BenJarvus Green-Ellis’s longest run was 18 yards against the Giants last year in the game at Foxboro.

“So, the reality of it is that you have to be able to break tackles, and that’s what Richardson does combined with the fact that he has great speed, combined with the fact he can do things out of the backfield.”

On draft trade strategy: “I never really bought into this we’re going to trade two bad players for one great player. That’s like baseball when you have two hitters and you trade one for a pitcher, all of the sudden, you don’t have any hitters anymore. So I think you can’t just do that. I think ultimately, this two-for-one concept, I never really buy. It’s like people talk about, ‘Well, you have to combine the picks. Cleveland is going to pick four, but what can they get at 22?’ I’m not thinking that way. If I’m Cleveland, I’m picking the best player at 4, and then I’m going to react to what’s the best player at 22, not try to marry the two picks.”

On what makes Belichick a good drafter: “I think he’s pretty damn good on this day because he can control, what separates Bill from a lot of people is because he’s the general manager and the head coach, he can control player development. And when you can control player development, you can have better drafts. You can find different avenues to get players. And I think where Patriots fans get frustrated is because Bill’s unlike most people. When a guy can’t play, they get rid of him. When a guy can’t do it, they get rid of him and they’re not worried about taking the hit because they got rid of a third round pick. they’re going to do what’s right for the team.”

On the idea of picking players who can be NFL starters: “When you do these analyses of who starts and who doesn’t start, it’s about starting for a championship team. It’s not about starting for just a team. Anybody can start for the Rams tomorrow, but can you win a championship with this player as a starter. That’s the question that has to get asked. That’s got to be addressed. I think ultimately it never is. It’s all, ‘Oh, he started for us. That means he’s a good player.’ You can start for the Rams. It doesn’t mean you can start for the Patriots. I think some of these players can start for teams and really make a difference.

On who will win more championships, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III: “I’m going to go Robert Griffin III. I think right now, the Redskins are set up to at least try to be competitive defensively. I think Indianapolis is much like an expansion team. It’s going to take them three or four years because some of their good players, some of the guys that they think are good on the team, they’re going to find out that maybe they’re not quite good enough to win on a championship level. They’re going to have to remodel the team even after they fix it once.”

On Rex Ryan and choosing running backs: “They want to be ground-and-pound and they don’t even have a blue chip running back. At least he now is agreeing with us that he needs a blue chip running back, he needs someone to come in and set the tempo. So I give him credit. It’s taken him almost nine months. He’s finally hearing the cries. He needs a blue chip running back. Can he get that? I don’t think so. I think Minnesota wants to go all the way down to nine, and he’s going to have to get ahead of Cleveland to pick Richardson.”

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