Mock NFL drafts have been popping up everywhere, including at the headquarters of the New England Patriots.
While Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may not care how others analyze the prospective draft class, he acknowledged Friday that conducting a mock draft among team officials can be a useful tool in the evaluation process.
"Sometimes we do that. I'd say sometimes it just sparks a conversation," said Belichick in a pre-draft media briefing Friday in Foxborough, Mass. "Again, it's just an exercise to, I'd say, just kind of complete the process of preparation. That's the way it is on draft day, too. A lot of times you're sitting there looking at players that I thought this player would be there and he's long gone, or I didn't think this player would be there and he's still there.
"It's hard enough when you think you know what you're doing. It's even harder when you're kind of guessing because you just didn't anticipate this," said Belichick. "I'd say that's kind of the purpose of the mock draft. We don't sit around and do it all day, but we do it as an exercise just to kind of, as I said, stimulate."
Belichick, per usual, offered no specifics on any areas New England may be targeting and offered a pat answer when asked if he plans to seek a backup to quarterback Tom Brady, who will turn 41 in August.
"We'll do what's best for the football team," said Belichick. "We'll look at our opportunities and do what's best."
Brady, the only quarterback to win five Super Bowls and earn MVP honors in four of them, has said he would like to play until he's 45, but Belichick declined to comment on how long his he expects Brady around.
"I'm happy to answer the draft questions," said Brady. "I'm not going to get into everything else here."
New England has two first-round picks (Nos. 23 and 31) this year -- one as a result of trading wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams -- and has some obvious holes, including along both lines of scrimmage.
One projection by NFLDraftScout.com has the Patriots taking UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller with the 23rd selection and Georgia defensive end/linebacker Lorenzo Carter at No. 31. The site also had New England snagging quarterback Kyle Lauletta of Richmond in the second round.
However, Belichick downplayed the notion of a team drafting based on need, instead citing the best-available player philosophy cited by most NFL personnel types.
"The whole draft need thing is -- I don't really understand that. You put a card up on the board. That doesn't mean the guy is a good player," said Belichick. "I think it's important to acquire good players wherever they are. If you take a player at a position that you might so called 'need' but he's not good enough to fill that need, then it's a wasted pick. So, I don't understand the whole need thing. I understand player value, and that's what we try to go by."
As he prepares to conduct his 19th draft with the Patriots, Belichick did note the depth of the class of 2018 that could open more avenues to New England, which typically is picking late in each round -- barring trades.
"This year is a little bit different than the last couple years," said Belichick. "Going into those past two drafts, I would say we were able to eliminate a number of players just based on where we were selecting. This year is a little bit different than that, but we really need to know the draft from top to bottom. ...
"I'd say there's a handful of players that are probably out of reach, but realistically, just about everybody's in play, other than a handful of guys. So, that's a little bit different than what it's been."
Ranking third on the all-time list with 250 wins and the only head coach with five Super Bowl rings, Belichick termed the draft a "jigsaw" puzzle and reiterated that there are no sure things.
"You can't manufacture players. You can't manufacture a guy. It's a name on the board right now and until that player gets on the field and performs, then we never really know for sure what that's going to be," said Belichick. "So, really the time to evaluate the draft is a couple years afterwards, but we don't have that viewpoint right now, so we'll put it together and figure it out the best that we can, do what's best for the team, whatever that is."