Business about to rev up for Patriots personnel staff

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Business about to rev up for Patriots personnel staff

FOXBORO - If you work in pro personnel at the NFL level, four words are running through your mind this week. "Let the games begin."

With training camp a couple of weeks old, you've seen your players stretch, run drills, make bad plays and good ones on an endless loop.

Now, you need to get out on the road and start watching the other 31 teams and see which players at the end of other team's rosters might be better than the guys at the end of yours.

Nick Caserio, the Patriots Director of Player Personnel, said Friday that nothing aids the process of evaluation like games do. So all the headlines and soundbites we've produced over the last week-plus mean little.

"Until they actually go out in the preseason and play and you can see them perform, that's really the best thing that you have to go off of," said Caserio.

The games begin this weekend with the Hall of Fame Game with the Saints and Cardinals. By next weekend, every team will have played.

"During the preseason for the first two weeks, we'll track every roster," Caserio explained. "Some players you're not as certain (are going to make rosters) we need to study those players and put them in different categories. There will be a vast amount of players that are going to be available at specific times (the first cut will be held August 25 after the third week of preseason games). "Our pro personnel staff will spend a lot of time going through and evaluating players, doing the write ups, put them in our system and positionally grouping them so that when we get to the final cutdown, if there's a player we like, that we want to claim or want to sign we're prepared for that."

During the first week of camp, the Patriots' scouting staff - college and pro - has been visible out at practices.

Caserio said that, as of Friday, the college scouts are going to hit the road to begin watching college practices.

Once the games begin, the rest of the pro personnel staff and scouting department will be scouting games and breaking down game films.

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.