FOXBORO -- Nothing to see here. All you've heard about the Patriots poking and prodding college quarterbacks during this year's pre-draft process is nothing out of the ordinary.
According to Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio, it's an annual rite.
"This year is really no different" in terms of the team's approach to quarterbacks in the draft, Caserio said. "I think what we try to do is take each position and really try to know top to bottom as thoroughly as we can, as many players at that position.
"Historically we spend a lot of time, this time of the year, whether it's players we bring to the stadium, that we work out on campus. The process, I would say is really no different this year than it has been in years past. It's all with the idea of trying to gain as much information about that position group top to bottom so when you're sitting up there looking at 'X' amount of players, you have a good baseline of info and the answer's not 'I don't know we haven't spent enough time with him.' "
According to various reports, the Patriots have met with or worked out a fist full of signal-callers this spring. The top-rated prospects like Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater have all allegedly spent time with the Patriots. Players projected to be taken after the first round have been looked into as well. Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo, Ohio State's Kenny Guiton, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray, South Carolina's Connor Shaw, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas and Ball State's Keith Wenning have all been linked to New England.
"We can't get everybody," Caserio said, "but you try to identify and earmark 'X' number of players and then we try to get as much information as we can so that we're prepared in the event we have to make a decision somewhere along the way."
Asked if now was the time to start contemplating a succession plan for quarterback Tom Brady, Caserio hedged.
"I think right now our focus is just on the draft and trying to improve our team," he said. "We go through the offseason program once we have the players that are here. We're focused on the short term. We just started the offseason program, we'll see our players, where they are physically once we're on the field, once we start practicing, right now I think our focus is on the draft and trying to improve our football team."
If improving the team, however, means drafting a quarterback, Caserio wouldn't rule it out.
"I'd say we're focused on improving our football team in whatever capacity we can do it," he said. "We'll always consider that."
As for the theory that the Patriots have met with a number of quarterbacks in case they meet them as opponents down the line, the Patriots don't appear to put much stock into it.
"Once a player gets into the NFL, whatever he's done in college, whatever he's learned, whatever system he's played in, it's really irrelevant," Caserio said. "Now they're moving forward. They're going to be with another team, it's going to be specific to that team.
"Let's say he went to Illinois, just to pick a school, you get some info about what they did at Illinois and then he's in the league playing for Buffalo. Well does it really matter what he did defensively at Illinois? I don't know. In the end when you meet with a player, you're trying to look at his mental acumen, his capacity to learn, how does he process information, how does he recall, does he need repetitions? Is he more of a visual learner? I think you're looking more at their method of learning, as opposed to what they actually are learning. If that makes any sense."