January 11, 2011
Solid Personnel Moves Has Nick Caserio Picking Up Where Scott Pioli Left Off
BY: Russ Goldman/Derek Havens
On January 13, 2009, Scott Pioli was introduced as the new General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. Pioli was Vice President of Player Personnel for the New England Patriots from 2002-2008. He had held other titles within the Patriots personnel department starting in 2000. The big question for the Patriots was: who would be replacing a gentleman who was very instrumental in helping to build a dynasty?
The answer would be a man who worked under Pioli, and has been with the organization since 2001. His name is Nick Caserio.
Since Pioli left, the Patriots personnel has changed tremendously. Caserio and his staff have had a big role in the reshaping of the Patriots organization to this current day. We are going to breakdown the moves that were made over the course of 2 seasons which have the Patriots at 14-2.
The first move that Caserio engineered in 2009 was the Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel trade. The Patriots traded Cassel along with Vrabel to the Chiefs for their second round draft pick, which was #34 overall in the draft.
During the free agency period of the Patriots, they brought in several players. I would say some worked out and some did not. The players that did not ultimately work out long term included veteran guys like Joey Galloway, Chris Baker, and Shawn Springs.
However, Caserio hit on a few players that are a part of the team today. Leigh Bodden proved to be a great signing, and he had a tremendous 2009 season. Unfortunately he got injured in the pre-season of 2010, and was put on injured reserve, but should he return healthy, the 2011 secondary will only be that much better. Tully Banta-Cain was brought back as an outside linebacker, and in 2009 and had a wonderful season with 10 sacks. Fred Taylor is a tremendous running back that unfortunately has been injured the majority of his two seasons with the Patriots. However, when he has been healthy he has played very well for New England.
Free agency in 2009 added some pieces to the pie, but the real work of Caserio and his staff was in the draft in that season. Some might think it is early to say that the 2009 draft was a huge success for the Patriots. I don't think it is too early at all. Let's look at the players that were drafted and how many are playing a role on the team today.
The Patriots had 4 picks in the second round. The first pick was Pat Chung at safety. He has made an impact in the secondary, and could be a future star in the league. The Patriots next took Ron Brace at defensive tackle. He has shown promise this season, and his future could still be very bright despite heading to injured reserve recently. Next, the Patriots took Darius Butler who has struggled at cornerback in his 2 seasons but continues to get better. Their final pick in the second round was Sebastian Vollmer at offensive tackle. He has been tremendous on the offensive line, and is a building block for future seasons to come.
So just those four picks alone would be an improvement over the few drafts prior with Pioli. However, the Patriots were far from done in the 2009 draft. In the third round they hit with Brandon Tate at wide receiver, who is starting now at the position. They missed also in that round with Tyrone McKenzie at linebacker. McKenzie started off strong in training camp this season, but ultimately couldn't find a role with the football team.
The rest of the draft the Patriots found 3 players that are making contributions right now. In the fourth round you have offensive guard Rich Orhnberger, who has given them depth and he's filled in fairly well when needed. In the sixth round the Patriots drafted Myron Pryor, who has made an impact at defensive tackle. Finally, in the seventh round, the Patriots drafted Julian Edelman who plays wide receiver. He has also been great in returning punts, and I think still has a future at the receiver position.
So between the free agents and the draft picks of 2009, Caserio brought in the first wave of players that have helped make up the current 2010 Patriots. He was far from done. After a disappointing 2009 season, Caserio would be adding the next wave of talent. Who would he be adding in 2010 and what kind of impact would these players have?
Caserio began with a strong free agency at the beginning of the 2010 season. Vince Wilfork, Leigh Bodden, and Tully Banta-Cain were the major players the Pats re-signed. Shortly there after, veteran players turned Patriots headaches - Shawn Springs and Adalius Thomas - were released. As April's draft came about, a very strong draft class followed.
The team continued drafting defensive players in Florida's Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham. Both made contributions throughout the season's entirety and helped reshape an aging front seven. Brandon Deaderick, taken later in the draft, also added some much needed defensive line depth before being temporarily suspended by the team at the end of the regular season. Undrafted free agents Kyle Love and Dane Fletcher made the roster, earning playing time that continued the turnover.
Next, the Patriots began to reshape their offense by drafting Tight-ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, while signing veteran Alge Crumpler. Their new offensive look would lead to All-Pro Randy Moss's departure just a few months later.
Later in the draft, the Patriots took Ohio receiver Taylor Price. Price and the Patriots treated this year as a red shirt season, which is very understandable as he played in a very archaic Ohio offense through his college career. However, he did see action in the final regular season game and definitely shows some promise.
After an abysmal season for Patriots punter Chris Hansen, Caserio and Belichck drafted Zoltan Mesko in the fifth round. Mesko, widely considered the best in the draft at his position, had a solid rookie year averaging 43.2 yards-per-attempt. His efforts, along with the other special teams players, made their impact known on several occasions during the season.
Caserio added some offensive line prospects towards the end of the draft in Ted Larsen and Thomas Welch. Other players drafted late, Kade Weston and Zac Robinson found spots on NFL rosters. In the season's conclusion, however, this draft would prove to be very strong.
One of Caserio's most unappreciated qualities is his ability to leave no stone unturned around the NFL. He traded a conditional draft pick for Jarrad Page when he had a contract dispute with the Kansas City Chiefs. Traded a fourth round pick for Deion Branch, while shipping out Laurence Maroney to the Broncos for the same price tag. He found Eric Moore in the United Football League, who made an impact when his number was called on multiple occasions.
He also signed fan favorite Danny Woodhead, who was signed by the Pats one day before the team's Week 2 matchup against the Jets. He spent much of the year replacing Kevin Faulk, finishing with 97 carries for 547 yards (5.6 yard average), and five rushing touchdowns. He also caught 34 passes for 379 yards and one receiving touchdown.
In 2002, when Pioli took over, he did a remarkable job of building the Patriots dynasty. Eight years later in 2010, Nick Caserio is doing a similar job, which will hopefully end with the same results.
With six draft selections in the first 96 overall picks still on the way this April, the Pats find themselves in great position moving forward. Pats fans might have been concerned about the future with out Scott Pioli, but with the job Nick Caserio has done, the future looks bright.
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