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  • NFL combine: Setting the stage for Thursday, position groups, schedule, prospects to watch
    by Bernd Buchmasser on February 27, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Related: The Scho Show Episode #80: Soundbites from the second day at the NFL scouting combine While the 2020 NFL scouting combine already began on Sunday with the arrival of the first group of players, the action will really pick up today as the first group of players will begin its on-field workouts: the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends will be tested. The New England Patriots and their fans naturally have plenty to look forward to, as some of the prospects on display might very well end up with the team along the line. To get a better overview of what will happen today as well as what and who the Patriots in particular might watch out for, please enjoy our combine primer. Players’ schedule Quarterbacks, Wide receivers, Tight ends: Limited testing/interviews, On-field workout Running backs, Offensive linemen, Kickers, Special teamers: NFLPA Meeting, Interviews, Bench Press, Psychological Testing Defensive linemen, Linebackers: Media, Medical examination, Position coach interview, Psychological testing Defensive backs: Measurements, Pre-examination, Interviews Broadcast schedule Today is the first day that the combine will be broadcast live from Indianapolis. Starting at 4:00 pm ET, NFL Network and the league’s affiliated services will air the on-field workouts of the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends: Television: NFL Network, ESPN (7:00 pm — 8:00 pm) Radio: Sirius XM Mobile: NFL Mobile app, Watch ESPN Online: nfl.com/watch (login through cable provider), NFL Game Pass, FuboTV NFL Network will also broadcast live on Friday and Saturday, starting at 4:00 pm ET, and Sunday, starting at 2:00 pm ET. On-field drills 40-yard dash: The most publicized event of the entire combine, the 40-yard dash measures a prospect’s acceleration and sustained vertical speed. Furthermore the interval times — the 10-yard split and the 20-yard split — give teams a clearer look on a player’s quickness and initial burst. Vertical jump: The vertical measures a player’s leaping ability as well as his lower-body strength and explosion out of his position. The drill is especially important for skill position players on both sides of the ball. Broad jump: Similar to the vertical jump, the horizontal broad jump tests a prospect’s lower-body explosion and strength as well as his balance in and out of his stance. 3-cone drill: The 3-cone drill tests agility and change of direction skills, and is therefore important for almost all position groups. Since 2010, the Patriots added seven defensive backs with a combine 3-cone time of under 6.75 seconds — a drill to watch, without a doubt. Short shuttle: The short shuttle is a 20-yard running drill divided into portions of 5, 10 and 5 yards. It measures a player’s quickness, agility, burst, flexibility and short-area explosion. Prospects to watch TE Hunter Bryant, Washington: Possibly the best pure receiving tight end in this class, Bryant brings both an impressive athletic skillset and positional versatility to the table: he can successfully line up all over the formation. While he is a developmental prospect in terms of his blocking, he has the tools to be a day-one starter at the next level as a move tight end. QB Jake Fromm, Georgia: Fromm offers starting upside due to his high football IQ and decision making, but is not as gifted a thrower as other quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. Still, he has plenty of positive tools to develop and could take the next step if landing in an offense not relying on him to make plays with his feet or arm strength. WR Tee Higgins, Clemson: Higgins is a big pass catcher that plays with good speed and strength and also has been a willing blocker in the running game at Clemson. While his route tree needs to be expanded, his production — 59 catches for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns this season — and athletic skillset make him a potential target for New England in April. TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue: Hopkins has all the tools you would want from a tight end and a foundation from which to build a starting role in the NFL: he is tall, naturally gifted as a receiver and smooth as a route runner. While he needs to improve his blocking at the point of attack, his skillset is an intriguing one and his ceiling among the highest of all tight ends in this year’s draft. TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame: One of the premier tight ends to enter this year’s draft, Kmet is coming off an impressive 2019 season at Notre Dame during which he caught 43 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns. An intriguing player that is a bit rough around the edges when it comes to route-running and his athletic profile, he would certainly be a good addition to the Patriots’ tight end group. QB Jordan Love, Utah State: Love is a high-ceiling quarterback capable of becoming a starting option in today’s NFL due to his combination of arm strength and pocket mobility. He likely needs some time to adjust to the game speed at the next level and to improve his decision making, but as a developmental option he is a strong early-round candidate. TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri: A big-bodied tight end who brings solid functional athleticism to the table but won’t necessarily wow you, Okwuegbunam is projected to serve as a receiving tight end at the next level due to his size and strong hands. While his blocking remains a work in progress and needs time to develop, the 21-year-old has the upside to turn into a solid TE2 at the next level. WR James Proche, SMU: While he did see more snaps on the outside during the 2019 season, Proche is a slot receiver through and through due to his short-area quickness and ability to successfully find openings against zone coverage. His size and speed may not be impressive, but he offers a good foundation to develop. WR Jalen Reagor, TCU: Reagor is an early-round prospect capable of making an immediate impact in the NFL: he offers tremendous playing speed and is a solid route runner that consistently puts himself in a position to make plays. While struggling a bit with drops in college, he has the upside to serve as a starting-caliber Z-receiver right away. TE Adam Trautman, Dayton: Trautman may be a small-school prospect, but he is one of the fastest rising tight ends in this year’s draft after an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl: a big and powerful player with proven production in the passing game, he needs improve his blocking technique and show that he can succeed against better competition. his physical tools, however, are intriguing. Pats Pulpit at the Combine Pats Pulpit’s own Mark Schofield will be in Indianapolis to cover the event from a Patriots perspective. Besides regularly checking this here website, please also make sure to follow @markschofield and @patspulpit on Twitter. The Pats Pulpit Podcast Network will have breakdowns as well. Subscribe here to stay up to date: Apple Podcasts: bit.ly/ApplePatsPulpit Google Podcasts: bit.ly/GooglePatsPulpit RSS: bit.ly/RSSFeedPatsPulpit Spotify: bit.ly/SpotifyPatsPulpit Stitcher: bit.ly/StitcherPatsPulpit For more on how to listen to the Pats Pulpit Podcast Network, please click here.

  • Darrion Daniels: Brotherhood
    by Mark Schofield on February 27, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports Related: Cesar Ruiz: Leadership and Loss For Nebraska defensive lineman and NFL hopeful Darron Daniels, football is all about brotherhood. Perhaps it is the brotherhood found playing for the Blackshirts, the Nebraska defensive unit. Perhaps it was found during his first “Tunnel Walk,” taking the field in front of the sea of red in front of 80,000 people, when he had to be reminded by a teammate that “this is just a spring game.” Or perhaps it is transferring to a school to play with your younger brother, and to help him grow and improve as a football player and a person. Daniels took to the podium on Thursday morning as part of his NFL Combine experience, a week long process where he hopes to show NFL teams and scouts that he can be a difference maker in the interior of their defensive fronts. But for Daniels, his path to the NFL has taken some twists and turns. He started his career at Oklahoma State and played three years for the Cowboys, but after an injury-plagued final season, he looked to finish his career elsewhere. Playing alongside his brother, a Nebraska defensive lineman, was a huge draw. Describing his decision to transfer to Nebraska, Daniels told the media that: “I also want to be there for my brother and help push him. I knew that talking to a lot of the coaches, they were saying that ‘we realize that you’re coming here to light that fire under your brother,’ so when I got in that was my priority. I had to work on myself to get better and I got to work on my brother to get better.” Daniels put in that work, and despite having just arrived on campus he was named a captain for the Cornhuskers. His relationship with his brother was the impetus for Daniels establishing himself as a leader in the Nebraska locker room. “It went from me pushing my brother, to me and the twins [defensive linemen Khalil and Carlos Davis] pushing my brother. And it went from me and the twins pushing my brother, to me and the twins pushing the young guys on the d-line, and then to the linebackers, and then to the [defensive backs]. So when spring ball came around, we’re not just influencing the defense but we’re influencing the offense as well. I brought a contagious feeling in holding my brother accountable, and that is what did it for everybody [in selecting him as a captain]. They trusted me.” As for Daniels himself, a player he is trying to model his game after is current Philadelphia Eagle Fletcher Cox. His answer to this question highlights the importance that Daniels places upon the technical aspects to playing the position. “I love Fletcher Cox. I love his game. One thing that does it for me is his hand placement. It is rare that you see his hands out of position. And that’s one thing that I want to work on at the next level is that my hand placement is as effective as his. I feel like we kind of share some qualities, we’re kind of the same size...he’s a beast.” In addition to his success on the field, Daniels was a success in the classroom as well. He was a Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll selection for both the Fall of 2019 and Spring of 2019 as well. Daniels earned his degree from Oklahoma State in Marketing in December of 2018, and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Applied Science at Nebraska. He credits his mother with instilling the importance of school work in his mind: My momma don’t play. My momma don’t play. It’s been something that she’s implemented in us the course of our whole life. In her eyes, Cs wasn’t passing. So it was challenging for us. For me and my brother and my sister, we all wanted to play multiple sports. We were very extracurricular kids...but my mom was like ‘grades come first.’ So it was funny prior to coming to college I told my mom that ‘I’m three-and-out, I’m three-and-out.’ And she said ‘not without a degree!’ So it was promise to my mom that I’m gonna get my degree first. Throughout the course of college, I’ve learned to love learning...I wanted to be good at anything I did and academics is something that I had to do, so I wanted to be good at it. I asked Daniels what the one thing he wanted to prove to NFL teams that he could do at the next level, and versatility was the crux of his answer. I’m versatile. I can move. Being a nose guard, I was very selfless. I was very selfless as a nose guard. I took on double-teams. Even in the pass rush, I would rather penetrate and let somebody else get the sack than me get the sack myself. While I’m out here one thing that I want to show is that I can move. I can bend edges, and if they need me to be a pass rusher, I can do that too. Daniels looks back at his time in Lincoln with fondness. He believes that being in that program taught him how to be a professional, and still has great memories of his one and only true “Tunnel Walk.” A staple of gamedays in Lincoln, the walk from the locker room to the field culminates in an explosion from the “Sea of Red.” I asked Daniels about those walks (yes, I let my Nebraska fanhood come through for an instant). As a captain, Daniels was always out first ahead of the team so he never truly got to experience it on a regular season gameday. But in his one Spring Game in Lincoln, he got to enjoy it in full: So I was a captain, so I had to leave [the locker room] early. I didn’t really get the full experience. But the first time I kind of experienced it was during spring football. It was like, walking out, I’ve got everybody around me. I don’t think that I had ever been in a stadium that full. So I’m walking in and I see everybody yelling, and I see that sea of red, and everybody is just so excited to see us play. And it just sent chills from my head all the way down to my toes...and it was funny I remember, I don’t remember who whispered in my ear but they whispered in my ear ‘this is a spring game.’ And I was like oh man! The NFL path in front of Daniels might be a bit of steep road, but his ability to command double-teams and to penetrate as a pass rusher in the interior will make him an attractive option to teams. Perhaps teams like the New England Patriots, who face some decisions of their own along the interior. He also has his catchline ready for his first NFL start on Sunday Night Football, when he will introduce himself as “Darrion Daniels: Cornhuster Cowboy.” But in the end, brotherhood is a big part of how Daniels approaches the game, and in his own brother Damion, he sees that the future is extremely bright: My brother’s best ball is ahead of him. He doesn’t know it yet...when I first got to Nebraska I saw him as my little brother. Now I see him as a grown man. He understands his strengths now. I’m glad that [defensive line coach Tony] Tuioti is there for him because Coach Tuioti he’s seen differenst styles of defensive linemen and he knows what my brother is capable of. He pushes him every day. I just feel like my brother’s best football is ahead of him...I’m really excited to see what he does. Perhaps Daniels can replicate that feeling of brotherhood again next season, only this time in New England. Mark Schofield is in Indianapolis all week to cover the combine for Pats Pulpit. Make sure to give him a follow on Twitter @markschofield.

  • Breaking down the combine quarterback measurements from a Patriots perspective
    by Bernd Buchmasser on February 27, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports Related: Building the ideally-sized Patriots quarterback Earlier this week, quarterback measurements took place at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis and a total of 18 passers were taken a closer look at in terms of height, weight, arm length and hand size. And while measurements — or frankly, the combine as a whole — are only one piece of the puzzle that is the pre-draft process, they can help teams further adjust their draft board two months removed from the actual player election weekend. As is the case with all numbers, of course, they are subject to interpretation depending on the scouts or teams looking at them. When it comes to Monday’s measurements, we will therefore take a look at them from a New England Patriots perspective. After all, we already tried to build the ideally-sized Patriots quarterback last year by looking at the quarterback drafts of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era that were invited to the combine. The averages of their measurements plus the addition of 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham give us an indication about what the team might be aiming at when looking at quarterbacks: Some of the features that stood out when calculating the averages were height and hand size. New England under Bill Belichick likes to invest draft picks in tall passers, with Rohan Davey, Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling the smallest players brought in by the team during or after the draft. All three of them were measured near 6’2 — below the average height of 6’3 the Patriots seem to be aiming at. When it comes to hand size, the team seemed to be more willing to invest in passers with hands below nine inches before 2008. However, the approach changed after neither Kliff Kingsbury (8 1/2) nor Kevin O’Connell (8 7/8) found success in New England. It would be naive to solely blame their hand size on that, of course, but former Patriots director of player personnel Scott Pioli afterwards alluded to the team consciously making the decision to target passers with bigger hands. So where does that leave this year’s quarterback prospects? Let’s take a look at their measurements to find out: When looking at the Patriots’ averages listed above, we can see that some passers like Missouri’s Kelly Bryant, LSU’s Joe Burrow, Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke and Hawaii’s Cole McDonald come very close to their preferred target size. What we can also see is that a number of players on that list might be too short for the team’s liking — not necessarily a disqualifier per se, but something that will impact how the team views them in their overall grading system. The most prominent of those players is Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, one of the most intriguing players in this year’s draft. A terrific college quarterback that posted great numbers as a pocket passer despite his deficiency in height compared to conventional NFL standards, New England investing in Tagovailoa to potentially back up and succeed Tom Brady one day would be a surprise based on his measurement of 6’0 let alone the fact that he is projected to become a top-10 draft pick in late April. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Michigan’s Shea Patterson are also smaller than the aforementioned Patriots quarterbacks previously tracked. One player on the lower end of the spectrum, and the same height as the Davey-Hoyer-Etling trifecta, is Georgia’s Jake Fromm. At a hair below 6’2, he would still fit into New England’s prototype in terms of height. What might hurt Fromm’s stock in the Patriots’ eyes, however, are his comparatively small hands who are below the 9-inch threshold New England appeared to have established following Kevin O’Connell’s draft selection in 2008. In fact, only one quarterback on the list has smaller hands: Princeton’s Kevin Davidson was measured at 8 2/8 — smaller than any quarterback the Patriots have ever selected in the draft, trailing Kliff Kingsbury’s 8 1/2. But again, the number will likely not take him off the team’s draft board unless when looked at in a vacuum. However, the team does not do that: it analyzes the entire body of work before placing a player on its board or leaving him off altogether. Size alone does not make or break a draft prospect’s outlook when it comes to the Patriots. Now, obviously, it seems more likely that the team prefers a quarterback like 6’4 James Morgan over smaller ones like Tagovailoa or Hurts — the club’s track record speaks for itself. But if New England and its head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick have taught us one thing it’s that we should expect anything.

  • Hjalte Froholdt, Brandon King expected to be ready for Patriots’ offseason workouts
    by Bernd Buchmasser on February 27, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Related: Patriots will get some considerable talent back from injury in 2020 The New England Patriots are entering an offseason filled with uncertainty — from a new collective bargaining agreement yet to be signed, to the uncertain status of cornerstone players headed for unrestricted free agency, to numerous men coming off season-ending injuries. Among the latter group are offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt and special teamer Brandon King, who both missed the entire 2019 campaign after getting hurt in preseason. The outlook for the 2020 season, however, appears to be a positive one if recent reports out of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis are to be believed. According to NESN’s Doug Kyed and Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, both Froholdt and King have recovered nicely from their respective injuries and should be ready to participate in the Patriots’ offseason workout program once it gets started in mid-April. King was the first of the two players to go down last summer. The veteran special teamer, who had just signed a two-year contract extension three months earlier, tore his quad during New England’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. One week later, during the preseason finale versus the New York Giants, fourth-round rookie Froholdt hurt his shoulder and like King was later placed on season-ending injured reserve. Both being back to full strength now and ready to participate in the Patriots’ offseason workouts is obviously good news for the players and the team. After all, Froholdt and King might play considerable roles in 2020: the former is expected to compete for a starting role at left guard in case Joe Thuney leaves via free agency, while the latter will return to his usual spot as a core kick coverage player.

  • Patriots will reportedly start talks with Devin McCourty, Phillip Dorsett at the combine
    by Bernd Buchmasser on February 27, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images Related: Patriots shied away from using the franchise tag recently, and 2020 projects to be more of the same Despite free agency being only three weeks away, the New England Patriots have been quiet so far and have not had any substantial contract negotiations with their impending free agents. If reports out of Indianapolis are any indication, however, this could soon change: according to USA Today’s Henry McKenna, the Patriots are expected to meet with representatives for both safety Devin McCourty and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett this week. New England is reportedly showing some interest in bringing both men back into the fold, despite the two having different levels of success during the 2019 season: while McCourty had one of the most productive campaigns of his career and was a cornerstone member of the NFL’s best secondary, Dorsett only played a minor role in the Patriots’ offense despite the passing attack struggling to consistently move the football down the field all year long. Nevertheless, the team is apparently trying to get contract negotiations underway with both players. It remains to be seen whether or not they will be successful and potential deals agreed upon before the start of free agency on March 18, but the expectation is that at least one of them — Dorsett — will test the open market to maximize his value. McCourty, meanwhile, projects to be a popular player if he remains unsigned by mid-March. Meanwhile, the Patriots have had only minimal contact with two other members of their free agency class: linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, who are also on the list of New England’s 16 unrestricted-free-agents-to-be. As is the case with other players such as quarterback Tom Brady, however, this should not necessarily be seen as a negative sign. After all, teams are still waiting on the CBA to be resolved and a salary cap set for the 2020 season.

 

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