September 16, 2014

Pats Pre-Draft Visits and Workouts

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff
April 21, 2010

With the 2010 NFL Draft just hours away, let’s take a final look at the list of college prospects that have had significant contact with the Patriots over the last several weeks.

For these purposes, we define ‘significant contact’ as either a prospect site visit to Foxborough, or a private workout with Pats coaches and scouts. Interviews at post-season all-star games, the Combine, or at college pro days are not tracked. We’ve only included contacts that could be confirmed by media report (links).

There are those that will tell you that any interest on the part of the Pats that is made public is simply a ruse, or a ‘smokescreen’, to mask their interest in another, unnamed player.

As we’ve asserted many times before, that’s just untrue. Last year, Patriots Daily tracked visits by Patrick Chung, Brandon Tate, Tyrone McKenzie and Rich Ohrnberger before they were selected by the Patriots. In 2008, pre-draft contacts with Jerod Mayo, Terrence Wheatley and Shawn Crable were also noted.

Okay, so maybe there are some mixed reviews there, but that’s not the point. When the Pats make their picks later this week, it’s likely that two or three of the selections – if not more – will come from this contact list.

Note – if you see any that we’ve missed, please speak up in the comments section, and include a link to the reported contact.

Team Visits – Offense

QB Tim Tebow, Florida
RB Montario Hardesty, Tennessee
RB Charles Scott, LSU
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
WR Eric Decker, Minnesota
C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida

Private Workouts – Offense

QB Tony Pike, Cincinnati
QB Mike Kafka, Northwestern
QB Zack Robinson, Oklahoma State
QB Rusty Smith, Florida Atlantic
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
RB Manase Tonga, BYU
RB Dexter McCluster, Mississippi
RB James Starks, Buffalo
WR Andre Roberts, Citadel
WR Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
WR Scott Long, Louisville
WR Taylor Price, Ohio
TE Dennis Pitta, BYU
TE Aaron Hernandez, Florida
TE Nate Bynam, Pittsburgh
TE Scott Sicko, UNH
OT Nic Richmond, TCU
OG Phil Costa, Maryland
C Jim Cordle, Ohio State
OT Daniel Baldridge, Marshall

Team Visits – Defense

DE Brandon Graham, Michigan
DE Corey Wootton, Northwestern
DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Washington
DE Hall Davis, Louisiana-Lafayette
DE Chris McCoy, Middle Tennessee State
DT Dan Williams, Tennessee
DT Tyson Alualu, California
DT Brian Price, UCLA
DT Cam Thomas, North Carolina
OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas
OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU
ILB Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State
LB Donald Butler, Washington
CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State

Private Workouts – Defense

DE Antonio Coleman, Auburn
DE Alex Daniels, Cincinnati
DT Al Woods, LSU
DT Torell Troup, UCF
DT Arthur Jones, Syracuse
DT Corey Peters, Kentucky
DT Aleric Mullins, North Carolina
DT Jeff Owens, Georgia
DT Ricardo Mathews, Cincinnati
LB Brandon Spikes, Florida
LB Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech
LB Ricky Sapp, Clemson
LB Kavell Conner, Clemson
LB Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
LB Dekoda Watson, Florida State
LB Matt Mayberry, Indiana
S Earl Thomas, Texas
S Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech
S Myron Lewis, Vanderbilt
CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama
CB Chris Cook, Virginia
CB Dominique Franks, Oklahoma
CB Nolan Carroll, Maryland
CB Robert McClain, Connecticut
CB Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest
CB Sherrick McManis, Northwestern
P Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech
P Zoltan Mesko, Michigan

Even if the Pats don’t select any of the players from this list, the direction of their efforts may tell us something. For example, by our count, the Pats have made ‘significant contact’ with 66 draft prospects. 39 of them, or nearly 60%, are defensive players.

Of the defensive contacts, more than half were defensive linemen (18 contacts). Linebackers represented 28% of all defensive contacts.  20% of contacts were with cornerbacks. Safety was apparently the only defensive position not focused on (just 2 of 39 contacts).

Nearly half of the 27 offensive contacts were either running backs (22%) or receivers (26%). Oddly, only 4 of 27 offensive contacts were with tight ends, a position that is considered a top need for New England. Offensive line contacts were concentrated on late round or priority free agent prospects. The Pats also looked at 5 quarterback hopefuls, including Tim Tebow.

This would seem to indicate the Pats will focus on their front seven and their offensive skill positions in this draft.

Patriots Daily Mock Draft, Part 1

by Patriots Daily Staff

Chris: Well, faithful PD readers, by this time you’ve evaluated a slew of mock drafts, so we figured it was our turn to put ourselves out there (with an appropriate New England bias, of course).

Let me begin by saying that the high level of talent in this year’s draft makes this mock a lot of fun. Pass rushers, receivers and running backs abound. I’d like to add that, if I really were in charge of the Patriots’ picks, I’d trade at least two toward 2011 because 13 of last year’s rookies remain on the roster.

Instead of bothering with specific numbers I just stuck to rounds. I figure there will be plenty of hopping around over the three-day draft, anyway. Enjoy, and if you have a different opinion of who the Pats should draft, feel free to engage in some lively debate in the comments section below.

FIRST ROUND

Jerry Hughes of TCU

Chris Warner: Jerry Hughes, OLB, TCU. Some talk about taking Brandon Graham here – and that might happen – but I like Hughes better as an all-around athlete. Lined up as a defensive end at TCU, but showed the ability to play on his feet. He can rush the passer or cover tight ends, giving the Patriots versatility at that spot. You’ll notice that I am NOT trading down from 22. Because that would be cruel to New England fans. (Pats front office, please take note.)

Greg Doyle: You have to like Hughes’ production and despite everything, he is still only 21 years old. So you are getting a young player, with upside and big college production. I do have a couple of concerns with him. First, I watched him closely vs. Boise State in his bowl game and thought he had a mediocre game at best. He also took a couple really dumb penalties including an after the whistle personal foul reminiscent of David Thomas versus the Colts in 2008. He also had some good moments of pressure against a hard to rush Boise team. Second, his great production came against mid-level college teams, not the elite. I just think it’s a bit of a gamble pick in the first round. He hasn’t played linebacker at all either. I see high boom or bust potential in him. I’d feel better about taking him in the second round.

My pick would be Jared Odrick. I see limited downside to him. Just a very productive, possibly slightly undersized but not significantly, hard working player who was productive against great competition. He’d slide into that 3-4 end spot and allow Mike Wright to be sort of a super sub at every spot on the line. I think worst case Odrick is a close to a decade solid starter. Best case is he’s a Pro Bowler. I don’t see a lot of risk in this pick, which is the main reason I’m favoring it now. As an alternative, Ryan Matthews at running back really intrigues me but it’s not as big a need for the Patriots right now as the defense is. If they could trade Maroney for a third, I might consider that direction.

Scott Benson: This year’s draft meme is clearly the defensive front seven, as it should be – unless the Pats get a lot better there in a hurry, they’ll continue to slide farther and farther away from another championship. Unfortunately, it’s not the only area in which they’ll need to quickly improve. Offensively, the Patriots have essentially reduced themselves to playing 3 (Brady, Moss and Welker) against 11 every week. So offensive skill players are also needed, and in a hurry, as they will likely be without Welker when they open the season. The good news (and isn’t some good news needed?) is they have 4 of the first 53 picks in what is regarded as a solid, even deep, draft. So to me, New England braintrust, the top priorities are these: 1) No avoidance. Give me players, not future picks. If you decide to trade back from 22 (and that may turn out to be in your best interest) it’s for picks you’ll make THIS YEAR. 2) No prototypes. I don’t give a shit what kind of ‘length’ you like. Shawn Crable has ‘length’, and he SUCKS. 3) No projects. Give me grown ups who have demonstrated productivity and consistency for a long period of time. Don’t give me Jason-Pierre Three Names and this ‘freak’ bullshit. Honestly.

Oh, I was supposed to pick a player there? Okay, I’ll take Graham. During Senior Bowl week, he looked like an eighth grader playing with sixth graders.

SECOND ROUND

Chris: Cam Thomas, DL, North Carolina. I just love the whole 6-foot-4, 330-pound thing he’s got going for him. He’s tough to move and fast in a straight line (5.14 in the 40), making him an ideal backup nose and a strong candidate to anchor one side of the line at defensive end.

Greg: Thomas is definitely a player I like who really stood out at the Senior Bowl and the more you check him out you see what a good player he is, if not flashy. He isn’t going to be a big time pass rusher. But he is a guy who could play end or nose tackle that will be very stout against the run. I might go this direction if I did the Matthews thing in the first round, but with my pick being Odrick, I think I prefer Thaddeus Gibson who I see as a high upside guy with tons of talent, who came out after his junior year and has room to grow and has actually played the outside linebacker position. That is my pick at 44.

Scott: I got my linebacker earlier so now I’m looking to fill that vacant RDE spot, so my pick here is the Cal DL Tyson Alualu. Productivity, versatility, consistency, maturity.

Jared Veldheer

Chris: Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale. Like the rest of us, Matt Light isn’t getting any younger. Also like the rest of us, Nick Kaczur made some mistakes last year. Veldheer has a Vollmer-like reach (6-foot-8), quick feet for his size (4.51-second 20-yard shuttle), and the strength to hold down the edge (32 bench press reps). In fact, a comparison to Vollmer’s pro day shows quite a few similarities. A former high school hoopster, Veldheer could put in some time as a blocking tight end, too.

Greg: I like your reasoning on Veldheer, but with Light, Vollmer, Kaczur and LeVoir still on the roster I just see this as too early. Perhaps if they were to trade Matt Light, who is headed into his last year under contract, this might be the move. Instead, I projected Kam Chancellor here who is a big safety. While safety also isn’t a big need with Meriweather, Chung, Sanders and McGowan still around, I would overlook that by saying I don’t think they see Sanders and McGowan as long-term answers. And I think they feel they are lacking a big, physical safety presence since Rodney Harrison retired. Chancellor is a very big safety, around 230 lbs., but with excellent speed and playmaking ability. He was also a leader of Virginia Tech’s defense. Finding a big safety who can hit, run, cover and make plays on the ball isn’t easy. I think Chancellor fits the bill of being Rodney’s replacement they’re right now lacking.

Scott: At this point, I’ve got to diversify my ridiculously limited offensive attack, so the pick here is BYU TE Dennis Pitta, whose athleticism, short area quickness and feel for the passing game gives him the chance to be an immediate contributor. I’m guessing this will be considered by some to be a reach, but keep in mind those people would have you address your tight end need with a freaking basketball player.

Ben Tate

Chris: Ben Tate, RB, Auburn. Okay, okay, maybe this is early. But considering the Pats traded away their third- and fifth-round picks for Derrick Burgess’ garbage-time sacks (Who, me? Bitter?), this will be their last chance to pick up a big, fast back who has had success against the best defenses in college. Time to revamp the offensive backfield, starting with a steady presence who can hold up both physically and mentally for 16 games. Gaining over 1,300 yards vs. SEC defenses says a lot.

Greg: I like Tate a lot and I’m tempted to just agree with you. He is the best blocking running back in the draft and showed great running ability this season and in the Senior Bowl. He tested better than expected after the season as well before scouts. But I’m gonna stick with my defensive oriented first two days by projecting Alualu, the big defensive end from California. With two of the top 4 picks being 3-4 pure defensive ends, I think that would cure worries about that position and right now I have some. Ty Warren has slipped in recent years and battled quite a few injuries. Besides him, they only have the solid Wright established. Alualu, like Odrick, is a very hard working, tough, physical fighter of a player with good size and 3-4 end speed who’d really help solidify the position. I see both as Patriots-type players. Or at least the type of hard working players they were known for in their Super Bowl years.

Andre Roberts

Scott: Daniel Jeremiah of the outstanding Move the Sticks blog has been telling us for weeks that one of the most polished and pro-ready receivers in the draft is the Citadel’s Andre Roberts, so he’s my pick with #53. Like Pitta, he’s got the speed and quickness to go with the well-honed route tree, and the kind of character and maturity that has evidently been in short supply of late in Foxborough. Enough with leading these young players around by the nose. On the field, Roberts  can also step into the punt returner role that Welker will almost assuredly vacate.

Chris: Scott, as you’ll see tomorrow, you’re not alone on the Roberts pick, though Greg and I would consider a second-rounder a bit high to pay for him.

No third rounders, dear readers, so we’ll see you in Part 2 with rounds four through seven…

East-West Shrine Game Review

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

The East-West Shrine Game gets less attention (and, yes, less talent) than the Senior Bowl, but it’s a great showcase for players with the potential to fill a late-round niche. Just ask New England rookie Myron Pryor, who had a standout performance in last year’s contest (as mentioned in PD’s 2009 review).

It took a while for the offenses to get on track in this one. After the West’s only touchdown gave them a 10-6 lead midway through the fourth, the East came back with a last-second score for an exciting 13-10 win. Below, some players of distinction from a Pats-centric point of view.

Get Carter: The best linebacker on the field was UCLA’s Reggie Carter, who read and reacted with fluid consistency. He stuffed East screen plays and broke off coverage to make tackles up the middle.

Other LBs of note? O’Brien Schofield converted from his usual defensive end position for the first time this week and gathered an interception in the first quarter. Though probably too small for New England’s 3-4 defense, UNLV’s Jason Beauchamp looked athletic getting to the edge.

Kafka’s Trial: Northwestern QB Mike Kafka led the East on their game-winning drive,lofting a pass to tight end Andrew Quarless in the end zone. (Quarless also distinguished himself with a nifty one-handed grab in the first half.)

Hall Pass: The other touchdown of the game came on a throw from BYU’s Max Hall, who went three-for-three for 66 yards on that drive. Hall’s college teammate, tight end Dennis Pitta, had a 30-yard catch and run and held on to another pass despite having his helmet knocked off.

Helter Skelton: Fordham QB John Skelton (who at 6-foot-5, 258 pounds is larger than many of the players rushing after him) showed off his arm as well as his inconsistency.At times Skelton fired the ball through small windows; at others, he missed open receivers.

Barnes Storming: He’s not fast. He’s not big. He played for oft-overlooked Bowling Green. Still, Freddie Barnes had 155 receptions this past season, so he must be doing something right. (For perspective, Wes Welker had 123 catches in 2009.) Barnes drew double-coverage throughout the game but came on late with two grabs on the winning drive, managing to get out of bounds and stop the clock both times.

The Blair White Project: Great game from Michigan State receiver Blair White, the Big Ten 2009 reception leader with 70. Like Barnes, White has mediocre speed, great hands, and an uncanny ability to get open. He and Barnes paired up in the final two minutes to help make Kafka the winning QB.

UConn Jacked: With limited playing time for running backs, Andre Dixon stood out the most. The UConn product displayed solid vision and elusiveness, whether cutting up the middle or sliding past defenders on screen passes. Miami’s Javarris James has been credited as a better all-around back, but he got little chance to show it on Saturday.

The Eastern Front: Hard to judge the play of the offensive line in this one, but those who stood out included Miami interior lineman A. J. Trump and Rutgers tackle Kevin Haslam.

Hitting The Wall (And He Hits Back): Cornerback Jamar Wall had a strong game for the West, breaking up a fourth-down pass to White that – with 2:35 remaining – seemed to seal the game. Wall proved the most consistent DB of the contest.

An In-Nate Sense: Nice work by undersized defensive lineman Nate Collins of Virginia (6-2, 290), who played with high energy and got into the West backfield throughout the day.

So It Is Witten: Not a great game for UConn defensive end/outside linebacker Lindsey Witten, who seemed a bit slow coming around the end and a bit stiff breaking down to catch scrambling quarterbacks.

Ahem, Alem: Though he doesn’t appear to have the lateral moves for a switch to outside linebacker, Rahim Alem provided consistent pressure in the backfield and knocked down a pass. Ole Miss end Greg Hardy had a sack but – much like his injury-plagued season – seemed to fall short of expectations heaped on him last fall.

Ruffin The Passer: Thought small-school defensive end James Ruffin deserved a mention for his fourth-quarter sack. Plus, how could I resist that pun?

One Win, One Ross: We figured we should mention linebacker Ross Pospisil. Not because he got to play much for the East, but because he attended the Naval Academy, which gives him a pretty good shot at a Patriots tryout.  (Just ask the three Navy players who signed contracts in 2009.)

Keep an eye on this spot next week for a report on the Senior Bowl.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

College Scout, September 12, 2009

by Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
September 12, 2009

BYU at Tulane (3:30 PM EST ESPN2)

Last week’s BYU win over Oklahoma was one of the biggest in program history. Tulane is improved, though they didn’t really show it in their opener against Tulsa. This game is in New Orleans and BYU has to be careful to not overlook Tulane here.

BYU Quarterback Max Hall (#15)

Hall is a great college QB, but it’s unlikely his skills will transfer to the NFL. He is smart, can move a bit and is a good leader. He also has an average arm, plays a gimmicky offense, and is undersized and over-aged. Hall originally started at Arizona State before transferring to BYU. He helped lead a great comeback win versus Oklahoma playing his best in a late game drive for the victory. Despite being a Heisman Trophy candidate, I see his only chance in the NFL as a hard-working backup who sticks due to smarts and solid accuracy. He probably will be a late pick or undrafted. His game may be better suited to the more wide open CFL.

BYU TE Dennis Pitta (#32)

Pitta is one of the better receiving tight ends in the country. A sturdy 6’5″ 248, Pitta might be best in the NFL as an h-back. His hands are outstanding and he runs good routes. Good in motion. Pitta right now slots as a mid-round pick similar to former Patriot Garrett Mills, though a bit bigger and stronger. He could fit with the backs and perhaps be versatile enough to play fullback as well.

BYU LB Coleby Clawson (#41)

The player who injured Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford on a clean hit, Clawson may be the best and most NFL ready of BYU’s deep linebacker crew. Clawson is a pure pass rusher who could convert to linebacker in the NFL and would fit with the Patriots. Clawson currently checks in at 6’2″ 235 and has outstanding speed and quickness for his position. He’ll have to learn to drop in coverage, but he has the athletic ability to learn while being a terror on special teams.

Tulane RB Andre Anderson (#32)

A solidly built 6’0″ 212 running back who does everything well, including catch the ball. Has had shoulder injuries in the past and an NFL team will have to monitor that as they have caused him to miss significant time. Runs well at approximately 4.45/40. Runs hard and can be elusive or bruising at times. If Anderson stays healthy, he should be drafted and has enough talent to play in the NFL.

Tulane DE Logan Kelley (#93)

Kelley is a pass rushing defensive end with a high motor, as they say. Keeps going and going to the whistle no matter what. He is athletic with good quickness and seems to beat offensive linemen off the snap with regularity. Last year he had 7 sacks. At 6’2″ 246, he has prototypical outside linebacker size and he’ll have a lot to learn converting there as a NFL player. But, he is a football player and will likely be given a good chance to stick in the league.

USC at Ohio State (8:00 PM EST ESPN)

Big game here between two top teams. Ohio State wants to redeem itself after a terrible showing versus the Trojans last year. There have been some comments from them this week that they’re playing for the honor of the Big 10. Of course, they hardly looked dominating last week, barely squeaking by Navy. USC is starting a true freshman quarterback in Brian Barkley, but looked as good as ever decimating San Jose State in the opener. I’m hoping for a competitive game, but USC’s athletes have the potential to dominate again if they get rolling. Here is to hoping that Ohio State, playing at home, can grind it out a bit and give us a more competitive matchup than last year.

Ohio State TE Jake Ballard (#86)

Ballard is a big 6’6″ 256 lb. TE who is getting his most playing time this year as a senior for the Buckeyes. Has good strength to develop into a solid blocker. Looks as if he will be featured more as a receiver this year, catching 3 passes for 51 yards in the opening game this year versus Navy. Not overly fast nor does he show great movement, but does have good hands and makes a big target. Has second day NFL draft ability right now, but could move up with more playing time this year.

Ohio State WR Ray Small (#82)

An oft-disciplined but talented receiver for the Buckeyes who missed the opener due to illness. Small has good speed, shifty moves and solid hands. Still, has been plagued with problems and has not lived up to his potential. Somewhat small and has been occasionally nicked up. Has punt return ability. Has talent, but needs to smarten up and use it. Probably wouldn’t be looked at by the Patriots unless he did a 180. His chance to do so starts today versus USC.

Ohio State S Anderson Russell (#21)

An intelligent leader on defense. Good, but not great, for the safety position in the NFL. Can make plays and rarely makes mistakes, but made a huge one last week getting beat for an 85 yard TD against Navy. Plays like that won’t help his draft standing and he has a chance in a high profile game to step up his play this week. There is some possibility Russell may even be benched due to last week’s game, but he should still play a lot. Has NFL ability and is in general a smart player with good speed, leadership and tackling ability. But he isn’t a great player and at best will likely be a late round pick or undrafted free agent who’ll have to excel on special teams.

USC RB Stafon Johnson (#13)

With any other team, Johnson would be a huge star and probably regarded as one of the best backs in the country. With USC, he is just one of many good ones in a large stable of running backs. Comes into this game with over 1,400 career yards, but he could probably put that up in one year somewhere else. Great size, strength and vision. Hasn’t shown much receiving ability at USC and that will hurt him unless he can show he can do that in post-season all-star games. One benefit of drafting him is he won’t come with a lot of tread off the tires. Probably will be a 2nd or 3rd round choice simply due to his great talent, even with only average production.

USC TE Anthony McCoy (#86)

Big tight end with good blocking ability and toughness; average speed, but improving receiving skills. Will never be a Kellen Winslow Jr. type, but can be a solid all around tight end in the NFL and shows some leadership ability and fight on the field. Came into the year with 24 career catches, but shows improvement the more he plays. Had 3 catches on opening weekend, including a long one of 44. A mid-round choice who might interest the Patriots, but they probably prefer a more athletic tight end if they’re to draft one.

USC S Taylor Mays (#2)

One of the best players in the country and almost assuredly a top 5 pick. He does it all; hit, tackle, make plays, cover, play in the box, cause turnovers, you name it. Just a great player and a freak athletically with great size, speed, quickness, strength and endurance. He is really enjoyable to watch and I’m looking forward to seeing him this week in a big game. I’m sure Bill Belichick would love to have him, but it’s unlikely the Patriots will be in position to draft him in 2010.

E-mail Greg Doyle at [email protected]