NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
The NFL Scouting Combine is what it is.
It is a way to meet prospects off the field and evaluate how their game film translates on the field. It is not a be-all, end-all in determining a draft hopeful’s future, but it is a way to compare and contrast physical and athletic measurements in a neutral environment.
And when teams apply their respective criteria to the subjects at hand, trends are the byproduct, as Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have evidenced over the last several years.
The Patriots personnel department has drafted 36 players since 2010. The collection consists of two quarterbacks, two running backs, three tight ends, four wide receivers, three offensive tackles, one center, three defensive ends, two defensive tackles, six linebackers, five cornerbacks, three safeties and a punter.
Six of whom had to wait until their pro days, while 30 of whom were invited to Indianapolis.
But courtesy of the NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com archives, here’s a closer look into their vital numbers by position. Because while we do not know what the future will bring this May, history is often a trajectory of the future.
New England’s war room has selected two quarterbacks since 2010 – Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett in the third round of 2011 and Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson in the seventh round of 2010. Though the prototype of a Patriots QB is usually perceived as a tall, strong-armed, strictly pocket-passer, there was a five-inch, 39-pound difference between Mallett and Robinson. By and large, physical characteristics appear to be only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to the Patriots and signal-callers. The 40-yard dash times, while a plus, aren’t a deciding barometer, either. Mallett ran a 5.37 40-time at the Razorbacks pro day.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: San Jose State’s David Fales, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage
The Patriots have drafted two running backs over the last four years – California’s Shane Vereen and LSU’s Stevan Ridley. Back to back in 2011, Belichick and Co. had different molds in mind for the elusive Vereen and the slashing Ridley. Both measured in at over 5’10” and 210 pounds. Both ran under a 4.67-second 40-yard dash, sub-7.00 a three-cone, sub-4.3 20-yard shuttle and demonstrated thick lower-body power in broad and vertical jumps.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: UNLV’s Tim Cornett, Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney, Coastal Carolina’s Lorenzo Taliaferro
Three tight ends have been drafted by New England since 2010. With the split between inline and offline tight ends, the traits the Patriots have looked for have varied. Neither Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski nor Florida’s Aaron Hernandez were fully healthy for drills at the 2010 combine – running in the 4.6 40-yard dash range, sub-4.5 short shuttles and sub-7.2 three-cone times at their pro days. While at the 2011 combine, Marshall’s Lee Smith was a blocking type, running the 40 in 5.01 seconds, 7.13 three-cone and 4.28 short shuttle. Vertical is also key in determining ability to compete for the ball over defenders.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz, Utah’s Jake Murphy, Oregon’s Colt Lyerla
Four wide receivers have become Patriots draft choices over the last four years. And while their frame has different based on offensive role, all four stood in at 5’11” or taller. But by and large, 20-yard short-shuttle times for agility and three-cone times for lateral quickness have been integral measurements. When including the pro day numbers of Marshall’s Aaron Dobson and Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert, the group ran the short shuttle in under 4.35 and the three-cone in under 6.83 seconds – Dobson’s size making him an exception. The Patriots have also found agility and change-of-direction performers like Missouri’s T.J. Moe and Rutgers’ Mark Harrison in undrafted free agency.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis, Notre Dame’s T.J. Jones, Alabama’s Kevin Norwood
Three offensive tackles have heard the names called by New England since 2010. Aside from Colorado’s Nate Solder in Round 1 of 2011, Texas Christian’s Marcus Cannon and Vanderbilt’s Thomas Welch were third-day picks. All three stood in at over 6’4” and 306 pounds. All three posted arm lengths of at least 33 inches. And all three were experienced college starters.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James, North Carolina’s James Hurst, Boston College’s Matt Patchan
Guard & Center
The Patriots have turned to priority free agency for signing interior offensive linemen, drafting only North Carolina State center Ted Larsen since 2010. Longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was known for developing unheralded but experienced guards and centers into serviceable players. Most of whom stand in around 6’2” and just over 300 pounds; they boast good arm length and heavy hands. Three-cone and short-shuttle times are also noted, as mobility in short space is vital in the trenches. But one of the underlying prerequisites is the ability to play anywhere; it’s something a talent like Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin has going for him, as do the three possible fits listed below.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo, Nevada’s Joel Bitonio*, Colorado State’s Weston Richburg
The Patriots have drafted three 4-3 defensive ends in the last four years, all coming since 2012. When it comes to these seven-techniques like Illinois’ Michael Buchanan, Syracuse’s Chandler Jones and Arkansas’ Jake Bequette, length is critical for bending the arc and batting down the arms of offensive tackles. All three measured in at 6’4″ or taller and at least 255 pounds, but all three also displayed rangy arms of at least 34 inches. A three-cone below 7.10 seconds, a short shuttle below 4.45 seconds and a 40-time below 4.8 seconds have proven ideal. Those tests go a long way towards generating explosion. That said, the three-cone times in this year’s class are slightly slower than New England’s average. Most qualifying prospects are below the Patriots’ defensive end benchmark in terms of height.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: Missouri’s Kony Ealy, North Carolina’s Kareem Martin, West Virginia’s Will Clarke
Much has changed schematically since the Patriots nabbed Alabama’s Brandon Deaderick and Georgia’s Kade Weston in Round 7 of the 2010 draft. Both fell under the 3-4 defensive end category, rather than the archetypal nose tackle or three-technique. Both measured at 6’4” and around 315 pounds; Deaderick was nursing injury and did not participate in on-field drills, while Weston did not attend the combine. Now moving forward, a run-stuffing or pass-rushing defensive tackle could both be roles of emphasis. And because of that, the size, strength and agility drills are ones that often draw attention. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that New England has preferred the taller, heavier defensive tackle over the undersized one in year’s past.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III, Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman, Penn State’s DaQuan Jones
Outside & Inside Linebacker
Between the 3-4 outside, 3-4 inside, 4-3 outside and 4-3 middle, the Patriots have drafted six linebackers since 2010. The list includes outside types in Florida’s Jermaine Cunningham, Central Arkansas’ Markell Carter and Southern Mississippi’s Jamie Collins. All three measured in at a minimum of 6’3” and 250 pounds. Carter was not a combine invite, Cunningham did not participate in drills due to injury, and Collins blew up the tests in 2013 with an 11’7” broad jump, 41.5-inch vertical jump and a 4.64 40-yard dash. The list also includes more inside types in Florida’s Brandon Spikes, Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower and Rutgers’ Steve Beauharnais – all of whom were at least 6’1”, close to 240 pounds and showcased good broad jumps and three-cone times at the combine or at their pro days.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Montana’s Jordan Tripp, Louisville’s Preston Brown
Five cornerbacks have been drafted by New England since April of 2010: Rutgers’ Devin McCourty, Texas Christian’s Malcolm Williams, Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling, Nebraska’s Alfonzo Dennard and Rutgers’ Logan Ryan. Three of whom were taken in the first three rounds; two of whom seventh-rounders. And with the exception of the 6’1” Dowling, the norm was under 5’11” and 190 to 200 pounds. For what it’s worth, New England has drafted only one corner over 6’0″ since 2005. But above all, broad jumps, three-cone time and 40-yard dashes have been the primary measurements for the Patriots. Those who were full participants at the combine posted at least a 116-inch broad, a three-cone in the 6.70 range and a 40-time between 4.46 and 4.56 seconds. Finding a prospect who hits all three categories isn’t easy.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir, Notre Dame’s Bennett Jackson
The Patriots have drafted three safeties in the last two drafts. None of whom were invited to the combine. The group carries enigmas in Illinois’ 2012 second-rounder, Tavon Wilson, Ohio State’s 2012 sixth-rounder Nate Ebner and Rutgers’ 2013 third-rounder Duron Harmon. And considering all three were off the radar, it’s clear New England looks deep for center fielders. Their pro day measurements were 6’0” and 205 pounds or under. Each ran under a 4.56 40-time, under a 7.05 three-cone time, broad jumped over 10’3” and vertical jumped over 31 inches.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: Washington State’s Deone Buccanon, Florida State’s Terrence Brooks, Minnesota’s Brock Vereen
Last but not least, the Patriots have drafted one punter in the last four years, none other than Michigan’s own Zoltan Mesko. The fifth-round pick measured in at 6’4”, 240 pounds and benched 16 reps at the 2010 combine. Current Patriots punter Ryan Allen – who went undrafted out of Louisiana Tech last April – was measured at 6’1”, 219 pounds at the 2013 combine. Long arms help; both stretched 32.5 inches or longer. This is, however, a position where strong legs win out.
Three Potential Measurable Fits in 2014 Draft Class: None Likely