Although Rex Ryan is no longer coaching the Jets, he didn’t go very far as he’s still in the AFC East coaching the Bills, which means the Patriots still remain his top competition within the division.

Although Rex Ryan is no longer coaching the Jets, he didn’t go very far as he’s still in the AFC East coaching the Bills, which means the Patriots still remain his top competition within the division.

Speaking at the NFL combine Wednesday, Ryan was asked what it was like to see the Patriots win the Super Bowl.

“It was terrible, next question,” Ryan joked to reporters. “No, you know what? That was a great game, obviously a great game. I think it was anticipated it was going to be a great game. You had two outstanding teams, both of them really well coached. And, obviously, it was an outstanding game.”

The day of the Super Bowl a report came out that the Bills would be interested in acquiring Patriots star cornerback Darrelle Revis, reuniting Revis with his former coach in New York. Ryan was asked if he had any interest in the Patriots’ corner, and Ryan didn’t take the bait, as he didn’t want to get himself involved with potentially tampering with another team’s player.

“Alright, now, I was waiting. I knew it would come from somebody,” said Ryan. “See my first year, I would have done this and I would have swung at that pitch, and probably been fined for tampering or something like that. This time, no way am I going to talk about somebody else’€™s player, so I refuse to do that.”

Ryan was also asked about Deflategate, and if the accusations changed the way he viewed the Patriots winning the Super Bowl. The Bills coach said it shouldn’t take away from the win, as the team earned it.

“I think they earned the Super Bowl, period,” he said. “That’€™s the way I’€™d see it.”

This is Ryan’s first combine as coach of the Bills, and he said he woke up at 4 a.m. Wednesday to get to Indianpolis. He noted the team has a lot of work to do over the coming days and weeks.

“I had to get here, man. I had to fly through Detroit and all that, you know, the glamorous trip into Indy,” said Ryan. “But excited about it. And because of that, I’€™m going to start by saying that you’€™ve got pitchers and catchers now in baseball, so that’€™s exciting. You know, this time of year, as a coach, what you try to do is you look at ways of getting better.”

When it comes to getting better, Ryan knows they will need to compete with the Patriots first and foremost within the division, and with New England being the reigning Super Bowl champions and winning the AFC East six straight years, and 11 of the last 12, it all starts with being able to get past them.

“I think it’€™s more of the fact that these are the world champions so you want to beat them, period,” said Ryan. “There’€™s no doubts. If you’€™re going to try to knock one team off it would be the world champions. That’€™s not just me, that’€™s where everybody wants to get that level. Obviously we’€™ve got a lot of ground to make up.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Amari Cooper (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Alabama’s Amari Cooper is one of the top-rated receivers in the 2015 draft class. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As we head into the 2015 NFL combine, this year’s crop of draftable receiving talent is starting to take shape. In the wake of the 2014 class, just about any draft in league history looks disappointing, but football fans would be wise to get up to speed on this year’s group. Some of these players can make an impact right away, and there is plenty of depth, too. Will there be any Odell Beckhams? No. In fact, I don’t see any Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins either. That doesn’t mean this class lacks talent. Far from it. In fact, I like this class much better than the 2013 class.

I’ll break the top 20 prospects into four tiers to give you a general sense of value and where the drop-offs are. These ratings can and will change as we move through the draft process and watch more film … a lot more film.

Be sure to check out Rotobahn in the coming days and weeks as we roll out our long-form scouting reports and start to tackle the puzzle that is the 2015 fantasy draft board. This is going to be one of the most interesting drafting seasons ever. Has the era of the running back ended? If so, what defines where we are now? Be sure to tune in to the next fantasy football podcast, when Jim Hackett and I will dig into these topics and a whole lot more.

Click on the player’s name to watch a sample of his game film.

Tier 1

Amari Cooper, Alabama
DeVante Parker, Louisville
Kevin White, West Virginia

Take your pick. These three players could go off the board based on scheme fit as much as anything else. They all are high-quality players who are NFL-ready. The general consensus seems to be that Cooper will be taken first, but White is an imposing physical receiver who some teams will covet, and Parker has a little bit of everything. For anybody who did film work on Teddy Bridgewater last season, Parker should be well-known. He was on the other side of most of Bridgewater’s big plays, and that’s no coincidence. Parker reminds me of Dallas’ Terrance Williams when he left Baylor, but with better hands and more developed routes. One thing all three of their top guys have in common is that their value is not all that dependent on the combine. Barring something really off-the-charts bad, the film and a clean bill of health is all these players need to sell themselves on draft day.

Tier 2

Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri (never played a down for Oklahoma)
Devin Smith, Ohio State
Sammie Coates, Auburn
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
Breshad Perriman, Central Florida
Philip Dorsett, Miami

This tier is a step down, but you still have mid- to late-first-round talent here. The difference is that some of these guys have discernible flaws, and a few are not game-ready like the Tier 1 options. Green-Beckham is a player who would possibly be off my board if I was an NFL GM. His off-field baggage is that significant. On the other hand, he has a skill set that is reminiscent of Calvin Johnson. Don’t get me wrong, DGB is not the freak that Megatron is, but his athleticism is rare for a man his size. Kevin Smith is a bit under the radar for a guy who was the lead receiver for a national championship team. Smith has an NFL skill set and he can take the top off of a defense. Coates is here for his upside. He may be the best deep threat in this year’s class, and we expect him to run very fast, but he lacks the polish of guys like Cooper and Parker. Jaelen Strong is a big name and he was a very solid college receiver who brings good hands and a big strong frame to the table. Getting consistent separation against man coverage will be the key to his success at the next level. Perriman is moving up boards, and, quite frankly, I’m not sure why it took so long. Anybody who watched Blake Bortles’ 2013 film had to notice this guy. My main concern with Perriman is his hands, and it’s a mild concern. He could end up being one of the better values if he makes it into the second round. Dorsett’s inclusion in this tier may surprise some, but at Rotobahn we love his speed and alpha attitude. The only concerns we have with Dorsett are his size and his potential lack of durability. The kid is an NFL talent. Just watch his film.

Tier 3

Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Rashad Greene, Florida State
Nelson Agholor, USC
Tony Lippett, Michigan State
Tre McBride, William & Mary

Some good NFL receivers will come out of this group. Lockett, coming off a strong week at the Senior Bowl, has plenty of speed and quickness. He also has NFL bloodlines. His father, Kevin Lockett, played six seasons in the NFL. Greene is a well-known and productive receiver if you’ve been watching the college playoffs the last few seasons. He’s a dependable well-rounded receiver but he’s a shade on the small side. Lippett is a talented kid who may need a year or two to reach his potential physically. At 6-foot-2, 192 pounds, he’s a little on the lean side, but he has a well-rounded game. McBride has tantalizing ball skills and he could move up boards with a good combine performance.

Tier 4

Deon Long, Maryland
Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Dres Anderson, Utah
Jamison Crowder, Duke
Josh Harper, Fresno State
DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame

Deon Long is a sleeper with impressive strength and tackle-breaking ability for his size. He could become a trendy riser with a good combine performance. Montgomery is a talented and versatile player, but his inconsistent hands concern me. Anderson’s season ended in October due to a knee injury, so the combine has special importance for him as he tries to show that he’s fully recovered. Anderson also is the son of a former NFL receiver (Flipper Anderson). Crowder is a very good receiver, but his lack of size should make him a slot-only receiver at the next level. Harper is a solid receiver with soft hands, but he needs to show some speed this week or he could fall down boards. Daniels is a player to watch this week. He missed the entire season due to academic woes, so teams will be looking closely to see what kind of shape he’s in. A strong workout would send a powerful message about his maturity.

I’ll be back Thursday with a look at the running backs, with the tight ends and quarterbacks going up on Friday and Saturday, respectively. I’ll also take a look at some of this year’s sleepers and small-school talents. That will be posted Saturday morning. If you want to keep up with the combine as it happens, follow me on Twitter.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

After a report a few weeks back saying Wes Welker was contemplating retirement, it doesn’t seem like the 33-year-old is ready to call it quits just yet, according to new Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak.

Although Welker is a free agent, Kubiak spoke to Welker over the phone — as he did with every every Denver player — and Welker was working out in Arizona.

“I’€™ve spoken to every player on the team,” Kubiak told reporters at the combine. “It’€™s the first thing I did when I got there was pick up the phone and call and say hello and let them know how excited I was to be a part of it. But I had a good conversation with Wes. I’€™ve known him, know people who have known him for many, many years.

“I know he wants to play some more football and, like I said, like any of these free agents we’€™re talking about right now, we’€™d love to have them back. We’€™ll see how this thing works out. But I know he’€™s feeling good, he told me he’€™s feeling good and actually was working down in Arizona, I think, at the time I talked to him.”

Kubiak said he will stay out of Welker’s way and ultimately let him make the decision of first of all whether he wants to come back to the NFL, and secondly if that will be in Denver or somewhere else.

“€œNo, I think that’€™s Wes,” said Kubiak. “No, I do not think that’€™s my place. I’€™m just developing a relationship with Wes from his standpoint. I hope I get an opportunity to coach him and be a bigger part of his career. I have great respect for what he’€™s done and the job he’€™s done, and he did a very good job in Denver. Only he can work through that and know how he’€™s feeling, but he was very positive with me.”

Dealing with injuries in Denver, Welker has totaled 124 catches for 1,242 yards and 12 touchdowns in his two seasons as Bronco, but finished with just two touchdowns this past year. Welker has played 11 seasons in the NFL.

For more Patriots and NFL news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The NFL combine kicked off in Indianapolis Wednesday morning, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t go straight to Indianapolis when he arrived on Tuesday. Instead he visited with good friend, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean and spoke to his team.

According to Indiana.Scout.com, the coach gave a “tremendous” speech. Crean thought only Mike Lombardi, an assistant to the Patriots coaches, would be going, but he brought Belichick along with him.

Crean is brother-in-law’s with the Harbaugh brothers.

Belichick will now be hard at work with the rest of the organization at the combine, which runs through Monday.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Honored to have met two of the all time greats in the NFL earlier today, Coach Bill Belichick and Mike Lomabrdi!

A photo posted by Nick Zeisloft (@n_zeis2) on

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Orlando Franklin is one more versatile offensive linemen on the potential free agent market. (Getty Images)

Orlando Franklin is one more versatile offensive linemen on the potential free agent market. (Getty Images)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’€™re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller,  Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Rahim Moore, Charles Clay, Jerry Hughes and Pernell McPhee. Here is a look at offensive guard/tackle Orlando Franklin:

Orlando Franklin
Position: Offensive guard/tackle
Age: 27, (turns 28 on April 12)
Height: 6-foot-7
Weight: 320 pounds

The skinny: The durable Franklin represents one of the most versatile offensive lineman to potentially hit the free agent market. He started his first three seasons out of the University of Miami playing right tackle for the Broncos before moving to left guard this past season. He has started 63 of a possible 64 regular season games in his four NFL seasons. As general manager John Elway and head coach John Fox considered options to replace left guard Zane Beadles (FA to Jacksonville) they decided on Franklin. The massive Franklin also provided more of a physical presence along the interior to boost the running game to protect Peyton Manning. Like the Bengals did in 2013 with Andrew Whitworth, the Broncos moved one of their long and powerful tackles inside to a guard spot to help open up holes on the interior line. When Franklin debuted with the Broncos in 2011, Tim Tebow became the starting quarterback midway through the season. Franklin was named to the All-Rookie Team by Football Outsiders that season after starting all 16 regular-season contests and playing in 98.2 percent of the team’€™s offensive snaps. Franklin was a key part of an offensive line that paved the way for the Broncos to lead the NFL in rushing with a franchise-record 164.5 yards per game.

By the numbers: Allowed the fewest sacks (3.5) in the NFL among 16-game starting right tackles in 2012 while becoming the first right tackle and just the sixth offensive lineman overall in Broncos history to start every regular-season game as a rookie in 2011.

Why it would work: Value added. If 32-year-old Dan Connolly leaves via free agency, the versatile Franklin would immediately step in as the replacement, adding depth to the experienced Patriots offensive line, allowing the team to part ways with Connolly, who signed a three-year, $9.7 million contract in March 2012. It’ll take possibly three times that total dollar amount to bring Franklin on board in his prime. But protecting Brady is of utmost importance. And some money could be freed if the Patriots cut left tackle Nate Solder, who is due a pricey $7.438 million for 2015. Also, if the Patriots feel they need that cap space to re-sign Darrelle Revis and/or Devin McCourty, they could work out a long-term deal with someone like Franklin and save the money on the front end. In addition to the money, there’s no doubting that the Patriots (or any team) would value someone who has proven as durable and versatile as Franklin has in his first four seasons.

Why it might not work: The Patriots are not alone in wanting and needing to bolster their offensive line. Other teams can read the scouting report and vitals on Franklin and see that he is entering his prime, leading to a bidding war. The Patriots have never shown a desire to enter such a race, and with Marcus Cannon already under contract for the next two seasons ($9 million commitment), they may feel that they have enough depth already along the line. They also may feel that building through the draft might be the way to go, especially given the success with Bryan Stork this past season, as he emerged as the starting center for years to come. Cameron Fleming also figures to play a big role for the Patriots for years to come.

Quote: “I don’t know anything else. I’m a Bronco. I’d love to be a Bronco for the rest of my life.” — Orlando Franklin on his interest in re-signing with Broncos after Denver’s playoff loss to the Colts.

Our take: After deciding what to do with Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty in 2015 and beyond, one could certainly make the argument that the next priority for the Patriots is fortifying the line protecting Tom Brady. Franklin, who was a starting left guard and left tackle at times at the University of Miami, is one of the best pieces out there to do exactly that. Franklin is one of 12 Broncos scheduled to hit free agency and certainly, given the cap mess out in Denver, they will not be able to keep all 12. Franklin is someone who figures to fall through the cracks and if he does, the Patriots will no doubt entertain talks with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. If there’s one free agent offensive lineman out there in his prime that makes the most sense for what the Patriots do, it’s Franklin.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Kelly Naqi, the reporter for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” who wrote the story claiming Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally gave a referee an unapproved kicking football during the AFC championship game, joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest allegation.

Kelly Naqi

Kelly Naqi

Kelly Naqi, the reporter for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” who wrote the story claiming Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally gave a referee an unapproved kicking football during the AFC championship game, joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest allegation. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Naqi, a Rhode Island native and Boston College graduate, said she is not implying that her report is proof of a wider conspiracy following the initial Deflategate accusations, although she said NFL investigator Ted Wells “is looking into this.”

“This is a whole separate issue,” she said. “I do not know if this is the same locker room attendant who reportedly stopped in the bathroom on the way to the field with the game balls. This person, who is a strong person of interest, I don’t know if it’s the same person. I do know that it is, as you a said, a separate issue.

“This officials locker room attendant, whose job it is to oversee the officials locker room — to get them food, to get them whatever they need — I was told it was atypical for an officials locker room attendant to be on the sideline during an NFL game, to be right in the team box area, which is between the 30-yard line and the 30-yard line.

“You can’t introduce a ‘K’ ball into the game. There’s a ‘K’ ball official for that. It’s an alternate official who’s assigned to playoff games. … During the playoffs, the NFL has one if its alternate NFL officials oversee the kicking balls. McNally, for reasons which we don’t know, we don’t speculate on it, but he went up to the alternate official who in the AFC championship game was an NFL back judge named Greg Yette, and he tried to introduce a ball that had not been pre-approved into the kicking game.”

Asked if the new football was not properly inflated, Naqi said she does not know.

“Not marked, that’s all I know,” she said. “The referee marks all the game balls and all the kicking balls that can go into the game. What marks Walt Anderson, the referee, used, I have no idea. Was it his initials? was it a stamp? I have no idea. But that is how the alternate official knows for a fact that these balls are approved to be used in this AFC championship game. From what my sources tell me, Jim McNally, the officials locker room attendant, went over to Greg Yette — who has not commented to me — went over to Greg Yette and handed him a ball to try to get it into the kicking balls rotation and get it to be used in the game.”

Naqi said she does not have the information about when in the first half this incident occurred, nor is she trying to make it part of a bigger picture.

“I am making no speculation,” she said.” All I’m saying is this: The officials locker room attendant clearly knows that this ball was not approved for use in the AFC championship game. Yet he tried to hand it to the ‘K’ ball official to get it put into the game. That is literally all I am saying. I don’t know if it was before the Patriots were trying to kick a field goal, I don’t know if it’s before the Colts were trying to have a kickoff, I don’t know if it’s the other way around. I never made any reference to the timing of the game because I don’t know that.”

That said, Naqi noted that this incident might have been the impetus for NFL vice president of game operations Mike Kensil testing all the balls at halftime.

“My sources say it was a data point that was used,” Naqi said. “I don’t know if it is the sole reason. I can only go off of what my sources have specifically told me, and it was a data point that inspired him to go down at halftime. … I just know that this was a factor. Was it an added factor? Maybe. I know it was a factor.”

Naqi said she’s been working on this story for about three weeks and attempted to interview McNally, traveling to New Hampshire to try to talk to him in person, but McNally said he could not talk and asked her to leave. She said she has “no agenda” and is not looking to make any broader implication.

“This is something that we take very seriously,” she said. “It’s not like I wrote this story and pushed a button and put it on ESPN.com. It went through a lot of layers.”

Added Naqi: “All I can do is report the facts, and people can interpret them however they want. I don’t want to go down any road of insinuation or innuendo or putting my own spin on it. I literally just report the facts, and people can interpret them or continue to report, if they’re other journalists, and see what more can come of it. I’m still working on this story as well. But I’m not going to not report facts that I know because of how people may or may not take them.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest Deflategate news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Mike Florio

Mike Florio

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest Deflategate news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

An ESPN report Tuesday indicated that Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally attempted to submit an unapproved kicking ball to an official during the first half of the AFC championship game. It’s not clear what advantage the Patriots would have been trying to gain by this action.

“My first reaction was ESPN’s been grinding away to try to put more meat on the bone, and this is all they have?” Florio said. “It really doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that anyone’s going to stand up and say, ‘Aha! This is the smoking gun that everyone’s been waiting for.’ And we may be waiting for it forever. There may never be one. At some point there’s going to be a report issued by Ted Wells that’s going to have all the facts in there.

“I was not surprised there has been no tangible developments in more than a couple of weeks. But I look at it and I say, yeah, this is completely different than deflating footballs, and … this is the result of an effort by ESPN to find anything they can to report on the topic.”

The Patriots reportedly believe that NFL vice president of game operations Mike Kensil is aggressively pursuing accusations against the Patriots because of his past history as a longtime Jets executive.

“I know the Patriots believe that Kensil has that bias and he’s been looking for something to stick to the Patriots,” Florio said. “It doesn’t speak well of the league office if there are employees who are allowed to act out on these agendas from past team relationships. And Kensil’s dad was at one point the president of the Jets, too. When you work for the league office, you become Switzerland. Otherwise you’re going to have these situations arise and even if Roger Goodell had no involvement in it, this all ends up on his desk and he’s the one who’s going to have to find a way through it.

“And here’s the reality: It very well could be that Kensil was acting out on a vendetta against the Patriots but also tripped over something that the NFL now has to deal with. I just hope that the NFL — as it should have done in the Saints bounty case and as it should do in every future case where there’s an allegation of cheating — broaden the lens and satisfy itself that this in an aberration, that other teams don’t do this, before hammering any one franchise. I think the NFL’s approach is, ‘When we catch somebody we’re going to nail ‘em, no matter how widespread this practice may be.’ ”

Asked what he thinks the ultimate result will be, Florio said he does not expect the Patriots will face any punishment.

“I think that there’s a good chance the end result’s going to be that there’s no evidence that there was any deliberate tampering with the footballs,” Florio said. “But we don’t know, and I assume we will know, what Ted Wells finds when he interviews people. When he interviews the guy who took the 12 Colts and 12 Patriots footballs into the bathroom for 98 seconds — the guy that, according to the NFL media, was ‘elderly.’ Was it McNally, who’s 48? And if he’s elderly at 48 I’ve got a problem.

“And this whole thing, ‘a few ticks under,’ that was a mess of a report from Ian Rapoport, all due respect — well, there was the insult — but it was. No specificity, no precision. And I was told in the aftermath of that that he’s just wrong. But we’re going to know, in Ted Wells’ report, what the PSI’s were registered at, what they were measured at at halftime of the game. But if Mike Kensil’s the one who was measuring the PSI’s and recording them there’s going to be that inherent possibility of some sort of bias and either intentional or accidental mismeasurement of the PSI.

“At this point it’s too early to know, but I would not be surprised if the end result is, through the NFL’s investigation and scientific efforts to duplicate the atmospheric conditions of the Patriots’ ball preparation, that there’s inconclusive evidence of intentional tampering.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar