Following the season, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower had surgery to repair a torn labrum, which he played with for much of the season.

This weekend we’ve learned how long his recovery time will be.

Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

Following the season, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower had surgery to repair a torn labrum, which he played with for much of the season.

This weekend we’ve learned how long his recovery time will be.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Hightower’s recovery time will be six to seven months. He also notes training camp begins on July 29 and a six month recovery time would have him ready Aug. 10. A seven month recovery time would be Sept. 10, coincidentally the opening night of the regular season, which the Patriots will likely be playing in, customary for the Super Bowl champs.

Hightower played in 12 games in his third season in the league, and did an admirable job filling in for linebacker Jerod Mayo when he went down with a season-ending injury. The Alabama product finished with 89 tackles and six sacks. He also was the player who tackled Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line in the closing seconds of the Super Bowl.

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Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Nick Caserio

Nick Caserio

With Chris Price taking a well-deserved vacation this week, we’ll keep the Sunday NFL Notes going, hoping to live up to the high standard he sets every week.

1. At the NFL combine in Indianapolis this week, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio gave a 1-on-1 interview with Jackie Brittain of, hitting on a number of subjects (the interview can be seen here). One of those subjects was free agency and how it relates to what happens with cornerback Darrelle Revis. “We’re going through an evaluation process,” said Caserio. “When we get back here from the combine, we’ll actually go through pretty comprehensive analysis of our roster, go through player by player, strengths, weaknesses, what we see their role as and what their future’s gonna be moving forward. Those are decisions that will be made at the appropriate time. The reality is our team is going to be different from what it was last year. That’s just a reality of the NFL and a reality that every team faces. We’ll go through, and in the end we’ll do what we feel is best for the organization moving forward.”

As it stands now, the Patriots’ top order of business is Revis and getting him signed long-term instead of paying him $20 million for 2015. Then, they have Devin McCourty and Stephen Gostkowski as free agents, with the possibility of placing the franchise tag on either of them. Also set to become free agents are running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, so when Caserio says the team is going to be different next year, he isn’t lying.

2. In addition to Caserio at the combine, the Patriots have a number of coaches and executives present in Indianapolis this week. Coach Bill Belichick is there as always, and also accompanying him are recently retired assistant coaches in special teams coach Scott O’Brien and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. O’Brien retired after this past season, but will stay in the organization, while Scarnecchia is assisting Belichick at the combine like he did last year. Also seen at the combine this week was former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, as he’s been seen helping out the Patriots and Belichick a number of times over the last year. Current Patriots offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo has also been seen helping run drills during the week.

3. There aren’t too many local players at the combine this week. Representing the New England schools are: running back Tyler Varga from Yale, wide receiver Geremy Davis from UConn, tight end Jean Stifrin from UMass, offensive lineman Andy Gallik from Boston College, defensive lineman Zach Hodges from Harvard and defensive back Bryon Jones from UConn. While none of these players are expected to go very high in the draft, getting invited to the combine is a big accomplishment in itself. Stifrin from UMass has a pretty interesting story, as he is 27 years old — much older than most of the other combine participants.’s Kevin Duffy did a good job going into Stifrin’s past and telling his story.

4. The Schiano-Belichick connection has led to a number of Rutgers players becoming Patriots over the past few years. That pipeline may have gotten even stronger lately, as Josh McDaniels‘ brother Ben has been named offensive coordinator at the school. So, who could be the next Rutgers player drafted by the Patriots? Tight end Tyler Kroft could be a possibility and join former Rutgers player Tim Wright as Rob Gronkowski‘s backup. Kroft is looked at as more of a receiving threat than an in-line blocking tight end, so he would be a great complement to Gronkowski, given Gronkowski’s size and Kroft’s lack there of. Kroft weighed in at 246 pounds at the combine, the 16th heaviest tight end out of the 19 attending the workouts.

5. Here are a few interesting stats we dug up following the season:

  • The Patriots were 13-0 this season when scoring 23 or more points and are 160-12 under Belichick.
  • The Patriots finished 11-0 this season when scoring first.
  • Going into the Super Bowl the Seahawks allowed an average of 6.8 points per game in the second half of games this year — the Patriots scored 14 in Super Bowl XLIX.
  • According to Elias, the Patriots were the first team to reach the Super Bowl without having a player with 100 rush attempts during the season.

6. From a league standpoint at the combine, the most talked about storyline was Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, as the two battle for who will be the No. 1 overall pick and top quarterback selected in this year’s draft. The two have very different personalities with Mariota being much more reserved, while Winston has no problem showing off his confidence. Winston showed that Friday during his media session where he proclaimed he plans on winning the Super Bowl next year and wants to be talked among Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. From his viewpoint, on the field Winston has the advantage over Mariota, but his off field questions remain a major concern and are something teams seriously need to consider when thinking about drafting the Florida State product.

7. Following the Super Bowl win and his media tour, Julian Edelman has apparently earned the attention of the fashion world. The Patriots’ wide receiver was named the most fashionable celebrity in Boston by US Trendy. Edelman beat out Tom Brady who came in at No. 7. Edelman even beat out Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, who was No. 3. In case you’re curious, actress Taylor Schilling came in at No. 2.

“€œWe wanted to get behind a Bostonian that was on the rise,” US Trendy founder Sam Sisakhti said of Edelman. “Considering the Super Bowl win, he is someone who is really getting out there and representing Boston. Also, he takes risks. He has a very versatile style.”

8. Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead was asked about his brother Armond at the combine this weekend. Patriots fans might remember Armond was signed in 2013 by New England, but he retired the following summer never playing a down in the NFL. Armond sued USC after suffering a heart attack while playing there, and he had more health issues in New England. Arik didn’t have much to say about his brother. “He had health problems,” Arik said to reporters. “That’€™s his situation. I’€™m not going to talk about that.” Arik did say his brother has been helping him out with the draft process. “He is doing well physically,” Arik said. “He is healthy now, doing everything out there with me, and we’€™re enjoying our time.”

9. Malcolm Butler continued his post Super Bowl experience back in his hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi on Saturday where the town had a parade in his honor (here are some photos from the parade). The Vicksburg mayor presented Butler with the keys to the city. The cornerback who made the game-clinching interception in Super Bowl XLIX played two seasons of high school football in Vicksburg, and actually went back to the school during the Patriots’ bye week during the season and gave back to the community by helping out coaching young players at the school.

10. Yes, this video is a few weeks old, but we came across it this week and thought it was worth passing along. It shows Edelman and Butler at Disneyland following the Super Bowl. It was Butler’s first time at the amusement park, and you could clearly see his excitement.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Washington LB Shaq Thompson struggled in 13 games with the Red Sox in the Florida Gulf Coast League before switching to football. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Washington LB Shaq Thompson struggled in 13 games with the Red Sox in the Florida Gulf Coast League before switching to football. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson was drafted by the Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2012 draft and spent that summer playing for the Red Sox in the Florida Gulf Coast League, but it was an experience Thompson would like to forget.

The center fielder went 0-for-39 with 37 strikeouts with eight walks in 13 games. After that summer he gave up baseball and went to Washington to play football, where he’s played linebacker, running back and safety, but wants to be a linebacker in the NFL.

“I remember a lot,” Thompson recalled to reporters about his baseball career Saturday at the NFL combine. “There were a couple of media people that made a joke out of it, but it was motivation to me. Used it as motivation going into my freshman year. Met some great people there. Met this thing called failure, learned how to beat it.”

This past season Thompson ran for 456 yards on 61 carries. and defensively he had 81 tackles and an interception. He prefers to play linebacker and that is the position he wants to play at the next level.

“That’€™s where I feel the most comfortable,” said Thompson. “I like to be up by the line of scrimmage. I feel like I’€™m physical enough. I’€™m not the biggest guy, but I have a lot of heart.”

Being only 6-foot-1, 228 pounds, some think he’s too small to play linebacker in the NFL. Don’t tell that to Thompson.

“Being too short is overrated,” he said. “You have a lot of short linebackers out there. London Fletcher was 5-9. He brought a lot of inspiration to us. I don’€™t feel height makes the player. Both [UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks] and I have a lot of heart and toughness. He’€™s a great linebacker. Size doesn’€™t matter.”

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Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Since the Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo with their second round pick last year, it's unlikely they take a QB high in this year's draft. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Since the Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo with their second round pick last year, it’s unlikely they take a QB high in this year’s draft. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Saturday at the NFL combine is when the skill players (quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs) complete their workouts, usually the most exciting day the combine because these are the biggest names in Indianapolis.

From a Patriots perspective, this might be the day not to pay as much attention to what is happening because the chances of the Patriots selecting a skill position player with one of their top picks is very low from this viewpoint.

Here’s why the Patriots likely won’t take a skill player high in the draft:


New England selected quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with their second round pick (No. 62 overall) in last year’s draft. Some may have questioned the pick at the time, but now it’s becoming clear why the Patriots made the selection when they did. There is no denying the fact that Tom Brady cannot play forever and the Patriots are going to need to find his replacement at some point, and it’s better to have that player be ready too early as opposed to too late.

Garoppolo, out of Eastern Illinois, was the fifth quarterback taken in the entire draft. This quarterback draft class isn’t very strong (in fact NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said Garoppolo would be the third quarterback taken) and the ones in the years following don’t appear to be that strong either. So, the Patriots got their guy in 2014, as opposed to waiting longer and potentially it being too late. With Garoppolo already on the roster and a solid year under his belt, it wouldn’t make any sense for the Patriots to select a quarterback high in the draft.

Running back

The Patriots have a number of running backs already on their roster for 2015: LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, James White and Tyler Gaffney. With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen set to become free agents, there is a chance both, or one of them won’t return to the team. In that case the Patriots would likely be in need of another ball carrier, but taking one for that through the draft may be risky and therefore not worth it. Gray had one breakout game when he rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts, but everyone knows what happened after that, and was even inactive for Super Bowl XLIX. White, a fourth round selection in 2014, basically had a red-shirt season in New England, only being active for three games and getting acclimated to the NFL. Gaffney, was claimed off waivers from the Panthers during training camp, as the Stanford product was going to miss the season with a torn lateral meniscus and the Panthers tried to sneak him through waivers. The Patriots jumped on him, signing him and then placing him on season-ending injured reserve.

What all these players have in common is lack of experience in the NFL, with the exception of Blount. It seemingly would be a risky move to select a running back high in the draft and expect him to play a major role in the Patriots’ running game in 2015, and use a high pick in doing that in the process. The Patriots already have a few potential young stars on their roster, why add another when their are other needs on the roster that could be addressed?

Wide receiver

First off, the Patriots’ track record with selecting wide receivers in the top portion of the draft hasn’t been good, and this year there simply isn’t a need for it. The Patriots have Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Brian Tyms, then Aaron Dobson set to return from injury. There’s also Danny Amendola (although some think he may be cut to earn more cap space). Besides the receiving core there’s tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright. With how well this group clicked with Brady last year, there doesn’t seem to be much of a need for tweaking. There will always be some who want another receiver who can stretch the field for Brady, but that isn’t the type of quarterback Brady is, or the type of offense the Patriots run. They have Tyms, who has incredible speed, and if they want to keep the defense honest he can run the deep route (as shown with his 50-plus yard touchdown catch in Buffalo), but it simply isn’t a need. It’s almost worth noting how complex the Patriots offense is to learn, and when selecting a young wide out that needs to be considered with how well they could adapt to the system. While adding a receiver would be nice, it just doesn’t seem worth using a high pick on this year.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Speaking at the NFL combine Friday, Jameis Winston said he plans on winning the Super Bowl next year. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Speaking at the NFL combine Friday, Jameis Winston said he plans on winning the Super Bowl next year. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Today we look at the most important position. The 2015 quarterback class is not a great one by any means, but there is some talent worth rostering, both in NFL terms and in fantasy football terms. As always, my rankings emphasize future fantasy value. Of course, there’€™s a strong correlation between success in fantasy and success on the field. Rarely do we see a great fantasy quarterback who is not helping his real life team.

I’€™ve broken my top ten down into tiers as I did with the other skill positions. If you want to check those rankings out, you can access them via the links below. There is good game film on most of these players available at Draft Breakdown, so dig in.

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Tier One

Jameis Winston, Florida State
Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Is it choose your weapon or pick your poison? There are widely varying opinions on these two quarterbacks and while I’€™d love to offer you some clarity, I’€™m still wresting with it myself. The thing about Winston is that he’€™s playing NFL football already when you watch his game tape. He makes tons of NFL throws. He’€™s got all the physical tools that you want your quarterback to have. All he needs to do is gain a measure of consistency and reduce the mistakes. If he works hard and stays on the good books, the improvements should come with experience and time. If that happens, he’€™ll pay off for the team that drafts him.

Mariota is a different player altogether. He’€™s got all the intangibles you could ask for and he’€™s going to test extremely well in Saturday’s drills. The questions with him are the kind you can’€™t answer without a crystal ball. He almost never plays from under center, so it’€™s hard to evaluate that aspect of his game. More importantly, he is not accustomed to making the number of reads a typical NFL quarterback makes on a typical play. Of course, there’€™s no strong evidence to indicate he can’€™t do this. It’€™s an incomplete grade. Teams will have to project what he would be in their system. Obviously this would not be the case for Chip Kelly, the granddaddy of the Oregon offense, should he decide to make a draft day move or should Mariota somehow fall into his lap. The Jets are another team that may see Mariota as being desirable as currently constructed. Chan Gailey, the team’€™s new offensive coordinator, likes to use a lot of spread formations. A team like the Jets may be in a better position to play Mariota right away compared to a team like the Titans, who project to run a more traditional offense.

Tier Two

Bryce Petty, Baylor

Of the remaining quarterbacks, Petty is the only one with prototypical size and the game to match. While not being NFL-ready, Petty is at least close, and you can see a lot of NFL throws on his game film. If the team that drafts him likes to spread things out, he could play some time in his first season. Having said that, a year with a clipboard in his hand is the best case scenario.

Tier Three

Brett Hundley, UCLA
Blake Sims, Alabama
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Garrett Grayson, Colorado State

Hundley is a big name and I’€™ve spent a lot of time breaking down his film. The UCLA star has a lot going for him physically, and he’€™s long on game experience, too. I also like his leadership traits. The problem, in my view, is with his eyes. He’€™s too indecisive and holds the ball too long too often. He’€™s also a little mechanical or stiff at times. If he finds the right situation and the right coach, he has a high ceiling, but I think his weaknesses are being undersold. As with Petty, not being forced to play right away would be the ideal scenario for him.

The inclusion of Sims will raise a few eyebrows I’€™m sure, but he’€™s a player that did a lot of good things in his one season as Alabama’€™s starter. I expect Sims to post impressive speed and agility numbers today, but he has a few things working against him as well. First of all, he’€™s only 5’€™10’€ ‘€” even smaller than Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel. Of course, Sims weighs in at 218 pounds, so he is not a small man, but the lack of height works against you when you need to make throws from the pocket. The second issue, as I alluded to, is lack of experience.

Mannion is a project to be sure, but he has the size and arm strength that NFL teams look for. He has a chance to start in the league at some point down the line. Grayson will sit out this week due to a sore hamstring. He’€™s included in tier three because he throws a great ball and he does it with good anticipation. Grayson definitely has a chance to play in the league if he cleans up his mechanics just a bit. I’€™d like to see him coming over the top a little more than he does to avoid batted balls at the line of scrimmage.

Tier Four

Brandon Bridge, South Alabama
Shane Carden, East Carolina (throwing QB)
Jerry Lovelocke, Prairie View A&M (throwing QB)

I took some liberties with tier four. First of all, two of these guys are ‘€œthrowing quarterbacks.’€ These players are brought in to help with the drills for the backs, tight ends and receivers. They get invited late in many cases, but we’€™ve seen a few of these guys make significant NFL impacts, like T.J. Yates in Houston and Austin Davis in St. Louis. The bottom line is that, after watching all the film, I am more impressed with these two quarterbacks than some of those invited ahead of them.

Bridge is a project at the next level, but he has good size and plus mobility to go with a very live arm. He’€™d look good on a lot of team’€™s practice squads. Carden is a guy who makes too many good throws to ignore. It will interesting to see how he tests athletically, but on film, he’€™s pretty impressive. He’€™s also got solid footwork and makes good reads. Lovelocke is a very interesting prospect, and I wish I had more good film on him. From what I have seen so far, he’€™s got more than enough talent to get himself into a NFL camp. He’€™s a huge man at 248 pounds and he has significant arm talent to go with that size. If his shows plus agility today, he will create some buzz.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

Following the Super Bowl Seattle coach Pete Carroll took a lot of criticism for his play call at the end of the game on Malcolm Butler’s interception.

Pete Carroll said Friday he appreciated Bill Belichick's support following Super Bowl. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Pete Carroll said Friday he appreciated Bill Belichick‘s support following Super Bowl. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Following the Super Bowl Seattle coach Pete Carroll took a lot of criticism for his play call at the end of the game on Malcolm Butler’s interception.

One of those was criticisms was not from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who actually defended Carroll’s play call.

On Dale & Holley in his season-ending interview, Belichick said the criticism was “totally out of line.”

Friday, speaking at the NFL combine, Carroll appreciated the support from Belichick.

“€œIt is important, and I really care about that,” Carroll said to reporters. “Bill’€™s an extraordinary coach, and anything he says, people should listen to. In this case, he’€™s just respecting coaching. He understands the game. he knows what was going on exactly … he knows. He gets it.

“€œI’€™ve always respected the work Bill has done, the accomplishments, the achievements. For him to take the moment to do that, it’€™s very gracious of him. I think, we all care a lot coaches, we all care about the game. I think he made a statement, just to try and let people know, if they’€™re curious, what he feels about it. And I appreciate that.”

Carroll also noted the Patriots threw on second down inside the 10-yard line in the game as well, so he wasn’t the only one calling a pass play down by the goal line.

‘€œThey’€™re in their sequence on the 6-yard line, when they scored, they ran on first down, made a few yards, they threw the ball for a touchdown on second down,” Carroll said. “It was a great play, great concept, got them ahead, all of that. We were kind of in a similar kind of mode.”

Now that a few weeks have gone by since the game, Carroll said he and the rest of the organization have moved on, and are now focusing on 2015.

“We’re in a situation that is notable, because of the way our game finished, coming off a Super Bowl, all of those things,” Carroll said. “We shared the experience with the world, and in that I feel there’s responsibility for us to really extend a message of accountability. Let’s get into the truth of what happened and then move on constructively and competitively and immediately as soon as you possibly can.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

When meeting with the media Friday at the NFL combine, quarterback Jameis Winston certainly didn’t lack confidence.

Speaking at the NFL combine Friday, Jameis Winston said he plans on winning the Super Bowl next year. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Speaking at the NFL combine Friday, Jameis Winston said he plans on winning the Super Bowl next year. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

When meeting with the media Friday at the NFL combine, quarterback Jameis Winston certainly didn’t lack confidence.

The Florida State product said he plans on winning the Super Bowl next year and wants to be viewed with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

This came up when he was asked if he saw it as a competition between he and Marcus Mariota as to who would be the No. 1 overall pick.

“I’€™m not into no competition type of thing,” Winston told reporters. “I’€™m in it to win games and be the face of someone’€™s franchise. This is no competition between just me and Mariota, because one thing about me, I plan on winning the Super Bowl next year so it’€™s going to be me vs. Peyton Manning and Jameis vs. Tom Brady. I want to be viewed like that.

“After all this combine stuff, you’€™re not going to hear no more about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. I want my name to stay relevant for the next 15 or 20 years of my career.”

Before taking any questions, Winston admitted he’s had some issues in the past and he’s putting them behind him.

“First off, before we start anything, I want to let you all know I know made mistakes and I know I have a past but right now it’€™s about me moving forward and earning the trust of all these 32 teams out there,” Winston said. “And by saying that, I’€™m a competitor and I know what I’€™m capable of doing so I will be throwing [Saturday] at the combine.”

A picture surfaced on the internet this week of Winston working out, which caused some people to question his conditioning and overall shape. Winston isn’t worried about what his critics think.

“A lot of people thought I was fat, but I’€™m here, I’€™m proving everybody wrong,” said Winston. “I look good and I know it.”

Winston won the 2014 National Championship with Florida State before losing to Oregon in the Rose Bowl this past January.

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Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable