NIU’s Jordan Lynch showed tremendous agility in the 3-cone at the combine. (AP)
Knowing what we know about the Patriots and their history when it comes to prospects and the 3-cone drill, here’s a look at the top 10 finishers in the 3-cone drill at the combine, as well as a little bit about them and how they might fit with the Patriots.
1. Safety Daniel Sorensen, BYU: 6.47 – Sorensen’s 3-cone was the fifth fastest of any position since 2006, and the best performance of anyone at the combine this year. He was second in the 60-yard shuttle (10.8) and fifth in the 20-yard shuttle (3.95). The 6-foot-1, 205-pound strong safety is not expected to be any more than a third-day pick, but he’s known as a special teams ace and could be this year’s edition of Nate Ebner.
2. Wide receiver Damian Copeland, Louisville: 6.53 – Considered a mid- to late-round prospect coming into the combine, the 5-foot-11, 184-pounder had a good week in Indy, finishing in the top three in four of the seven workouts among the receivers, including the 3-cone (first at 6.53), vertical jump (second at 40 inches), 20-yard shuttle (second at 3.9) and 60-yard shuttle (second at 10.84). He had a team-leading 49 catches for 655 yards last season.
3. Quarterback Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois: 6.55 – It’s not like the Patriots would be in the market for a quarterback, at least not early on, but Lynch could be that late-round/UDFA possibility at QB New England seems to seek out every year. The 6-foot, 217-pounder finished third overall in the Heisman voting after amassing 2,892 yards passing and 24 touchdowns. One interesting note: He made it very clear at the combine that he wanted to stick at quarterback at the NFL level, but the Patriots might be more inclined to take him if he showed an interest in displaying some versatility. After all, New England had success with another former college quarterback who did well at the 3-cone and ended up shifting positions when he arrived in Foxboro (although Lynch’s body type is substantially different than Julian Edelman‘s).
4. Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, Oregon: 6.57 – Mitchell had a terrific 3-cone time, but a guy who was supposed to be a mid-round prospect likely saw his stock drop after he struggled in some of the other on-field events. A three-year starter at Oregon, the 5-foot-11, 192-pounder posted a 4.63 40, which means he’s locked in as a third-day selection, at least as it stands right now.
5. Cornerback Phillip Gaines, Rice: 6.62 – Gaines had a really good week in Indy, and in the wake of the Seahawks‘ success with their supersized secondary, the 6-footer could be in line for a serious post-combine bump in his draft stock. In addition to his quick 3-cone, he ran a 4.38 40, just one one-hundredth of a second off Justin Gilbert‘s DB-best time. He also hit over 10 feet in the broad jump and posted a 36 1/2-inch vertical. While there’s some strength questions — at 193 pounds, he’s a little on the light side for his height — and a worry that he relies too much on his speed, he’s an intriguing, developmental prospect. He’s not a top-of-the-line guy, but his size and quickness could make him an attractive target for New England as a mid- or late-round possibility.
6. Wide receiver Tevin Reese, Baylor: 6.63 – As it stands now, the 5-foot-10, 163-pounder is a bit thin and undersized to succeed in the league on a regular basis. The former track athlete is a bit raw and could use a year on a practice squad to add some bulk and refine his skills, but his physical tools are undeniable. In addition to his impressive agility, the first-team All-Big 12 selection (who finished the 2013 season with 867 receiving yards and eight touchdowns) also led all wide receivers with a 41-inch vertical jump. He added a 4.35 40 for good measure. He’s a late-round prospect, but if you’re willing to wait on him, one who could have a sizable impact in the right environment in a few seasons.
7. Wide receiver Jeff Janis, Sagninaw Valley State: 6.64 – This small-school stud had a great week in Indy. In addition to his 3-cone time, the Division 2 star ran a 4.42 40 and posted a 3.98 in the 20-yard shuttle (sixth among WRs). When it comes to projecting him at the next level, there are some questions about the opposition faced by the 6-foot-3, 219-pounder. But there’s no denying his impressive numbers. In 2013 he caught 83 passes for 1,572 yards and 14 touchdowns. (That was after a junior year when he had 106 catches for 1,635 yards and 17 touchdowns.) Like Reese, Janis is a third-day option who might be a practice squad possibility, but the physical tools are all there.
8. Linebacker Tyler Starr, South Dakota: 6.64 – We’ve already written a bit about the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Starr, and while he didn’t break the combine record for the 3-cone as he had hoped, his skill set should be enough to land him on some NFL roster, either as a late-round guy or UDFA. His 4.95 40 time was a step slower than he’d like, but his 3-cone time was best among all linebackers, and his 24 reps on the bench show a nice combination of size and shiftiness. He’ll likely have to make his impact as a special teamer at the next level (at least initially), but New England has had pretty good luck in the past with linebacker/special teamers out of South Dakota in the past.
9. Wide receiver Ryan Grant, Tulane: 6.68 – The 6-foot, 199-pounder is known for his good hands and steady approach (he finished 2013 with 77 catches for 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns). But when it comes to the next level, he might a bit too small and (relatively) too slow to work as a receiver outside the numbers and probably a bit too big to work in the slot. Regardless, he’ll find a job somewhere as a third-day pickup — in addition to his excellent 3-cone time, he posted an impressive 4.11 in the 20-yard shuttle.
10. Wide receiver Kevin Norwood, Alabama: 6.68 – The Patriots probably aren’t in the market for a receiver, but if they do chase after someone early on the third day of the draft, Norwood could be that guy. With an impressive pedigree (he played for Bill Belichick‘s pal Nick Saban at Alabama and was lauded by his teammates for his character and smarts), Norwood has good size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) and good numbers (he had 38 catches for 568 yards and seven touchdowns last year). Other than his 3-cone, his combine stats don’t jump off the page, as he finished with a 4.48 40 (tied for 17th among the WRs) and a 33-inch vertical leap. But he’s known as a smart guy and a leader who could provide nice depth at the receiver spot.
Here’s the best of the rest:
11. WR Odell Beckham, LSU: 6.69
12. WR Bruce Ellington, South Carolina: 6.69
13. CB Jason Verrett, TCU: 6.69
14. WR Walt Powell, Murray State: 6.70
15. CB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: 6.72