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.

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

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Dante Scarnecchia remains an advisor to the Patriots, even in retirement. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Dante Scarnecchia is close friends with Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Patriots struck gold last year when they selected Florida State center Bryan Stork in the fourth round.

Stork started at center in 11 games and was a key piece to the offensive line, specifically their turnaround after a rough first few weeks of the season, as Stork made his starting debut Week 4 in Kansas City.

Retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who has helped the Patriots out at the draft the past two years, including this year, has a long-time friendship with Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, which played a role in the Patriots selecting Stork last year.

With the Patriots potentially in need for another interior lineman this year, the Patriots could be targeting another Seminole this year.

One of those could be guard Tre Jackson, who reportedly had a meeting with Scarnecchia and the Patriots this week in Indianapolis. at the NFL combine.

Jackson said Stork was part of the Florida State offensive linemen coming together leading into their National Championship in 2014.

“I believe Bryan Stork’s last year is the year that brought us all closer together,” said Jackson to reporters at the combine this week. “We all had some adversity that we were facing, and our chemistry wasn’t as tight at the start of fall camp. Things that we went through it brought us all closer together. That bonded us and molded us into a brotherhood.”

Also reportedly meeting with the Patriots this week from Florida State was tackle Bobby Hart, another offensive lineman who the Patriots could target given their Seminole connection.

Another possible player from Florida State the Patriots could target is tight end Nick O’Leary, as a possible complement to Rob Gronkowski. O’Leary, the grandson of golfer Jack Nicklaus, is known for his great hands as he hauled in 48 passes for 618 yards and six touchdowns this past year.

At only 6-foot-3, some have questioned his ability to make plays in the red zone — O’Leary had a message for his critics this week.

“You can watch my tape,” he told reporters at the combine. “I caught a lot of balls in the red zone.”

O’Leary was also asked about his connection with Stork, who has a reputation for being a quiet guy. He said he is good friends with the Patriots center and the two have communicated all week, and during the past season as well.

“Me and Bryan talk all the time. He’€™s actually down here right now,” O’Leary said. “We’€™ll probably get together when I get done with the Combine. He didn’€™t talk much at Florida State unless it was guys he was close with.”

Given the Patriots’ run with Rutgers selections given Bill Belichick‘s connection with Greg Schiano, the next Patriots run could go through Florida State because of Scarnecchia and Trickett.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah raved about Shane Vereen at the NFL combine this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah raved about Shane Vereen at the NFL combine this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

With the Patriots potentially losing two running backs via free agency in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, the team could be in the market for a running back in the draft.

One of those backs could be Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. He ran for over 1,000 yards in his final three seasons at Nebraska, including 1,611 yards on 264 carries in his senior year. He also can catch passes out of the backfield if needed, as he finished his career at Nebraska with 73 receptions.

If the Patriots were to select Abdullah (would seemingly have to be with one of their top picks as he is projected to go in Rounds 2 or 3), he would be replacing Vereen — someone who Abdullah thinks is very talented.

“Oh man, he’€™s nasty. He’€™s nasty,” he told reporters at the NFL combine. “I watch a lot of his film to help myself out on route running. He runs the best option route, I feel like, in the NFL right now. He does a good job of stemming the linebackers, snapping them off, using his head to get some separation. Outstanding hands. A guy who’€™s going to be in the league a long time if he continues to do that.”€

As for a potential role in the NFL, Abdullah said he would do whatever is asked of him.

“I never like to put myself just in a role,” he said. “I like to be a guy who can play first down, second down, third down, but if a team drafts me and says, hey, this year, this is what we need you to do, yes sir, I’€™ll do that.”€

The one issue Abdullah has is fumbling. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder fumbled 24 times and lost 17 of them during his four years as a Cornhusker, something that would not go over well in New England with how much Bill Belichick values ball security.

He sees this as easily correctable.

“Very correctable as long as you’€™re practicing the same way you’€™re going to do it in the game,” said Abdullah. “It’€™s all about focusing on the three pressure points. Anyone who plays football knows what I’€™m talking about when I say that. Just practicing the same way every day, consistently holding the ball high and tight. It just becomes second nature, really. It’€™s just focusing.”

Even with his 1,000-yard seasons at Nebraska, Abdullah says his best years are still ahead of him.

“I haven’€™t maximized my full potential yet,” he said. “Everyone has their potential, height, I haven’€™t expressed it soon. There’€™s so much for me to learn. I haven’€™t competed on the professional level yet, so I’€™m in a developmental stage.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/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, Pernell McPhee, Orlando Franklin and Dane Fletcher. Today we’ll feature Roy Helu.

Roy Helu
Position: Running back
Age: 26 (Dec. 7, 1988)
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 215 pounds

The skinny: The running back has spent his first four seasons in the league with the Redskins, but a change of scenery might do Helu a world of good. After his rookie season where he ran for 640 yards on 151 carries, and also caught 49 passes for 379 yards, he hasn’t done much in his last three years partly because he’s shared duties with Alfred Morris. In 2012 he only played in three games because of Achilles and turf toe injuries. Although he was placed on season-ending injured reserve, he did bounce back in his last two seasons to not let the injuries affect his durability. He played in 16 and 14 games the last two seasons respectively — although he wasn’t as productive as in his rookie season.

Over the past two seasons Helu has totaled 490 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He’s also caught 73 passes for 728 yards and two touchdowns. Helu’s strength is catching passes out of the backfield, something not many running backs can do. Helu has also played on special teams throughout his career, adding to his potential value.

By the numbers: 11.4 – Average yards per catch for Helu in 2014, a very impressive number for a running back.

Why it would work: With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen set to become free agents, the Patriots could potentially be in need of a running back, especially a veteran as they have LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, James White and Tyler Gaffney already on their roster, but besides Blount all will be entering either their first or second year in the league. Coach Bill Belichick always seems to find a veteran at each position at a low cost to bring in during training camp and see how things work out. With the three running backs currently on the roster all very young in age, bringing in a veteran as opposed to filling the need through the draft might be the better route to go. Also, with Helu’s experience on special teams and how much Belichick values that, it’s just another reason he could be appealing to the Patriots.

Why it might not work: Helu and Morris worked well in Washington complementing each other, with Morris getting the bulk of the carries and Helu being more of a third down back to catch passes out of the backfield. The Redskins could be inclined to bring him back, thus keeping him off the market. Also, Helu might want to go to a place where he will get more carries, and New England with the way they don’t usually feature one back, might not be a place Helu would want to play because he could get more carries elsewhere.

Quote: “€œI’€™m very excited, because it’s the first time I’€™ve gone into an offseason where I guess I get to see what else is out there and I’€™m not restricted to a rookie pay scale. There’€™s great possibilities out there that I’€™ll probably look into for the benefit of my family’€™s future. But, at the same time, I had a great experience these last four years. If I’€™m back, that’€™d be amazing. It’€™s two parties that would have to get together and have a common goal in mind.”€ — Helu on his impending free agent status.

Our take: Everything with the Patriots and their running back situation depends on Ridley and Vereen. If they bring either of them back, it would seem very unlikely the team would be in the market for a running back at all. If they don’t bring either of the two back, then they would be one of the teams most interested in a running back, particularly one who has a good amount of experience in the league. Helu wouldn’t be a player who costs a lot of money — he just finished his rookie contract where he made an average yearly salary of $627,563 — so this shouldn’t prohibit the Patriots from being in the running. He will seemingly be seeking more than what he made last year, but could be on a one or two year, low-money deal for a way to prove himself into earning a bigger one in the coming years. If the Patriots are indeed in need of a veteran running back, especially one who can catch passes out of the backfield, Helu might be their guy.
Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

NFL Network cameras caught two AFC East coaches, Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan walking into the NFL combine in Indianapolis together on Friday morning. Ryan was wearing a throwback Thurman Thomas No. 34 Bills jersey, and Belichick a gray hoodie for his charitable foundation.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

On Wednesday and Thursday, we covered the wide receivers and running backs, respectively. In this post we’ll knock down the top 10 tight ends. I’ll be back with the quarterbacks Saturday morning. As always, I’ll be ranking these players with an eye toward future fantasy appeal, and this year’s tight end class is a bit more appealing that the 2013 group from that perspective.

As with the receivers and backs, I’ve broken the tight ends into tiers. As we move through the draft process, these rankings may move a bit, though I really doubt that anybody makes a move for the top spot. I’m that impressed with Maxx Williams. I’ll be posting full scouting reports on most of these tight ends in the coming weeks. Check weei.com later Friday, when Jim Hackett and I will be talking combine and looking ahead to 2015 fantasy drafts.

Tier 1

Maxx Williams, Minnesota

Yes, I am giving him his own tier. Williams is such a potent weapon as a receiver that I think he merits the distinction. The ex-Minnesota star is a mismatch nightmare, as I said the other day when I speculated about Williams as a potential Patriot. And, as much as I want to emphasize Williams’ receiving upside, it should be noted that he’s a solid blocker both in-line and out in space. He would fit right in on a team like the Patriots or the Eagles. If Chip Kelly fails to move up for Marcus Mariota, Williams would be a nice consolation prize.

Tier 2

Devin Funchess, Michigan
Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
Clive Walford, Miami
Ben Koyack, Notre Dame

Funchess is working out as a receiver, and that most likely has something to do with his agent and the Jimmy Graham situation from last season. In my view, after breaking down his game film, Funchess is worth more as a joker tight end in the Aaron Hernandez mold than he is as a wide receiver. In the end, it may only be semantics. He’ll be a chess piece for some team, but he’s not game-ready. I expect a typical learning curve. Heuerman is an interesting player. He’s prototypically sized and I like his chances of early success because he’s been well-schooled by Urban Meyer. A good combine could raise his profile considerable. Walford is a traditional two-way tight end and he’s close to game-ready. His blocking chops should make him an every-down player eventually, and that lends itself to fantasy value. Koyack’s inclusion in Tier 2 may surprise some people, but I like his overall game. He’s a versatile receiver with good hands and he’s got plenty of potential as a blocker.

Tier 3

E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois
Gerald Christian, Louisville
Nick O’Leary, Florida State
Nick Boyle, Delaware

Both Bibbs and Pruitt are smallish hybrids, but they are names to know for fantasy owners because they are both more receiver than tight end. While I do not see a breakout rookie campaign from either player, I like what they ultimately could become if given some time. They have deep dynasty appeal if they find good NFL homes. For perspective, both Bibbs and Pruitt are bigger than Delanie Walker, who has posted some impressive numbers the last two years in Tennessee. Christian is smallish at 244 pounds, but he plays bigger than his size as a blocker and shows good feet as a receiver. While his numbers suffered a slight decline this season, it should be noted that he lost Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL, so factor that into his growth curve. He had a good week at the Senior Bowl, which may have caught the eye of a few NFL teams. This is another player who would make sense for the Patriots if he’s still on the board late. O’Leary is a name that you may recognize as he’s played in a lot of high-profile games. I like his tenacity both as a blocker and as a receiver, but he needs to run well at the combine. I’m not seeing enough speed on film. Then again, he’s got a well-rounded game and he played in a pro style offense at Florida State. He was used in a variety of ways and showed some plus ability in pass protection. He’s another player who could appeal to the Patriots at the right price. Boyle’s inclusion is all about potential. He had a good week at the Senior Bowl and he has the potential to be a devastating blocker at 268 pounds. His size and blocking prowess could make him a red zone weapon in time. Remember, blocking keeps you on the field, and he has the size to be a very imposing force near the stripe. This gives Boyle some long-term fantasy appeal.

I’ll be tweeting out important combine performances over the next two days. Follow me on Twitter if you want to stay connected.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

On Thursday, Russell Wilson posted a video directed at Seahawks fans on the Players’ Tribune website, prefaced by two written paragraphs.

On Thursday, Russell Wilson posted a video directed at Seahawks fans on the Players’ Tribune website, prefaced by two written paragraphs. In his post, Wilson took “full responsibility” for Super Bowl XLIX and said that he wants to get back to the championship game again and be remembered for something else.

“One yard,” he wrote. “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking about that one yard for the past 17 days. Everyone wants to know how I feel. Well … it’s complicated. Walking off that field in Arizona and seeing disappointed Seahawks fans in the stands was anguish. How could I not feel like I let them down? I tried to be positive, but I’m not perfect. I have been away from the game for almost three weeks, trying to escape football and clear my mind. But the funny thing is, I’ve never felt hungrier to get in the weight room and the film room, and keep pushing until we get to Super Bowl 50.

“How do I feel?” he added. “I don’t know if I can fit it into a soundbite. I definitely couldn’t fit it into a 30-second Instagram video. So, after the Players’ Tribune roundtable event on Saturday, I had the camera crew stick around so I could talk it out. Sorry if it’s not perfect. There was no script here. I just wanted to talk directly to the 12s. This is for you.”

Wilson began the video, titled “Call Me Crazy,” by expressing how much he hates losing and how when it hit him that the Seahawks had lost, it was tough.

“It’s a tough feeling of losing,” he said. “If anybody hates losing, I hate losing, and so being in that circumstance on the field in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX and then making a play and us, me feeling I didn’t make the play and knowing that it’s over, all the hard work that you’ve put in all season long, and all the amazing plays, all the plays that you didn’t make, all the great games, all the comeback wins, all the things comes down to that one moment and it feels like it’s lost.”

Wilson talked about the importance of accountability and stressed how he asks himself how he can get better every day and learn something he’s never learned before, and better than he’s ever learned it. He said he could rehash the Super Bowl and that final drive, but stated that he made the video to talk about his mindset, not the game.

“It’s about right now, what can I do today, what can I do for my teammates?” he said. “How can I be a better teammate, how can I be a better leader, and if I can do that then the rest will handle itself.

“The mindset doesn’t change, the focus doesn’t change,” he continued. “The belief that I’m going to get there again and we’re going to do it better than it’s ever done, and that’s never going to change for me, no matter what the circumstances are, and that’s why I’ve been to two Super Bowls. That’s why I’ve been able to win a lot of football games because of the guys I have around me, because of the coaching staff because of the amazing fans, we’ve got that best fans in the National Football League, but also because I believe in my mindset.

“I believe my mindset is going to take me further than anyone else has ever gone, and I just believe that,” Wilson said. “I’m going to be the last guy to ever give up, I’m going to be the last guy to not take a risk, and I think that great things happen when you’re able to step out and make some crazy plays at times and just trust in your preparation and trust in all the things you’ve been able to do. And so through all the ups and downs and through all the questions and wondering what happened and all that, I’m prepared for the next moment and that’s all I know.

“In my mind, I believe I have a killer instinct. I believe that I’m just going to keep going and keep playing and keep fighting and keep doing everything that I can to be successful, and there’s a difference between just being successful and being significant, so my goal is to be significant. My goal is to make a difference, my goal is to do it better than anybody’s ever done it. Call me crazy, call me insane, I don’t know, but I believe I’ll get there again.”

Blog Author: 
Judy Cohen
Houston head coach Bill O'Brien had high praise for Ryan Mallett on Thursday. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Houston head coach Bill O’Brien had high praise for Ryan Mallett on Thursday. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Although Bill O’Brien is the head coach of the Houston Texans, he made a name for himself as an assistant coach with the Patriots, his first NFL gig, so he had a rooting interest in Super Bowl XLIX.

In the end he couldn’t have been happier for the Patriots, which include some of his best friends in the league.

“It was an unbelievable game,” O’Brien told reporters at the NFL combine Thursday. “It was fun to watch. A lot of those guys are my close friends. A lot of those coaches, Josh McDaniels, Nick Caserio, the director of player personnel there, those two guys are two of my best friends. Obviously my relationship with Bill [Belichick], I felt great for those guys. Tom Brady, what more can you say about a guy that has persevered throughout his career and played at such a high level, goes and wins another Super Bowl. You can’€™t say enough about him.

“At the same time, you’€™re watching that game and you’€™re wishing and you’€™re hoping that some day the Houston Texans are in that game. That’€™s the nature of the business. I felt great watching the Patriots win that game for those guys that were in it.’€

O’Brien got his start in the NFL as an assistant with the Patriots in 2007. He then was the wide receivers coach in 2008 before being elevated to quarterback’s coach from 2009-10, and finally he was the offensive coordinator in 2011 before departing for the head coaching job at Penn State. O’Brien did make it back to the NFL taking the head coaching job with Houston.

It was during that time in New England where O’Brien coached quarterback Ryan Mallett who was traded to Houston during training camp, and started two games in Houston before suffering a season-ending knee injury. O’Brien was happy to get a chance to coach Mallett again.

Now with Mallett being a free agent, he wants him back in a Texans uniform.

“Whenever the date that we actually executed the trade with New England, that’€™s really when
we knew it was going to happen,” said O’Brien. “I’€™ve known Ryan since his rookie year. I coached him his rookie year. Really have a good connection with Ryan. George Godsey our quarterback coach was a real good connection, too. He enjoys playing in our system. We enjoy coaching him.

“Unfortunately, he only played two games due to injury. He played on good game and then one game where he was out there playing hurt. That’€™s not why we lost the game, but he tried to struggle through a chest injury there. He’€™s doing better. He’€™s rehabbing and we’€™d like to have him back in Houston.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable