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
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday he didn't know his organization has suspicions about the Patriots before the AFC title game. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday he didn’t know his organization has suspicions about the Patriots before the AFC title game. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

For those who believe the theory that the Colts deflated a football in the AFC title game after D’Qwell Jackson’s interception leading to the Deflategate scandal, Colts coach Chuck Pagano strongly denied that even being a possibility.

“That’€™s ludicrous,” he told reporters at the NFL combine Thursday.

Pagano said he hasn’t reached out to Bill Belichick since the game. The Colts head coach also said he had no idea there were suspicions on team’s behalf of the Patriots’ footballs, which contradicts what general manager Ryan Grigson said earlier in the day that the organization notified the NFL the week leading into the game of some concerns.

“To be honest with you I have no idea,” he said. “Until after they start talking about it a day later, as a coach I’€™m just trying to get a first down, try to get them off the field, which we didn’€™t do a very good job of. As far as I’€™m concerned, I had no idea.”

Pagano is now looking forward to when the Ted Wells report is released following the league’s investigation.

“There’€™s an investigation that’€™s going on,” said Pagano. “When the report comes out we’€™re all anticipating to see what’€™s in that report then we’€™ll go from there. I trust … our league does such a great job of making sure everybody does the right thing.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer  (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Most of the NFL’€™s head coaches have done their 15 minutes at the combine podium, and there have been some interesting quotes over the last two days. Yes Patriots fans, some head coaches actually say interesting things.

Here are a few quotes that are either interesting, informative or a little of both — and none of them come from Rex Ryan, which is a bit of a surprise.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians on college versus pro-style offense:

“€œSo many times, you’€™re evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count. They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball. That aint playing quarterback. There’€™s no leadership involved there. There might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them and they have to use verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out and change the snap count, they are light years behind.”

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on Cordarrelle Patterson:

“€œWe have to do a better job of manufacturing touches for him. Cordarelle’€™s a very talented young man who’€™s been in a bunch of different systems. And, Cordarrelle is doing a good job so far this offseason. So there’€™s a lot of things we have to do a better job with him. And in saying that he has to do a better job himself. So it is a two-way street on this.’€™’€™

For the second year in a row, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley had good things to say about Denard Robinson:

He was a pleasant surprise for us after his first year. He came back stronger and bigger and really shocked us. He had a couple of 100 yard games in a row where he did some really nice things for us and it was unfortunate he had the injury at the end. We’€™re really pleased with his progress and we’€™re hopeful that he takes the next step. Where that takes him in the rotation, that’€™s yet to be seen. He’€™s doing a great job coming back from his (foot) injury. The future is bright for him.”

Bradley also had some eye-opening comments on WR Allen Robinson, as he heads into his second season:

“€œAllen Robinson is really a guy that jumped out at us early in the season. We felt like his maturity coming into it, his ability to pick things up, retain it and play at a high level ‘€“ he really jumped out early in the year.”

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett on whether Dallas can “˜plug in” another running back to replace DeMarco Murray:

“I don’€™t like that expression, ‘€˜Plug another back in there.’€™ DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing by, I think, over 500 yards. His impact on our football team was significant, our ability to control the line of scrimmage, control the football, helped the other parts of our team out. He was a big part of all that. The value of being able to hand the ball to somebody 25 times a game, week in and week out, is significant.”

Texans head coach Bill O’€™Brien on Ryan Mallett:

“€œI’€™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.”

O’€™Brien, on the Patriots winning their fourth Super Bowl:

“€œIt was an unbelievable game. It was fun to watch. A lot of those guys are my close friends. 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.”

Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt on whether today’€™s college receivers are more pro-ready:

“€œI don’€™t know if you can say they’€™re more ready, but there are more receivers getting more reps in college football now because more teams are running the spread offense.”

Broncos new head coach Gary Kubiak on Wes Welker:

“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.”

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on new Jets head coach Todd Bowles:

“I was a big fan of Todd Bowles. I wish we would have had him sooner on staff. I tried to get him one other time and was unable to do it, but fortunate to have him that one year that we had him. I think Todd is a smart guy on and off the field. He’€™s got a sharp mind and loves football. I think he’€™s great with people. He’€™s honest. He’€™s going to shoot you straight and from a player standpoint, that’€™s all you really want. Have a good teacher and someone that will tell you the truth.”

New 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula on whether we should expect to see more of Carlos Hyde in 2015:

“€œOh yeah, I would think. Carlos Hyde’s a heck of a football player. You’ve seen it in college, and you’ve seen it translate to the pro field. You’€™ve seen the plays, you’ve seen the guy run, his vision, he can plant, he can redirect, he’s got some stuff. I like his speed, I like his burst. I’m really excited about Carlos Hyde.”

Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith on former Patriot Logan Mankins:

“€œHe was everything I hoped he would be and I’€™m talking about a veteran who played at a high level, leadership, Logan is a good player. Logan played well for us. We need to get others play up to his level.’€™’€™

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

On Wednesday ESPN’s Adam Schefter had a report of an NFL employee being fired for reportedly stealing a special teams football in the AFC title game, which was intended to be auctioned off for charity, and added more context to

On Wednesday ESPN’s Adam Schefter had a report of an NFL employee being fired for reportedly stealing a special teams football in the AFC title game, which was intended to be auctioned off for charity, and added more context to Tuesday night’s Outside the Lines report of a Gillette Stadium locker room attendant trying to get an unapproved football into the game.

Now on Thursday, that NFL employee has been identified.

According to Pro Football Talk, the man’s name is Scott Miller. Schefter, on Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning, said the employee was fired for a “pattern of behavior,” and the AFC title game was not the first time he has been under suspicion for stealing footballs.

Pro Football Talk’s report says it’€™s unclear whether the termination arose solely from the incident during the AFC title game, or whether investigation by the league unearthed other evidence of Miller removing footballs from play and selling them on the side.

The NFL couldn’t be reached for comment, according to Pro Football Talk.

Miller’s LinkedIn page says he works for “NFL Auctions” with the National Football League, and has been employed by the league since 2005. His page also says he is a graduate of New York Institute of Technology and he “started a new project called NFL Auctions which highlights the NFL’s premier players via game worn and signed items.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Apparently, at least according to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, the NFL had suspicions the Patriots were using under inflated footballs prior to the AFC championship game.

Speaking at the NFL combine Thursday, Grigson said the Colts notified the league in the days leading up to the AFC title game they had concerns with New England.