Jimmy Garoppolo participated in the NFL combine last year and the Patriots selected him with their second round pick. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
The NFL combine is set to kickoff Wednesday in Indianapolis where the top college prospects will workout in front of hundreds of scouts, team executives and coaches, as organizations continue their preparations for the draft, which is scheduled for April 30-May 2 in Chicago.
With the Patriots holding their Super Bowl victory parade just two weeks ago Wednesday, their staff has some catching up to do when it comes to looking at players outside their organization and coming from the college game. In fact, some members of the organization who usually attend the combine will not attend because of their recent workload with the long season.
Here are five things to look for from a Patriots perspective at the combine:
1. Who from the Patriots organization is attending?
Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and his team will have a heavy presence, who even with the Super Bowl run have been hard at work looking ahead to 2015. Coach Bill Belichick will be in attendance, as will former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who was spotted on a flight with Patriots staffers from Boston to Indianapolis on Tuesday. Scarnecchia, who retired at the end of the 2013 season, also attended the combine last season, and had a sizable impact in the Patriots selecting rookie center Bryan Stork in the fourth round.
The combine is usually the first time coaches and general managers speak after their respective seasons wrap up, but don’t expect to hear from Belichick or Caserio. Neither are scheduled to speak, but Belichick wasn’t scheduled to speak last year and he did (Don’t hold your breath this year). New England will surely come up with other coaches and general managers, especially following their Super Bowl win and all things Deflategate related. Some notables who are speaking Wednesday are: Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, Bills coach Rex Ryan, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Jets coach Todd Bowles. Then on Thursday: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, Colts coach Chuck Pagano and Broncos general manager John Elway. On Friday Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will speak.
2. On field workout schedule
Friday, Feb. 20: Specialists, offensive linemen, tight ends
Saturday, Feb. 21: Quarterbacks, running backs wide receivers
Sunday: Feb. 22: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Monday, Feb. 23: Defensive backs
This is where the players complete their drills including: 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three cone drill and the shuttle run.
3. Positions, players to watch
From a Patriots perspective, it’s unlikely they will be taking a skill player (quarterback, running back, wide receiver) high in the draft, so from both a viewing and a team perspective, they will be paying attention more so on Friday, Sunday and Monday, specifically Friday and Sunday. Their top two positions of need would seem to be offensive and defensive line. With the Patriots having the last pick in both the first and second round (No. 32 and 64 overall) they likely will not have some of the top players at those positions available when they select. With that in mind, here are some names from those positions to keep an eye on:
Offensive line: Andrus Peat, Stanford; Cedric Ogbuhei, Texas A&M; T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh; Josue Matias, Florida State; Ereck Flowers, Miami.
Defensive line: Malcom Brown, Texas; Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma; Michael Bennett, Ohio State; Carl Davis, Iowa; Ellis McCarthy, UCLA.
4. Incomplete workout, no problem
Over the years the Patriots have targeted some players with injury history with their top picks in the draft. Two of their last three first round picks haven’t done 100 percent of the workouts at the combine because of injury (Dominique Easley and Dont’a Hightower). Overall, since 2010, the Patriots have made 14 first or second round picks — of those, eight didn’t complete 100 percent of combine workouts due to injury. Tavon Wilson didn’t attend the combine at all, while Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes and Aaron Dobson were some of the players who didn’t attempt all of the workouts because of injury.
What this means is just because a player doesn’t attempt all the workouts, don’t count them out from being drafted by New England. The Patriots have had a long history of going after players with injury history, as usually their stock falls and the Patriots look to take advantage — Gronkowski being a prime example.
5. Combine isn’t everything
Just because a player doesn’t attend the combine, that doesn’t mean they won’t be a successful player for the Patriots or in the NFL in general. There are plenty of players who don’t get invites to the combine and turn out to be very good pros. A few players on the Patriots currently who weren’t invite to the combine include: Julian Edelman, Kyle Arrington, Malcolm Butler and Sebastian Vollmer. And here are a few NFL players who weren’t invited to the combine: wide receiver Victor Cruz, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, tight end Antonio Gates and wide receiver Wes Welker.