Bill Belichick and the Patriots are difficult to predict during the NFL Draft. But the NFL Combine is one of the first chances for Patriots fans to find clues about players Bill Belichick will select in the 2016 NFL Draft.
This year’s Combine, which takes place in Indianapolis, began Tuesday Feb. 23 and runs through Monday Feb. 29. It features over 300 prospects. The process includes workout drills, position-specific drills, interviews, physical measurements, injury evaluation, drug screens, and the Wonderlic Test.
The combine airs on NFL Network, and can be followed on NFL.com.
Here’s what Patriots fans should keep an eye out for during the process.
1. Nick Caserio — Caserio is the Patriots director of personnel. He’s a key decision-maker on draft day, as New England has no official general manager. His whereabouts and comments could be intriguing throughout the week.
2. News from medical exams — Manycoaches say the medical exams and interviews are the most important parts of the combine. Injuries aren’t always a deterrent for the Patriots, who have taken players who fall in the draft due to injury concerns (Dominique Easley, Ras-I Dowling).
3. Who will the Patriots interview? — Interviews happen from Wednesday to Saturday by position group. Occasionally, players will inform the media which teams interviewed them.
4. Glenn Gronkowski — The fullback and brother of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said Thursday he met with the Patriots but not Bill Belichick. He is listed as a running back for the combine, and will work out on Friday.
5. 40-yard dash for wideouts — Wide receivers’ workouts, including the 40-yard dash, are the first event on their schedule on Saturday. The Patriots have trended toward drafting faster wide receivers, according to research from The Boston Globe. If New England is deciding between two prospects and one is faster, they may use speed as a tiebreaker, according to Jason Licht, a former Patriots executive and current Buccaneers general manager.
6. Rutgers players — The Patriots have added countless Rutgers players in the draft and in free agency. Belichick has openly touted the program and its former coach Greg Schiano. This year’s Rutgers class has two combine invites: wideout Leonte Carroo and linebacker Steve Longa.
7. Vertical jump for cornerbacks — Cornerbacks onfield workouts are the first event on their schedule on Monday. According to The Globe’s research, Patriots tend to draft cornerbacks with a solid vertical jump.
8. The three-cone drill — Via The Globe, the Patriots place a premium on cornerbacks, wideouts, and offensive lineman who score well in the three-cone drill. All of those positions are arguably a need for the Patriots.
9. Taller, heavier linebackers — Linebacker measurements will be the first event for the position group on Saturday. Belichick and the Patriots may not care much about the 40-yard dash for linebackers, but they trend toward picking heavier, taller linebackers, according to The Globe.
10. Quarterback throwing — The Patriots appear set at quarterback, but they also tend to make unexpected moves on draft day. And who doesn’t like watching quarterbacks throw? Their on-field workouts are the first event on their schedule on Saturday.
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