The New England Patriots were one of 11 NFL teams that were scouting the showdown between the 11th ranked University of Tennessee and the 25th ranked University of Georgia this past weekend.
Tennessee won 34-31 after falling behind 17-0 in the second quarter. Georgia scored a go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left in the game, but Tennessee completed a 43-yard Hail Mary touchdown to take back the lead on the last play of the game and secure the victory.
The Patriots are familiar with both teams, with CB Justin Coleman coming out of Tennessee, and C David Andrews and WR Malcolm Mitchell coming from Georgia.
There are some clear NFL prospects on both teams, although I have to think the focus would be on either the offensive linemen or the running backs of both teams. Still, it’s important to know the other players because the Patriots value strong performances by players against strong competition.
Tennessee has a first round prospect in ED Derek Barnett, a 6’3, 260 pound pass rusher that makes noise in the backfield every single drive. Barnett collected 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss on the day. They also have a talented cornerback in Cameron Sutton, but he did not play due to a fractured ankle.
The only other Tennessee prospect that would interest the Patriots is RB Jalen Hurd, a 6’3, 230 pound hammer that is currently viewed as a third-round option in a seriously deep draft. Hurd picked up 42 rushing yards on 10 attempts, and chipped in 50 receiving yards and a touchdown on 3 receptions.
Georgia has a couple mid-round prospects in ED Davin Bellamy, a 6’4, 245 pound pass rusher that picked up 5 tackles on the day. They also have free safety Dominick Sanders, who collected 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass defended.
The top prospect at Georgia is RB Nick Chubb, who one carry for 3 yards due to a sprained ankle. Chubb is a 5’10, 230 pound bruiser who had a great 2014, but missed a lot of 2015 with a serious knee injury. He is expected to be a day two selection, but would likely have been a first round pick if he remained healthy.
Chubb’s back-up is Sony Michel, who collected 91 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and added 0 yards on 3 catches (long of 5, and some losses). Michel is a very talented back-up who is likely waiting for Chubb to leave so he can star in 2017.
I feel like I can say with some degree of certainty that the Patriots looked at Georgia RT Greg Pyke. Pyke is listed between 6’3-6’6 and 315-325 pounds and is regarded as a day three pick. He was a two-year starter at right guard- earning 2nd Team All SEC in 2014 and battling a knee injury in 2015- before moving to right tackle at the end of last season and into this year.
But most importantly, Pyke was a heavily recruited lacrosse prospect that ranked 8th in the nation prior to signing with Georgia. He had offers from the best lacrosse programs in the country, like Duke, Notre Dame, and Maryland, but opted to go to Georgia. He claims that lacrosse helped with his footwork.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, a lacrosse aficionado, absolutely knows of Pyke’s background and that should help during the scouting process. The Patriots added former lacrosse star Chris Hogan at wide receiver this offseason and Belichick believes that anybody with the athleticism to thrive at multiple sports deserves a deeper look.
Don’t be surprised if Pyke is the one player from this game that winds up on the New England roster.
From a prospect stand point, there are a ton of running backs that fit the Patriots’ bruiser profile a la LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley. LSU’s Leonard Fournette (6’1, 230 pounds), is likely a top 10 pick and out of range (unless a Jimmy Garoppolo trade yields an early selection).
Other players that fit the profile are day two options in Oregon’s Royce Freeman (5’11, 230 pounds), Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine (5’10, 235 pounds), Georgia’s Nick Chubb (5’10, 220 pounds), Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd (6’3, 230 pounds), and day three options in North Carolina’s Elijah Hood (5’11, 220 pounds), Wisconsin’s Corey Clement (5’10, 230 pounds), Toledo’s Kareem Hunt (5’11, 225 pounds), Pittsburgh’s James Conner (6’2, 240 pounds), and Michigan’s De’Veon Smith (5’11, 230 pounds).