Bill Belichick won’t be spotted down in the bleachers of Mobile, Ala., this week, chatting with old cohorts like Phil Savage, Bill O’Brien and Jon Robinson. But the New England Patriots’ college scouting branch will be keeping an eye on what transpires there for the head coach, currently immersed in preparations for Super Bowl LII.
He’ll have an interest at a later date.
“The good thing about the Senior Bowl is you have somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 players,” Belichick said on WEEI’s Dale & Holley in January 2016 – his last trip there just days after New England fell to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. “Most of whom are going to be drafted, certainly a high percentage of whom are going to be drafted, and I imagine all of whom will be in NFL camps next year. After draft choices are free agents, so that’s a large chunk of players and they’re playing football against each other and the competition is relatively equal, which is a lot different than the combine where it’s a few workout drills and that type of thing.”
It is an even playing field to evaluate from, in a learning environment more comparable to an NFL training camp than the NFL Scouting Combine. Regardless of which level they hail from or which round they’re projected to fall in, all are starting from the same point.
As Belichick would go on to note to WEEI, “That’s what they’re all going to be doing when they go to a new team in a few months anyway.”
And that new team has been the Patriots quite frequently over the last four drafts.
New England has invested draft picks in 16 prospects who participated in the weigh-ins, interviews, practices and the premier college all-star game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium since 2014. An additional seven prospects went on to originally sign with New England as rookie free agents through that span.
As for whom, here’s the list.
- Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State – third round
- Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy – third round
- Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA – sixth round
- Harvey Langi, LB, Brigham Young – undrafted
- Dwayne Thomas, CB, Louisiana State – undrafted
- Damarius Travis, S, Minnesota – undrafted
- Keionta Davis, DE, Tennessee-Chattanooga – undrafted
- Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama – second round
- Jacoby Brissett, QB, North Carolina State – third round
- Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia – fourth round
- Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn – undrafted
- Bryce Williams, TE, East Carolina - undrafted
- Geneo Grissom, DE, Oklahoma – third round
- Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas – fourth round
- Tre’ Jackson, G, Florida State – fourth round
- Shaq Mason, G, Georgia Tech – fourth round
- Joe Cardona, LS, Navy – fifth round
- Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois – second round
- Bryan Stork, C, Florida State – fourth round
- James White, RB, Wisconsin – fourth round
- Jemea Thomas, CB, Georgia Tech – sixth round
- Jon Halapio, G, Florida – sixth round
- Tyler Ott, LS, Harvard – undrafted
If nothing else, consider the rolodex of names a reference point heading into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. ET exhibition.
Countless other Senior Bowl partakers have also made stops with the Patriots over the last four years – just not their initial stops.
From 2016, there was Buffalo Bills undrafted free agent Glenn Gronkowski, Minnesota Vikings fourth-rounder Willie Beavers, and Arizona Cardinals fifth-rounder Cole Toner. From 2015, there was Indianapolis Colts first-round pick Phillip Dorsett, Baltimore Ravens rookie free agent Blaine Clausell, Miami Dolphins fourth-round choice Jamil Douglas, Cincinnati Bengals fourth-rounder Marcus Hardison, and Philadelphia Eagles No. 47 overall pick Eric Rowe. And from 2014, there were New York Jets fourth-round receivers in Jalen Saunders and Shaquelle Evans, and even a Detroit Lions second-rounder by the name of Kyle Van Noy.
It isn’t the end-all or be-all for Belichick, Nick Caserio, Monti Ossenfort and the rest of the war room, but it is a reason to keep tabs while the Patriots keep their primary focus elsewhere.