A handful of 2019 NFL draft prospects attending his week’s Reese’s Senior Bowl will be New England Patriots by the end of April.
Leading up to Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. ET exhibition at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, all are on the same playing field. All are installing and executing assignments out of the same syllabus. And “certainly a high percentage of whom are going to be drafted,” as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on WEEI during his last scouting trip to Mobile, Ala., in January 2016.
“After draft choices are free agents,” added Belichick, “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. So, it’s a totally different situation. But, again, the football part is valuable. Seeing these guys work against each other – and they’re competing because they’re trying to help themselves and look good in this environment – that’s good to see.”
It’s closer to what they will see at rookie minicamps and organized team activities.
“The all-star games, everybody starts from scratch. They’re all in a new system, if you will,” said Belichick. “That’s what they’re all going to be doing when they go to a new team in a few months anyway.”
As for which ones will find themselves in New England, that’s a dart throw between the North and South rosters. But some darts will hit the board. Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio, director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort and Co. have drafted 20 Senior Bowl prospects over the last five years.
An additional seven Senior Bowl prospects over that span signed their first NFL contracts with New England as undrafted free agents.
Here’s a five-year glance through the index.
- Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia – first round
- Duke Dawson, CB, Florida – second round
- Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue – fifth round
- Braxton Berrios, WR, Miami – sixth round
- 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
Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn, who earned the offensive lineman of the week award in 2018, stands as the lone first-round draft investment New England has gone on to make over the last five Senior Bowls.
Florida’s Duke Dawson, Alabama’s Cyrus Jones and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo check in as the trio of second-round investments. Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers, Troy’s Antonio Garcia, North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett and Oklahoma’s Geneo Grissom, meanwhile, all went in the third round.
Three from that range remain in Foxborough.
The Patriots have also filled out cards for 11 Senior Bowl invites on the final day of the draft since 2014, with Purdue’s Ja’Whaun Bentley, Miami’s Braxton Berrios, Arkansas’ Trey Flowers, Georgia Tech’s Shaq Mason, Navy’s Joe Cardona and Wisconsin’s James White still in the fold as the new league year draws near.
And as for those who partook in the Senior Bowl and originally entered the league as members of the Patriots’ undrafted classes, Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Keionta Davis and Auburn’s Jonathan Jones are the two currently with the organization.
A myriad of others over that stretch – including former Indianapolis Colts wideout Phillip Dorsett, former Cleveland Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton, former Detroit Lions linebacker Kyle Van Noy, former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Eric Rowe and former Oakland Raiders safety Obi Melifonwu – have joined the company on secondary NFL stops.
Time will tell just whom arrives three months from now on their first.