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2019 NFL combine: 10 standouts from a Patriots perspective

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Highlighting some of the prospects that stood out in Indianapolis over the last week.

NFL Combine - Day 5 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NFL’s 2019 scouting combine came and went, and during the event’s seven days saw plenty of noteworthy performances. Let’s take a look at ten of them today, with a special focus on the perceived positions of need for the New England Patriots — players that might very well find themselves on the world champions’ draft board and could eventually make their way to Foxboro late next month.

The men in focus either had strong workout performances or met with the Patriots in some capacity. Either way, their names should be kept on the radar as the next phase of the pre-draft process begins.

Day one prospects

TE Noah Fant, Iowa

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
6-4 1/8 249 9 6/8 33 4/8 80 4.5 20 39.5 127 6.81 4.22 11.49

First things first: if the Patriots want to draft Noah Fant, they will likely have to trade up from the 32nd spot they currently hold. Not only is he one of the best pass catchers in this draft regardless of position, but he also dominated the tight end group — including the presumed top option, his former college teammate T.J. Hockenson — during the combine’s on-field drills. Fant was outstanding, and delivered one of the best performances in recent memory.

The Iowa product recorded the best 40-yard dash of all tight ends, and also led his position group in the 3-cone drill, the vertical jump and the broad jump. And while the combine is only one part of player evaluations before the draft, Fant’s terrific outing in combination with his soft hands, explosiveness and very good route running helped him manifest himself as a likely first-round pick come the draft.

DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
6-4 4/8 342 10 4/8 34 6/8 84 5.05 36

Unfortunately for Dexter Lawrence, he was not able to participate in all of the drills over the weekend: during his impressive 5.05 time at the 40-yard dash — keep in mind that he was weighed at 342 pounds — the Clemson product strained his quad and was out for the remainder of the workouts. Despite the injury, however, the 21-year old showed why he might come off the board on day one next month.

Not only did he show plenty of speed during the 40, Lawrence also led all defensive tackles with 36 bench press reps. Given New England’s question marks at the position with both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton about to enter unrestricted free agency, the club could look to a player like Lawrence — a potential day-one starter — to fill a potential hole alongside Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler.

OT Dalton Risner, Kansas State

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
6-4 6/8 312 10 2/8 34 81 1/8 5.36 23 28.5 110 7.69 4.52

Even though the Patriots are not expected to invest in an offensive tackle early for the second straight year, Trent Brown’s uncertain future and Isaiah Wynn coming off injured reserve might alter the team’s plans. If they do decide to make a pick at the position again, Dalton Risner seems to be a logical choice due to his refined skill set as both a pass protector and a run blocker.

Risner, who said that he models his game after long-time New England left tackle Nate Solder, had his ups and downs during the combine: while he performed badly in the 40-yard dash and ran the slowest time of all the clocked offensive tackles, his 3-cone drill and broad jump were both solid. All in all, though, his abilities to mirror opposing linemen and generate space in the running game will be what defines his draft status — and they make him a likely first-rounder.

Day two prospects

WR Andy Isabella, Massachusetts

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
5-8 6/8 188 8 3/8 29 6/8 71 4/8 4.31 15 36.5 121 6.95 4.15

Massachusetts’ own Andy Isabella raised eyebrows during the combine with his terrific 40-yard dash and 3-cone drill, further boosting his draft stock entering pro day season. The Patriots, of course, have a need at wide receiver with Julian Edelman as the only reliable wideout currently under contract. Isabella projects to play a similar role like the Super Bowl MVP at the next level due to his excellent change-of-direction skills, and the Patriots certainly know how to get the most out of their slot receivers.

DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
6-6 4/8 295 10 5/8 34 2/8 81 4.93 23 32 115 7.45 4.33

Jerry Tillery’s 40-yard dash and broad jump numbers from the combine stand out, and help him further establish his outlook as a day-two selection. The Notre Dame product, who had a meeting with New England in Indianapolis, brings plenty of potential to the table but still needs to be refined a bit.

That being said, his frame in combination with solid pass rushing skills and athletic skills as well as a good effort on any given play makes him an intriguing option at defensive tackle in case the Patriots want to double-dip or miss out on a player like Dexter Lawrence.

FS Juan Thornhill, Virginia

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
6-0 2/8 205 8 6/8 31 1/8 74 6/8 4.42 21 44 141

One of the best safeties in this draft class, Juan Thornhill did not have a reported meeting with the Patriots during the combine. However, he should still be on the club’s radar as a potential heir to soon-to-be 32-year old Devin McCourty: his versatility, experience and vision project to make him a highly coveted option as a deep field safety capable of covering near the line-of-scrimmage as well. His terrific combine — the Virginia product ranked top-five at his position at the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump and broad jump — adds to his status as an early day-two projection.

SS Taylor Rapp, Washington

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
5-11 6/8 208 9 30 6/8 72 7/8 17 35 115 6.82 3.99 11.33

If Juan Thornhill is a potential heir to Devin McCourty, Taylor Rapp seems like a prospect capable of possibly taking over for Patrick Chung one day. The Washington product posted terrific 3-cone, 20-yard, and 60-yard times during the combine — he also had a meeting with the Patriots. A versatile player that will likely come off the board on day two of the draft, Rapp has the skill set to serve as a safety-linebacker hybrid at the next level.

DT Renell Wren, Arizona State

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
6-4 7/8 318 10 33 7/8 81 6/8 5.01 30 32 118 7.65 4.53

While Renell Wren’s production does not stand out — he registered only 3.0 sacks during his four collegiate seasons — his explosiveness off the snap in combination with his size make him an intriguing mid-round option.

In Indianapolis, his 40-yard dash and 3-cone numbers stood out and reflect his athletic potential at the next level: if given time to develop, the Arizona State product could turn into a standout interior penetrator. And with New England’s questions at the defensive tackle position, it would not be surprising to see the club take its chance.

Day three prospects

WR Miles Boykin, Notre Dame

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
6-3 6/8 220 9 7/8 33 4/8 81 3/8 4.42 12 43.5 140 6.77 4.07

Few players helped their draft stock as much as Miles Boykin during the combine. Coming off a solid but rather average senior season — he caught 59 passes during his senior year for 872 yards and eight touchdowns — the Notre Dame product stood out in Indianapolis: Boykin posted the fastest 3-cone time and best vertical jump, ranked second at the broad jump and ninth in the 40-yard dash.

The question, of course, will be why his athletic skills have not found their way onto the field in college. That being said, taking a late-round flier on the developmental prospect might be worth the investment.

TE Kahale Warring, San Diego State

Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan 40-yard dash Bench Press Vertical jump Broad Jump 3-Cone Drill 20-Yard Shuttle 60-Yard Shuttle
6-5 1/8 252 9 2/8 32 6/8 77 4.67 19 36.5 122 7.21 4.25 11.72

While the aforementioned T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are the class of this year’s tight ends and a notch above the other prospects at the position, the group itself is rather deep. In turn, a team like the Patriots could be able to get quality even on day three.

One of the potential prospects to look at is San Diego State’s Kahale Warring. A former multi-sport athlete who didn’t start football until his senior year of high school, Warring is an unpolished player — and his numbers reflect it as he gained just 620 yards over the past two seasons. Playing in a run-first offense, however, his full potential has not been on display yet. A solid combine performance certainly should help Warring enter the draft radar as a late-round option.