The first day of on-field workouts is in the books at the NFL’s scouting combine in Indianapolis: three position groups — quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends — went through drills and added to their résumés before leaving town again today. With those workouts in the books, let’s take a look at potential New England Patriots draft targets who either appeared to help their stock on Thursday or hurt it.
Let’s start by taking a look at the first category.
TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
What Thursday’s workouts again confirmed is that there will likely not be a single tight end drafted in the first round in late April — something that has not happened since 2016. That being said, some of them did still boost their stock due to some impressive showings including Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam. A player trying to emulate Rob Gronkowski, he actually finished the day with a faster 40-yard dash than the ex-Patriot:
6'5", 258 lbs.@MizzouFootball TE Albert Okwuegbunam runs a 4.49u 40-yard dash!— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2020
Would tie for fourth-fastest 40 by a tight end since 2003.
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/hGZ8nbXRVw
Despite his frame, the Missouri product delivered an outstanding 40-time and finished the day as the fastest tight end by far on both his first (4.49) and second attempts (4.5). Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins and LSU’s Stephen Sullivan were tied for second place among the position group, but ran the 40 yards almost two-tenths of a second slower — finishing with 4.66 each — than what Okwuegbunam delivered.
This certainly qualifies as one of the biggest surprises of the combine so far. Okwuegbunam’s tape does not show a player capable of beating defenders deep, after all, and certainly not one to beat some of the top wide receiver prospects in this year’s draft. Okwuegbunam is still is expected to come off the board no earlier than day three due to his raw skillset and limited blocking, but he can feel good about his performance on Thursday.
TE Adam Trautman, Dayton
Trautman was one of the standout performers at the Senior Bowl, and he followed it up with another solid performance at the combine on Thursday. While his 40-yard time of 4.8 seconds was noticeably slower than those of other tight ends competing, it was a confirmation of his tape at Dayton: he is not necessarily a burner, but still has solid playing speed that can making him a threat at the next level in combination with his size and hands.
What did stand out about his workout, though, was his blocking on the newly introduced sled drill: Trautman, who has had his ups and downs when it comes to taking on defenders as an in-line blocker in college but has the build to be successful in this role at the next level, looked like the best player on the field in this area. His form was sound, and it appears as if he is making major strides in his development to a complete tight end.
Add his terrific 3-cone drill — Trautman ran a 6.78, which was the fastest at his position since 2003 and made him the only tight end to clock under 7 seconds this year — and you get a realistic competitor for the number two position on the board behind only:
TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
While Trautman’s ceiling may eventually be higher than Cole Kmet’s, the Notre Dame product confirmed why he entered the combine as the number one tight end prospect in this year’s class. While his 3-cone time of 7.44 did not stand out by any means, his vertical and broad jump numbers — 37 and 123 inches, respectively — were impressive for a player that was measured at 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds.
The same goes for his 4.66-second 40-yard dash:
.@NDFootball TE @ColeKmet runs a 4.70u 40-yard dash!— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2020
Kmet is @MoveTheSticks' top-ranked tight end.
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/zh4q0uLgGG
If the Patriots want to go tight end early in the draft, Kmet certainly projects to be the best and most well-rounded available prospect (with Trautman being a close number two). He will likely not come off the board on day one, which means that he should be available in the second round if New England opts to trade back into it.
WR Denzel Mims, Baylor
It is no secret that the Patriots love the 3-cone drill as a tool to measure a player’s agility and short-area quickness. Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims should therefore certainly find himself on the team’s radar after crushing his competition with a 6.66 time — by far the best among all wide receivers: the second fastest at the position, Oregon’s Juwan Johnson finished the drill in 6.94 seconds.
At 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds, Mims also performed well in other areas of the testing: he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, and had a 38.5-inch vertical and a 131-inch broad jump. After already standing out a Senior Bowl, he has done everything he could to improve his stock and become a player who could come off the board early on day two.
QB Anthony Gordon, Washington State
Gordon’s athletic profile may not stand out, but he certainly falls into the Patriots’ target size due to his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame and 9 6/8-inch hands. Most importantly, however, he looked good throwing the football in the clinical environment that is the combine on Thursday: Gordon’s release was fast and he moved his lower body well before releasing the football — certainly an intriguing foundation to build on.
If New England wants to add another quarterback to the equation without investing in one of the top options, Gordon certainly could be their guy due to his sound mechanics and impressive accuracy.
WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
This year’s wide receiver class is a deep one, and Justin Jefferson is part of the reason why. The potential first-round draft pick is coming off a tremendous season at LSU — he registered 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns — and followed it up with an impressive showing on Thursday. At 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, Jefferson was able to run the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds:
4.44u at 202 lbs ⏱@LSUFootball WR Justin Jefferson turned on the burners.— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2020
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/GQ17uDvsVB
Jefferson also posted a 37.5-inch vertical and a 126-inch broad jump and appears to be manifesting himself as a late-round selection on day one — not just because of his workout numbers, though. A tremendous route-runner who had a 92.3% contested catch rate in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus, the 20-year-old also is a strong route runner in the short and intermediate part of the field and provides intriguing upside as a slot receiver.
He also showed off his terrific hands during the combine’s gauntlet drill:
Justin Jefferson's gauntlet drill! pic.twitter.com/lYHnQry0tc— SUSPENDED AGAIN (@FTBeard1) February 28, 2020
Add it all up and you get a player who might become a realistic option for the Patriots with the 23rd overall selection in case they want to go that route. Jefferson may lack potential as a perimeter receiver, but he is as polished a pass-catcher as they come — especially with the top three at the position (Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III) likely out of the team’s reach.
TE Thaddeus Moss, LSU
Before the workouts even started, the son of former Patriots receiver Randy Moss was ruled out: according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, his medical examination revealed a foot injury that require surgery. While the procedure is not expected to hurt Moss’ draft stock — he is projected as a mid-round selection due to his solid blocking but limited contributions as a receiver at LSU — the injury still knocked him out of Thursday’s workouts and will sideline him six to eight weeks.
WR Laviska Shenault Jr, Colorado
Shenault entered the combine with hopes of potentially establishing himself among the top three at the wide receiver position. That did not happen, though, in large parts due to his 40-yard dash: the Colorado product was clocked at 4.59 seconds, which is slower than his tape suggested. For a player whose game is built on speed rather than finesse route running, his stock did take a hit on Thursday.
WR Jalen Reagor, TCU
Like Shenault, Reagor also entered the day with high expectations and failed to meet expectations — at least somewhat: at 5-foot-210, 206 pounds he had an impressive 42-inch vertical as well as a 138-inch broad jump. His workout took a turn for the worse at that point, however, as he ran the 40-yard dash at just 4.47 seconds. Furthermore, he posted a 7.31-second 3-cone time that was among the worst at his position group.
Reagor was seen as another early-round prospect based on his playing speed and route running, but Thursday’s workouts did not back that up.
TE Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
As noted above, no tight end posted truly outstanding numbers across the board. What was disappointing, though, was seeing some receiving options at the position put up some comparatively pedestrian performances. Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant is one of them: his 4.73-second 40-yard dash is solid albeit unspectacular but his 3-cone drill (7.41), broad jump (110 inches) and bench press numbers (13) are rather disappointing.
WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
“My goal is to hit a 4.4. A lot of guys think I’m going to run a 4.5 or 4.6 but I’m excited to change people’s minds,” said Higgins before the combine. And then, he... sat out the on-field portion of the event to get some rest? While a medical issue might be the reason for his absence on the Lucas Oil field on Thursday, the Clemson product not participating after openly stating he wanted to run in the 4.4s is a curious decision.
QB Jake Fromm, Georgia
One of the quarterbacks to meet with the Patriots at the combine, Fromm did not have a particularly encouraging workout on Thursday. The Georgia passer, who is not as gifted a thrower as other quarterbacks in this year’s draft class but offers upside due to his high football IQ and decision making, had some notable problems on deep passes: his receivers either had to slow down or he was overthrowing them. Either way, his accuracy beyond the short and intermediate range was off.