The Coronavirus pandemic may have drastically changed life and the pre-draft plans across the NFL, but teams have still found a way to gather considerable information heading into next week’s event. The New England Patriots are no exception: even with pro days canceled all over the nation and top-30 meetings now prohibited, the reigning AFC champions have been busy getting in touch with numerous players via services such as FaceTime.
According to Pats Pulpit’s Pre-Draft Tracker, the team has had reported contact with 65 draft prospects so far and 15 of them were met in a virtual setting. The Patriots have therefore been able to keep their list of pre-draft interviews growing despite the organization being forced to alter its procedures due to the Covid-19 outbreak — something head coach/general manager Bill Belichick also pointed out earlier this week.
“It’s a little bit different than the way we’ve done it in the past with the 30 visits and the pro days and so forth, but all the teams are working with the same constraints,” he said during a recent conference call with the media. “In fact, we probably talk to as many if not more players than we have in the past when you’re not traveling and you’re just sitting at a desk or sitting in a room, wherever we are.”
“It’s easier to make a lot of phone calls and get in contact with people rather than sometimes visit a place and just see the people that are there, even though those visits are valuable and you’re able to get into more of an in-depth conversation and evaluation there,” Belichick added. “We certainly have logged a lot of phone time and FaceTime and whatever video conferencing and so forth. I think for the most part, we’ve all adjusted to that and tried to take advantage of the opportunity that we have to do those things.”
The list of players who have been on the other end of a phone or video call out of New England includes players all over the draft spectrum. Potential early-round selections such as offensive tackles Ezra Cleveland (Boise State) and Josh Jones (Houston) have talked to the team, as have mid-round defensive edge Kenny Willekes (Michigan State) and guard Damien Lewis (LSU) or late-round quarterbacks James Morgan (Florida International) and Ben DiNucci (James Madison).
“It’s a little bit different logistically over the last month from where we’ve been in the past, but as usual, Nick Caserio and his staff have done a great job of putting things in order, assembling information, following up on all the many things that we have to try to look at,” said Belichick. “I know it’s not normal, but I think we’ve accumulated a lot of information, we’ve had a lot of opportunities to talk about all the players and all the other things that are involved here in this process.”
The full list of players that have reportedly had video calls with the Patriots looks as follows:
- OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise State
- OG Damien Lewis, LSU
- DE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
- DT Raequan Williams, Michigan State
- OT Josh Jones, Houston
- QB James Morgan, Florida International
- WR Aaron Parker, Rhode Island
- SS Jalen Elliott, Notre Dame
- SS Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame
- DT Larrell Murchison, North Carolina State
- CB Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State
- OT Robert Hunt, Louisiana
- LB Marcus Bailey, Purdue
- DT Robert Windsor, Penn State
- QB Ben DiNucci, James Madison
For more information on the Patriots’ pre-draft meetings and workouts, please make sure to also visit our Patriots Pre-Draft Tracker.