With the Coronavirus pandemic still impacting how the NFL operates, its teams once again have to conduct offseason business in a non-traditional fashion. The New England Patriots are obviously no exception, and their pre-draft scouting illustrates that: the team is already in the process of holding virtual meetings with potential targets.
Four such interviews have been reported so far (all via Justin Melo of The Draft Network) and they show that New England is casting a wide net despite the current limitations:
TE Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss (6040, 247 lbs): A potential late-round draft pick, Yeboah offers upside as a versatile receiving tight end who could fill a rotational role in New England alongside 2020 third-round draft selections Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. While not the best blocker, he could give New England a solid matchup weapon that has the size and run-after-the-catch ability to find situational success. For a more in-depth look at Yeboah, please click here.
DT Tommy Togiai, Ohio State (6020, 300 lbs): Not only did New England’s interior defensive line struggle in 2020, its three top players — Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise Jr. — are all headed for free agency as well. Accordingly, getting some upgrades on board will be key this offseason. Togiai is a big-bodied player who should help on early downs and could fill the nose tackle position New England was unable to properly man throughout most of last season.
DE Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame (6035, 261 lbs): Hayes offers some solid size to man the defensive edge in New England, and could give the Patriots a versatile rotational player to use alongside projected 2021 starters Chase Winovich and Josh Uche. While not the most explosive pass rusher, he could see some action as an early-down edge setter versus the run — an area of weakness for New England’s defense in 2020.
RB Jaret Patterson, Buffalo (5090, 195 lbs): With both James White and Rex Burkhead headed for free agency, the Patriots might decide to invest in their running back position in this year’s draft. A potential mid-round selection, Patterson would give New England a versatile skillset to possibly help replace the two veterans: he can successfully carry the ball when asked to run between the tackles, but is also experienced as a receiver out of the backfield.
The Patriots are no strangers to conducting pre-draft interviews in a virtual forum. Last season, when the scouting process was interrupted by Covid-19 quite suddenly, New England held 21 of its 71 reported meetings in this fashion. And as head coach Bill Belichick pointed out during his season-ending media conference call in early January, he and his team were prepared for a similar outlook this year.
“If this spring is the same as last spring, then it will be about the same as last spring — virtual interviews with the players and the information as you can get it and so forth. In terms of the past, no NFL scout was on campus to talk to players, talk to coaches or watch practice or anything like that. There were games that you could buy tickets to to go to the game, but that’s the way it was for the entire league,” said Belichick.
“You just have to evaluate what you have to evaluate. You know, less information is less information. That’s really all there is to it, and what we’ll be able to do this spring or what we won’t be able to do is yet to be determined. But, I think we should plan for probably less than more than what it’s been historically.”
The Patriots were present at the Senior Bowl earlier this month and will also get a chance to evaluate prospects’ Pro Days in whichever forum they will take place. One critical part of the pre-draft process — the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis — will not take place this year, however.