With free agency having begun to wind down, the focus in the NFL has now clearly shifted back to the draft. This means that coaches, general managers and scouts will be more actively involved on the scouting trail. The New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick is now among them as well.
After not being spotted at any other Pro Days to date, he was down in Florida to watch the University of Miami’s draft prospects work out. Belichick was part of a group that also included Brian Flores and Joe Judge — two of his former assistants who are now serving as head coaches for the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants, respectively.
The NFL decision makers present were able to get a close look at three impressive edge defenders — including a pair of potential first-round draft picks — as well as one of the best tight ends in this year’s draft.
The first-round picks in question are edge defenders Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau.
Phillips became a weapon for the Hurricanes after his transfer from UCLA in 2019. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder finally lived up to his former status as a five-star recruit last season and proved himself a stout run defender and productive pass rusher — all while showcasing some impressive power and intriguing technique. Phillips’ athleticism was on display down in Miami on Monday, with him clocking at 4.46 on his first 40-yard attempt.
Rousseau, meanwhile, is coming off his Coronavirus opt-out but will still likely become a first-round selection next month. After all, he notched 15.5 sacks in 2019 and impressed due to his size — he was measured at 6-foot-6.5 and 266 pounds — and raw athleticism. He will need to prove that he is not a one-year wonder, though, after playing just 15 games during his college career and having only a single season of consistent production.
The other players worth keeping a close eye on were defensive edge Quincy Roche and tight end Brevin Jordan.
Roche, a transfer from Temple and former AAC Defensive Player of the Year, is the anti-Rousseau of sorts: while not the most explosive athlete, he is a technician through and through. He notched 4.5 sacks in 2020.
Jordan, on the other hand, is a versatile playmaker who can be a difference-maker in the passing game from Day One. While he still has room for growth as a blocker, his receiving skills in combination with his athleticism and size make him a dangerous player. Like Roche is projected to come off the board in either the second or third round.
While all four are playing a position that the Patriots rebuilt during free agency, their upside within New England’s system makes them potential draft targets for the club.