The New England Patriots are out in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine, but an unusual small contingent made the trip. As the Patriots confirmed, Bill Belichick did not travel to the Combine this year as Joe Judge, Troy Brown, Mike Pellegrino, Cam Achord, and Joe Houston are instead representing the team from a coaching perspective.
Belichick not attending is a change from year’s past, but several teams have started to send smaller units to the Combine in recent years — some teams (Los Angeles Rams) even sending nobody.
From a Patriots perspective, it’s noteworthy as to whether this leads to increased roles from those in the personnel department like Matt Groh and Elliot Wolf. We’ve learned this offseason that Groh’s role has expanded after he inked Matthew Slater’s contract, so perhaps Belichick is now allowing some of his scouts to handle more of the draft board.
The New England coach will always have final say, but a change in the process could be worthwhile for the team, especially allowing for someone like Groh — a younger mind whose whole professional experience has revolved around the draft — to take on a larger role.
With that, let’s get into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.
@Riley_Longhair What 3 position group will the patriots be playing a close eye to
The three biggest needs on New England’s roster are offensive tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback - specifically one with size. That’s where there eyes should be primarily focused on and there are plenty of intriguing options — especially at tackle and cornerback — earlier on.
Broderick Jones would be my first choice at offensive tackle due to his athleticism. He has some technique things to clean up, but Jones should dominate the Combine testing this weekend. There are plenty of other top-50 options for New England here such as Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Oklahoma's Anton Harrison, Ohio State’s Dawand Jones, and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright.
At cornerback, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez if my CB1 due to his combination of size (6-foot-2) and athleticism. But, there are plenty of intriguing Day 2 options such as Maryland’s Deonte Banks, Kansas State’s Julius Brents, and Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes to name a few.
@mattuurban If no trades, what positions do you think you will focus on with the 3 4th rd picks
It is tough to predict now as it is contingent on free agency and what they prioritize early on in the draft. But, looking at their secondary needs position such as EDGE, tight end, safety and linebacker come into focus. It also wouldn't be a surprise to see them double-up at a position like offensive tackle or add along the interior.
In a highly-rated tight end class, New England could wait until the fourth-round and try their luck with someone like Alabama’s Cameron Latu, who played under Bill O’Brien the past two seasons. Alabama OT Tyler Steen would also be a great choice to double-dip at the position if he slides into range.
This year’s EDGE group is also loaded with talent, specifically in the top two rounds. Perhaps New England finds some value in the mid-rounds at a sneaky position of need.
@BostonEvan11 Worth reading into AR15 meeting?
Like most teams, New England has been busy meeting with a large amount of prospects at the Combine. But, one was perhaps more interesting than the rest: Florida QB Anthony Richardson. While some may hope that means New England is back in the QB market, it likely is just a way to gather more information that can help them in numerous ways.
One way is if the Patriots eventually face Richardson on the field. Despite being in the QB market back in 2021, New England traveled to Trevor Lawerence’s Pro Day knowing he would not get past Jacksonville No. 1 overall. But, they did play Lawerence that season and beat them 50-10. Of the reported teams meeting with Richardson, several of them are on the Patriots schedule next season.
Maybe New England is truly interested in the dynamic and enticing QB prospect, but it still seems unlikely they move on from Mac Jones this season. So, I would throw the meeting in the “business as usual” department.
@orangetiger70 Is Trenton Simpson going to blow people away at the combine?
Trenton Simpson was one of many edge defenders who impressed on Thursday clocking in a 4.43 official 40-yard dash. He’s an extremely smooth athlete and if teams value his 2021 film over last years after a position change, Simpson could be building a case to potentially sneak into the first-round come April.
@zgoody34 Thoughts on moving Onwenu to RT if the veteran RT market doesn’t pan out? RG O’Cyrus Torrence looks like a great draft asset toward the end of round 1…possible trade back scenario and acquire additional draft capital
Michael Onwenu has impressed at tackle in the past, but New England made it clear this year that they prefer to keep him at right guard. If they did not bump him back out when they played a season-long game of musical chairs at right tackle last year, it’s hard to see them resorting back to that all of a sudden.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do since we drafted him,” Bill Belichick said back in November when asked about keeping Onwenu at guard. “We didn’t really ever anticipate playing him at tackle and then we got into a bind and put him out there and he played pretty good. I think he’s built to play guard, he’s comfortable playing guard, he’s got a really good skillset in there. That’s where we’d like to play him, for sure.”
@Skywal1Thaddeus Who are the Pats more likely to trade for, Jerry Jeudy, Brandin Cooks, or Deandre Hopkins? And how much would you give up for that person?
Cooks would be the easy choice as he is the only one basically guaranteed to get moved this offseason, but I’ll still go with Jeudy.
Speaking at the Combine earlier this week, Broncos’ GM George Paton didn't necessarily bang the table in confirming Jeudy will be back with his fifth-year option picked up — at least not to the level that Cincinnati did with Tee Higgins and Los Angeles did with Keenan Allen.
“Really happy with how Jerry finished off the season. Especially the last couple games,” Paton said. “We make those [contract] decisions in May, right near the draft we’ll make that decision. But really happy with where Jerry is at.”
He’s the best fit for this offense out of potential veterans available and it seems like Denver might be willing to let another team make the decision on his fifth-year option.
@zttack317 How fast can you run a 40?
I’m not sure, and not sure if I want to know. As long as a Chris Jones situation — or an injury — does not happen while I run it would be considered a win.
That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!