INDIANAPOLIS – Flipping back through the pages of the reporter’s notebook to recap the top things that were discovered at the NFL combine from a Patriots perspective:
1. You can leave New England, but that part of your career will be kept alive in future years by reporters from the region. The classic scene was after former Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli held his press conference with reporters. As usually happens, the coach or executive steps away from the podium, moves to the side of the room, and answers some more questions from reporters. Pioli was surrounded by New England reporters and most of the questions directed to him were Patriots-based. At one point, he clearly looked frustrated. Does anyone want to talk about the Chiefs?
2. This is about the interviews and physicals. That’s really what teams like the Patriots are looking for, especially for the juniors who entered the draft. As part of the scouting process during the year, juniors are off limits, so this was the first chance for teams to meet with them. Because players are so well trained for the interviews, then the challenge becomes assessing how “real” the player actually is in those interviews.
3. Just because the Patriots have a need for an outside linebacker doesn’t mean they’re going there in the first round. NFL executives and analysts consistently said that the group of “conversion types” – defensive ends who would project to outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense – is as deep as ever. Teams can find a quality player at that spot in the second or third round. The Patriots would probably prefer that because drafting a “conversion type” comes with more risk as the team is projecting the player to a new position. Taking that risk out of the first round is a safer play.
4. The combine isn’t everything. The Patriots drafted four players who weren’t invited to last year’s combine and two of them might be their best selections – offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer (second round) and receiver Julian Edelman (seventh round). So while the team figured to make solid progress in its preparations at the combine, this remains only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
5. Talks continue between the Patriots and Vince Wilfork. A deal can’t be struck if the sides aren’t talking, and Patriots senior adviser Floyd Reese was in town to continue that process with Wilfork’s representatives. It’s been a lengthy process, which was highlighted by the quick deal the Steelers and nose tackle Casey Hampton struck.