INDIANAPOLIS -- Picked-up pieces of information, with a Patriots twist, from the first day of the NFL combine:
Baalke and Belichick. With a chance to get to know more about San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, the question was asked about some of the influences on his career. Baalke reflected on coming up through the ranks with the Jets (1998-2000), under personnel chief Dick Haley, and how he also learned from the coaches on that staff -- Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and others. I asked what specifically Baalke took from his time with Belichick. "More than anything, just his work ethic and his intelligence, his understanding of the game -- every facet of the game and what it takes to play the game," he answered.
Watkins the next Kaczur? One of the interesting personal tales from prospects comes from Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins, a projected early-round selection. His story is similar to Nick Kaczur's when Kaczur was coming out of the draft. Both are from Canada, grew up as hockey fans, and entered the draft at the age of 26. Kaczur had worked constuction prior to enrolling at Toledo, while Watkins worked four years as a firefighter. Watkins said he had heard of Kaczur, but the two don't know each other personally. If the Patriots are looking for a guard early in the draft, the hard-nosed Watkins is a player to keep on the radar.
More on the 3-4 outside linebackers. Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert echoed what Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said about the outside linebacker position (for 3-4 defenses) in this year's draft. "There's more available to us than has been in the past," he said. "I think it's a pretty good group." That is arguably the Patriots' top need.