The NFL Combine is officially underway, and the New England Patriots should have their eyes on plenty of prospects. The Patriots have a good roster as is, but they need to get some young difference-makers to continue their two-decade run of dominance. The NFL Combine isn’t the be-all, end-all when it comes to scouting, but it’s a large part of the process. Bill Belichick is notorious for zigging while everyone else zags, so nobody knows exactly what he’ll do in the draft. That said, these players should be on New England’s radar.
New England Patriots NFL Combine Prospects to Watch
The Patriots don’t stand much of a realistic chance at landing Jerry Jeudy or Ceedee Lamb, but all eyes should be on Henry Ruggs. While not quite as good as Jeudy, Ruggs possesses game-breaking speed and, as discussed in our draft profile, is more than just a one-trick pony. Ruggs’ draft stock appears to be climbing, so Patriots fans should be rooting for a poor combine. Ruggs is supposedly capable of running a 4.24 40-yard dash, and if he hits that mark, he probably won’t be on the board at pick 23. However, if he lands in the 4.30 range, New England could stand a chance at grabbing him.
If the Patriots cannot get Ruggs, Laviska Shenault and Tee Higgins could be nice consolation prices. Most NFL Draft analysts have these two as the fourth and fifth-best receivers in the class, in some order. Shenault has a bit of an injury history, so he needs a strong combine to justify the first-round pick. Higgins, meanwhile, specializes at overpowering defensive backs and winning contested catches. This skillset doesn’t always translate to the NFL, but he could reduce some worry if he tests well at the Combine.
The offensive tackle class is a top-heavy group. Pro Football Focus has four tackles in their top 16, but only two players from 17 to 77. With that in mind, the Patriots should probably wait until the third round to address their need for offensive tackle depth. Guys like Lucas Niang, Jack Driscoll, and Matt Peart are all similar prospects and could end up in New England in a few months.
Guard and center, meanwhile, appear to be more friendly for the Patriots. While there aren’t too many prospects worth taking with their first-round pick, New England could easily trade back into the second round and select guys like Netane Muti or Jonah Jackson. Joe Thuney is probably leaving town, and the Patriots should draft another guard in case Hjalte Froholdt isn’t ready to be a starter. On a similar note, the Patriots could also choose to take a center like Tyler Biadasz in the second or Nick Harris in the third if David Andrews won’t be ready for 2020.
Even if Devin McCourty returns to New England in free agency, the Patriots should think about getting younger at safety. The 2020 NFL Draft doesn’t have any elite safety prospects, so everyone is on the table for the Patriots. Grant Delpit looked like a sure-fire prospect in 2018 but suffered a relatively underwhelming 2019 campaign. The LSU product has ideal range for the position but struggled with tackling. If Roseman and company decide that Delpit’s tackling issues were due to a high-ankle sprain, then he could end up being a steal at 23.
If, however, they feel that Delpit’s 2019 is more reflective of who he is moving forward, the Patriots could go with the safer pick in Xavier McKinney. Bill Belichick loves versatility, and the Alabama product has the ability to play both safety and slot cornerback. While he may not have an elite ceiling, he can do a little bit of everything at a solid level.
- Tight ends Cole Kmet, Thaddeus Moss, Hunter Bryant
- Quarterbacks Jake Fromm, Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts
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