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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Apr 16 - 02:00 PM | Thu Apr 18 - 11:55 AM

10 Patriots Things to Watch at 2024 Scouting Combine

Here’s what to watch for from a Patriots perspective as the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off in Indianapolis this week.

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The 2024 NFL Scouting Combine arrives this week in Indianapolis, as the top college prospects will have their chance to meet with teams and be put under the microscope both in interviews and during extensive physical testing. It's one of the highlights of the offseason as the NFL world descends upon Indy looking for the right pieces to put their team in contention.

The Patriots have their highest draft pick since 1993 when they selected Drew Bledsoe first overall and immediately changed the direction of the franchise. They'll be hoping for a similar return from the third overall slot this year, but also need to make the most of their remaining selections as new head coach Jerod Mayo and Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf look to put their stamp on the rebuild.

Here's what to watch for from a Patriots perspective as things get kicked off on Tuesday and run all the way through Saturday night, when the most intriguing position groups – quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs – will all hold their on-field workouts.

The Freaks

It's an annual rite of passage in the spring, when a handful of underrated players perform through the roof during athletic testing, instantly making them the darlings of the Combine, while launching them up draft boards. However, it's important to remember that the best evaluations are those that come off of game film, not 40-yard-dash time or bench press numbers. Still, it's pretty fun to see the heights of athletic achievement that some of these players will show. Even if the blazing speed, explosiveness or brute strength doesn't translate to the NFL game field, it's a reminder of how elite even average football players can actually be.

Injury Assessments

This is a huge week for players coming off significant injuries as NFL teams will have a chance to let independent doctors get a full evaluation of their health status. Perhaps no player will be under more pressure than Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who battled a litany of injuries during his career, including tearing the same ACL twice. Penix had an outstanding national semifinal, but fell short in the finals. He has intangibles to go with a live-wire arm that tore apart opposing defenses this past season. Penix could be a legitimate consideration for the Patriots, perhaps as early as the late first round. His injury evaluation in Indy will go a long way toward determining if Penix lasts that long, or even later.

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Tackles, Tackles, Everywhere

The Patriots have glaring needs at the tackle position so it's good news that this year's class features plenty of promising prospects. In some recent mock drafts, as many as nine tackles are taken in the first round which sets up an interesting dynamic for the Combine. These are mostly monstrous men, whose measurements from Indy should only add to their positional intrigue. But it's the athletic testing that could generate the most buzz, as teams in search of tackles with quick feet who can get out into space will be heavily on the lookout. New England's question will remain the same, take a tackle with their first pick or watch the parade go by at the position and take what's left over on Day 2 or later. The offensive line goes last at the Combine so there won't be as much buzz for them, but their results from the week could have as big an impact on the overall draft as any.

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Another Strong Wide Receiver Class

Yet again there are plenty of wide receivers that have intriguing outlooks as this class not only possesses three elite top-of-draft options, but solid depth into Day 2. Marvin Harrison, Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze all have superstar potential and the Patriots could have their pick of any one of them at third overall. That trio is simply too good not to at least warrant some consideration, even if many view wide receiver as one of the last pieces of the championship puzzle. But assuming the Patriots stick with tackle or quarterback at the top, it puts a bigger spotlight on some of the remaining receivers who could still make an impact for New England's remade offense. Malachi Corley, Roman Wilson, Ja'Lynn Polk, Ladd McConkey and Xavier Leggette are just a few good players that could fit in. Their performances in Indy will help sort this group.

Pictured are North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5).

The Quarterbacks

All eyes will be on the quarterbacks as always and the NFL has done a good job to move them to later in the week when fans can attend and/or view their Saturday workouts. Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels are the obvious top three and the Patriots should have a chance for at least one of them if they so choose. Later options like Bo Nix, J.J. McCarthy and Senior Bowl standout Spencer Rattler could also warrant consideration. However, it's behind the scenes that the real work will be done on the quarterbacks, as in-person interviews are more impactful at this point than any testing numbers produced in Indy, especially when the top prospects are unlikely to throw.

Eye on the Defensive Front

The Patriots released Lawrence Guy this week, and while they have some depth in-house to offset that move, it highlights the short-term nature of the defensive front's contracts. Remaining 2023 starters Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise and Christian Barmore are all entering the final years of their deals. So, as much as the Patriots need to remake their offense, the defense can't be totally ignored as major needs are coming down the pike. T'Vondre Sweat will tip the scales in Indy, likely weighing close to 360 pounds, while Missouri's Darius Robinson is coming off a strong Senior Bowl that likely elevated him into first-round territory. Justin Eboigbe, Jordan Jefferson and Fabien Lovett are some later options that could be developed in 2024 with 2025 in mind. It's hard to truly bang the table for defense before the third round though considering how many holes the Pats have on offense.

Defensive Back a Need?

The Patriots hit gold last year with Christian Gonzalez and with Jonathan Jones still playing at a high level, the top outside cornerback spots are pretty well set. But the team could use some depth on the outside while also considering what approach to take in the slot. Myles Bryant is a free agent who could return, while Marcus Jones is coming off an injury-shortened second season. There are some promising players likely to be in the mix, like Isaiah Bolden and ERFA Alex Austin, but you can never have too many corners in this league. North Andover native and Michigan alum Mike Sainristil could be a solid slot fit, while Kris Abrams-Draine, Ennis Rakestraw and Max Melton are a few mid-round options for the outside that could be plugged into the pipeline.

A  view of Lucas Oil Stadium during the Scouting Combine.

Wolf Takes the Podium

Perhaps the biggest change this year from a Patriots perspective is that current Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf is scheduled to take the podium on Tuesday to meet with the media. In the past, the Patriots did not have a representative speaking at the Combine. Recent reports have indicated that Wolf has been heavily involved with the hiring of Jerod Mayo's coaching staff as it seems that Wolf could essentially be serving in the General Manager role, a role he's well prepared for and one he's been long groomed for. Wolf should provide some interesting insight into the team's approach to Free Agency and the Draft, while providing a glimpse into how the Patriots team-building approach could be evolving under the new regime.

What's the Scuttlebutt?

Some of the most interesting things to come out of Indianapolis don't even happen with any of the college prospects. No, it's the late night chats at places like St. Elmo's Steakhouse where many deals or outlines of deals are put into place. The rumor mill will be running overtime as reporters mingle with NFL execs and find out the secret scoops that could shape the 2024 offseason.

Patriots Coverage Expands

Lastly, Patriots.com's coverage will again expand this season, with daily video recaps and podcasts featuring some of the national draft pundits who have an excellent feel for how things could shake out in late April. Along with written reviews of the most important workouts and features on notable local prospects, we'll have the Combine covered from start to finish. Stay tuned throughout the week as we bring you the very best Combine Patriots coverage around!

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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