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

Analysis: Takeaways from Quarterback, Wide Receiver, and Running Back Workouts at the NFL Combine 

With the quarterbacks and wide receivers taking center stage, who caught the eye from a Patriots perspective at the combine on Saturday?

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) and Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy (1).
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) and Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy (1).

Indianapolis, Ind. – The number one conversation around Indianapolis this week was how the league will stack the top of the quarterback class.

The two main conversations were about who will be the second overall pick to Washington between Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels, leaving the other quarterback for the Patriots, and how high Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy would go in the first round. Yes, the first round.

With the top three quarterbacks likely locked into the first three picks, Daniels, Maye, and Caleb Williams opted out of participating in drills at the combine. That means Saturday's workout was all about McCarthy, along with Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who measured in with excellent length and huge hands (10.5") while getting a clean bill of health from teams, which was absolutely huge for his stock. 

Admittedly, I haven't been the biggest McCarthy supporter through the pre-draft process. Teams seem to be attracted to how safe he is as a prospect. The Michigan product has zero medical red flags, is generally accurate with decent arm talent, has the mobility to extend plays to create late in the down, and wins games. My concerns pertain to processing speed, decision-making, and poor footwork, leading to overthrows and a lack of touch on McCarthy's passes. 

With that said, scouts were expecting McCarthy to be impressive throwing the football inside Lucas Oil Stadium. At Michigan, they didn't ask McCarthy to do much, with only 287 drop-backs in the 2023 championship season. Although it's against air, teams wanted to see McCarthy open it up a little bit to see if there's more under the surface. 

My bottom line with McCarthy is this: if you're a team with a playoff-caliber roster that feels it can compete with a Brock Purdy, Jared Goff, or Baker Mayfield-level quarterback, then McCarthy can be that. However, if you need a quarterback to change the fortunes of your franchise as the Patriots do, then McCarthy isn't that, and the league sees the success of the 49ers, Lions, and Bucs and thinks, why not us? 

New England's quarterback dilemma starts and ends with Daniels and Maye. From this perspective, McCarthy only becomes a serious consideration in a trade down scenario where the Pats take a non-quarterback in the first round and then target McCarthy later, with the same going for Penix, who also helped his stock this week.

The showstoppers were the wide receivers, though. This class has garnered more buzz than any position group in the draft, and they didn't disappoint. In particular, Texas wideouts Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell stole the show. Worthy broke John Ross's combine record with a 4.21-second 40-yard dash, while Mitchell ran an outstanding 4.34-second 40-yard dash at 6-2, 205 pounds. Both Longhorns are the complete package of film, production, and athletic profiles.

Here are my top takeaways from Saturday's workouts with a lengthy list of standout wide receivers for the Patriots in this excellent class:

Quarterbacks

J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

McCarthy threw the ball during workouts exactly the same way he does on film. There are some pretty throws, but I'm still seeing a passer who struggles to control the ball on drive throws because he's putting too much on it, leading to the ball sailing on him over the receivers head. He also struggled a bit with his consistency on go routes. I just do not see a very accurate passer. If he proves me wrong, I'll be the first to admit it.

Michael Penix, Jr., Washington

The real win for Penix was that teams believe his injury history is behind him, and there aren't many concerns about his health moving forward. During interviews, scouts were also impressed with Penix, as he's touted as a high-character guy and natural leader. On the field, as it always does, the ball exploded out of Penix's hand with good zip. He was the most impressive thrower in these drills. We should discuss him as an option for the Patriots at No. 34.

Bo Nix, Oregon

Nix is the accurate game manager who will be available in the second round, which is the proper time to take that skill set. Nix lacks arm strength but was consistent with his accuracy, which is why the pro comparison you hear the most with him is Alex Smith. Like McCarthy, the Pats should aim higher than Nix, but he could work for the right team.

Joe Milton, Tennessee

Should I quit Joe Milton? Probably. But it wouldn't be the combine if we didn't get jazzed up for a big-armed quarterback throwing the ball 70 yards against air. There aren't many human beings with his measurables and arm strength.

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy (1).
Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy (1).

Wide Receivers

Xavier Worthy, Texas

4.21!!! Worthy's record-breaking speed is all over his film on vertical routes, crossers, and catch-and-run opportunities. He might be on the lighter side at 165 pounds, but he's fast, fast. I wouldn't be upset at all if he's the Patriots second-round pick, but he might not last that long.

Adonai Mitchell, Texas

The pipe dream is over. Mitchell solidified his stock as a first-round prospect with a tremendous all-around workout highlighted by a 4.34-second 40-yard dash. It seems unlikely that Mitchell will still be on the board for the Patriots at No. 34.

Keon Coleman, Florida State

The play speed vs. track speed debate has already begun with Coleman after posting a subpar 4.61-second 40-yard dash. Although he shows good explosiveness after the catch, Coleman's 40 time is not surprising based on how he moves before the catch. He's a plodding route-runner on film who struggles to create separation, winning on contested catches and the vertical route tree. Coleman's field work, particularly his reps through the gauntlet, was impressive. Still, it's hard to stomach the Patriots taking Coleman when they've whiffed on his exact profile in the past – way too many N'Keal Harry vibes.

Xavier Legette, South Carolina

Legette is at the top of my rewatch list after posting a 9.92 RAS with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash. On film and at the Senior Bowl, Legette was an unrefined downfield route runner who is a linear athlete. He's an explosive straight-line mover, which showed in his 40-yard dash and explosiveness scores, but there isn't much separation at the top of the route. At 221 pounds, Legette struggles to sink and cut because he has a top-heavy build, but there's no doubt he's an explosive athlete who can vertically and horizontally stretch the defense while creating yards after the catch – a potential Patriots target on day two.

Roman Wilson, Michigan

Wilson remains one of "my guys" in this receiver class by checking all the necessary boxes with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash. The Michigan product is a highly efficient route-runner with sudden breaks, good salesmanship, and the necessary burst to create separation – sign me up.

Ladd McConkey, Georgia

Smooth, explosive, and fast: there isn't much else to say about McConkey. My only concern is how his 186-pound frame will hold up in the NFL after dealing with injuries in college. It's a little scary to take him at the top of the second round, but McConkey's athletic profile and film are reminiscent of Saints wideout Chris Olave. He looked so natural out there.

Ricky Pearsall, Florida

Like the two names mentioned above on this list, Pearsall has been checking boxes since the Senior Bowl: a route-running technician with a 9.65 relative athletic score, great explosiveness, and timed speed (4.41s). Pearsall is a solid day-two option for the Patriots.

Tez Walker, North Carolina

After a disappointing Senior Bowl week, I'm warming back up to the idea of the Patriots pairing Walker with his college quarterback, Drake Maye. Walker is a vertical threat who maintained that status with a 4.36-second 40-yard dash. He'll need to become more deceptive on his vertical stems to create intermediate separation, and his drops/catch point strength is a legit concern. Still, it would give Maye a familiar big-play outside receiver.

Jalen McMillan, Washington

The pro comparison for McMillan is easy: he's Jakobi Meyers with more burst. McMillan tested as an explosive athlete with great jumps and a 4.45-second 40-yard dash. He's got a well-rounded profile of film and athleticism (9.43 RAS) to be a solid day-two pick.

Jermaine Burton, Alabama

Burton is on my post-combine watch list after posting a 9.34 relative athletic score with a 4.46-second 40-yard dash. The Alabama product shows good physicality throughout the route to win at the catch point while bringing plenty of speed to be a more productive pro than he was a college player for the Crimson Tide.

Bub Means, Pittsburgh

Another player on my post-combine watch list after posting a 9.74 RAS with a 4.43-second 40-yard dash. Means checks a lot of boxes from an athletic profile standpoint for an Eliot Wolf receiver based on the Packers mold.

Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright (0).
Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright (0).

Running Backs

Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

Wright has a chance to fall in among the first cluster of running backs taken on day two after posting a 9.75 out of 10 relative athletic score with a 4.44-second 40-yard dash. Wright's explosiveness translated nicely from the film to the athletic testing, with smooth lateral cuts through drills during field work. Wright was more of a runner than a pass-catcher in college, but his athletic profile suggests he can grow into a more complete back.

Marshawn Lloyd, USC

Although the idea of taking a running back in the first three rounds makes me sick, Lloyd is a rare exception of a back that I have an affinity for in this draft. Lloyd tested as an above-average athlete with a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, which was better than expected for a 220-pound back. He has good explosiveness, vision, and excellent receiving skills. In Mobile, his receiving talent was outstanding in practices, flashing the ability to create vertical separation on wheel routes out of the backfield with impressive ball skills. Lloyd is a classic linear explosiveness running back who can do it all – a very fun player who should go in the third round.

Dylan Laube, UNH

Laube wasn't going to be a big-time tester at the combine with a modest 4.54-second 40-yard dash and 7.98 relative athletic score. But his field work was smooth, especially in pass-catching drills, where teams asked him to work out as a wide receiver. Laube has good initial burst, a feel for working in space out of spread formations, and the tools to be a dynamic receiving back. There's a world where Laube's modest athletic profile helps the Patriots target him on day three of the draft.

Isaac Guerendo, Louisville

I'm not overly familiar with Guerendo's film. However, when you test as one of the best size-adjusted athletes in a decade, you must make the list. Guerendo is a 221-pound back who ran a 4.33 40-yard dash as the fastest RB in this year's class. He also had elite explosiveness scores. The Louisville product was a projected late day-three pick, but his combine likely pushes him into the higher rounds on day three.

Bucky Irving, Oregon

There's an adage that scouts secretly hope their guys in the draft test poorly, so they'll be available later in the draft – trust the tape to find value. Irving tested extremely poorly with poor size, explosiveness, and average speed (4.56s 40-yard dash). However, he runs with excellent pad level, contact balance, and lateral agility to find daylight through the line of scrimmage. Irving also adds value as a pass-catcher, projecting to the next level as a change-of-pace back. Assuming his combine testing pushes him into day three, Irving could be a steal despite a disappointing showing in Indy.

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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