Andy and I are back from the Combine and we put together a list of 10 takeaways from the extended weekend in Indianapolis:
1 – Voices in Bill's head – With Mike Lombardi officially on board the Patriots organization and joining the team at the Combine, and former Bucs coach Greg Schiano was in the New England box for workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, it appears that Bill Belichick has a couple trusted advisors added in some form or fashion to the pre-draft process this year. It could bring a bit more experience to Belichick's side than we've seen in the days since Scott Pioli left town.
2 – Deep thoughts – No matter who you ask, it sounds like 2014 is the deepest draft we've seen in years. Talented Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said that depth is apparent at every position.
3 – Times, they are a changing – It's time for NFL Network to do something about the unofficial 40 times it broadcasts and the official times that trickle in later. The latter number is often slower by as much as a tenth of a second or more. So kids finish, get a boost out of a nice time and then watch that time disappear. Either get the official time out quicker or wait. Not fair to the kids or the audience.
4 – Safety size – The Patriots need a big, athletic safety. There are some big, athletic safeties in this draft. From hard-hitters to rangy playmakers I think there are some options to solidify the spot next to Devin McCourty. While I still have more film work to do, I'm intrigued by a couple guys named Deone/Dion, Washington State's Deone Bucannon and USC's Dion Bailey.
5 – Big targets– Similarly, I think there is plenty of talent on hand at tight end in this draft class, a position of clear need for New England. Though he has a foot fracture (didn't bother the Patriots with Josh Boyce) I'm very interested in Washington'sAustin Seferian-Jenkins, and the injury might make him a viable option. There are also some interesting big receivers for the outside that New England might consider early – FSU'sKelvin Benjamin/Clemson'sMartavis Bryant– or later – Rutgers'Brandon Coleman**.
6 – Polished passers – We didn't get to see many of the quarterbacks throw in Indy but they all talked – and they were all quite impressive in doing so. Johnny Manziel has a reputation as being brash and undisciplined but you'd never know from listening to him. Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles also came across well as guys you wouldn't mind being the face of your franchise – assuming they can play, of course.
7 – Lots of Logan love – In years past a lot of the smaller receivers liked to compare themselves to Wes Welker. This year saw several offensive linemen talk about modeling themselves after Logan Mankins. UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo, Nevada's Joel Bitonio and Penn State's John Urschel all mentioned Mankins as being the guy they wanted to play like.
8 – Confident corners – Cornerbacks are often a confident lot but it was striking to hear virtually all of them declare themselves "the best man-press corner in the draft" or some such equivalent. Ask any cover man which player they likened their game to and to man it wasRichard Sherman, Darrelle Revis or Patrick Peterson.
9 – Running on empty** – After seeing no running backs get drafted in the first round in 2013 there was a lot of questions asked to personnel people about the position this year. It seems there a legitimate chance no runners hear their names called Thursday night once again.
10 – He's the Sam – Michael Sam handled his enormous press conference about as well as could be expected. Several times he mentioned his desire to talk about football but he never got flustered as the questions about his sexuality and reaction to it came his way. His workout was less-than-impressive, though, so it will be interesting to see where he winds up.