Bill Belichick took in the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine with some of his closest associates.
With so many agents, coaches, general managers and other NFL power brokers in Indianapolis, the combine is a place where things get set in motion. As fun as the 40-yard dash is to watch, the "underground" activity at the combine is often just as exciting.
I've met with all 32 teams here at the combine. It's been a busy weekend for me in Indy!— Drew Rosenhaus (@RosenhausSports) February 23, 2014
Here are the latest rumblings and rumors to come out of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
It is no secret that the New England Patriots currently have a big hole to fill at the tight end position. Their scouts in attendance—including Bill Belichick and Michael Lombardi—got a look at all the top prospects at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Some certainly fared better than others.
Of the four tight ends who have admitted to meeting with the Patriots—Austin Seferian-Jenkins, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Jace Amaro and Troy Niklas—only one has had an overly impressive combine.
While Seferian-Jenkins and Niklas were limited by nagging injuries, Amaro failed to impress with his athleticism and didn't do a great job catching the ball.
Fiedorowicz showed off some impressive times for an inline tight end and was more than solid in receiving drills. Doug Kyed from NESN.com concurred:
[Fiedorowicz] was known as one of the best blockers in the class. He helped himself with an above average 4.76-second 40-yard dash (because he was expected to run slower). He led his position with a 7.10 three-cone and 4.26 short shuttle.
The Texas Tech tight end has little blocking experience and couldn’t post a 4.6-second 40-yard dash. Amaro was a fringe first-rounder before the combine and might have seen his way out of Day 1 after struggling with drops. He finished top five in the short shuttle with a 4.30, but his 7.42 three-cone was below average.
A lot can occur between the combine and the NFL draft, but it looks like the Patriots will have a lot of options at tight end with their first couple picks.
With Damon Huard, Brian Hoyer and Matt Cassel having found success—or some version thereof—elsewhere in the NFL, it is tough to say that the New England Patriots can't develop NFL-quality quarterbacks, even if they don't find much playing time while on the Patriots.
While Huard and Hoyer were let go without compensation, current backup Ryan Mallett could fetch the same price that the Patriots received for Cassell according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
One team that could be in the market for a quarterback is the Houston Texans, headed by former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. If Houston offers up the 33rd pick in the draft, it is doubtful the Patriots would be able to say no.
If Ryan Mallett does get traded this offseason, the New England Patriots will need to draft a young quarterback to develop. Alabama's A.J. McCarron might fit the bill.
While McCarron doesn't impress throwing 40 yards down the field, his accuracy and football intelligence would translate well to an offense led by Josh McDaniels.
While at the combine, McCarron mentioned the Patriots as a spot where he would like to land. Erik Frenz from The Boston Globe had more from Indianapolis:
He may not get a chance to start right away, with Brady still playing at a high level, but that would allowo him time to develop and learn the Patriots' offense. Regardless, McCarron is still excited about the possibility of heading to New England and learning from the two-time NFL MVP and three-time Super Bowl champion.
Per Frenz, McCarron said, "I love the Patriots organization. If I had the chance to go there and sit behind Brady for however long and learn from one of the best to ever play the game, that would be an awesome experience."
With Nick Saban—a former colleague of Bill Belichick—as his former head coach at Alabama, expect the Patriots to know exactly what they're getting if they choose to pick McCarron this May. That said, don't expect him to be around on day three of the draft.
I don't agree with taking McCarron in the first, but he's going in the first. He's >>Ponder, Weeden, Locker as prospects. Market dictates it— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) February 23, 2014
One set of talks at the combine that could have a domino effect across the league is between the New England Patriots and free-agent cornerback Aqib Talib. Jeff Howe from the Boston Herald had the scoop:
The Patriots are set to meet with Aqib Talib here in Indianapolis as the two sides work toward a contract, according to a source. Talib is set to hit free agency March 11, but the Patriots have exclusive signing power until then.
Talib might be the top cornerback on the open market, so the Patriots might prefer to lock him up before it gets to that point. Last year, he re-signed a one-year contract that was ultimately worth $5.5 million, though it's unclear what his value might be this offseason.
While choosing not to re-sign Talib wouldn't box the Patriots into adding a corner in free agency or through the draft—Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard showed starting corner talent—his loss would certainly be felt.
After losing Talib to injury in each of the last two AFC Championship games, the Patriots defense couldn't stand the onslaught. New England might not fare much better over a 16-game season unless it re-signs Talib or adds a significant player via the draft or free agency.
Ever since Greg Schiano was fired from his head coach position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there has been speculation that he would join his friend Bill Belichick on the New England Patriots coaching staff. Despite pictures seen from the combine that would suggest otherwise, that might not be the case. Field Yates from ESPNBoston.com elaborates:
Our understanding of the situation is this: Schiano, who will continue to be paid by the Buccaneers for three more seasons, has a son who will graduate high school in 2015.
Rather than uprooting his family entering his son's final year in high school, Schiano's current plan is to stay in Tampa Bay and not officially work in the NFL this season.
Now, does that mean Schiano won't be close to the game? Likely, no. He's a trusted voice for Belichick, as was evidenced by the appearance in Indianapolis.
Much like Belichick stayed in contact with Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was out of football, he can continue to do so with Schiano.
The Patriots do have an open position at linebackers coach—vacated by Pepper Johnson—that Schiano would be a good fit for. If he does want to coach this year, the Patriots would be wise to add a coach that has multiple years of experience working with many of the Patriots defenders—Steve Beauharnais, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon.