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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: TCU CB Jason Verrett

04.13.14 at 9:36 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Jason Verrett (AP)

Jason Verrett performed well at the NFL combine before having surgery on his shoulder. (AP)

JASON VERRETT

Position: Cornerback

School: TCU

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 189 pounds

Achievements: 2013 first-team All-American (Walter Camp, Fox Sports), second-team All-American (Associated Press, SI.com, FWAA, USA Today), co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (coaches), ranked by ESPN.com as the top player in the Big 12, Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, Lott IMPACT Trophy quarterfinalist

What he brings: Analysts agree that Verrett has strong instincts and quick reaction skills that help with his ball skills. They do point out, though, that his frame is smaller than the typical player at his position.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-3

Notes: Due to academic struggles, Verrett started out his college career at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College. He earned a starting position as soon as he arrived at TCU, eventually earning first-team All-American honors from SI.com during his junior season. … Verrett had surgery in late March after he suffered a torn labrum at the beginning of the 2013 season.

Related articles:

CBSSports.com: 2014 NFL combine: Five takeaways from Sunday

Dallas News: Breakdown: TCU CB Jason Verrett’s combine performance

NFL.com: Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett stand out on combine’s final day

Video: Here’s a video highlighting Verrett’s career at TCU.

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Sunday NFL Notes: For Patriots, it’s a roster-building tradition unlike any other

04.13.14 at 12:48 am ET
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Veteran Will Smith could still join the Patriots. (AP)

Veteran Will Smith could still join the Patriots. (AP)

1. Roughly one month into free agency, the Patriots are still reportedly in the mix for veteran defensive end Will Smith. Cut loose in the great New Orleans salary purge of 2014, the 32-year-old veteran isn’€™t the overwhelming defensive presence he used to be — he’€™s coming off a torn ACL that sidelined him for the bulk of the 2013 season. But with 67.5 career sacks, he still has an impressive resume, and if he’€™s healthy, he could be the latest in a long line of veteran defensive linemen who have found their way to Foxboro at the end of their careers in hopes of finding some gold at the end of the rainbow. Over the last decade-plus, the Patriots have made an offseason habit of identifying a veteran defensive linemen and hoping to squeeze another year or two out them at the end of their careers. In the past, that’€™s a group that’€™s included Keith Traylor, Ted Washington and Anthony Pleasant, and over the last five years, Tommy Kelly (2013), Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Mark Anderson and Shaun Ellis (2011), Gerard Warren (2010) and Derrick Burgess (2009) have all been veteran additions to the defensive line. As for Smith, he presents himself as an intriguing prospect for New England on a number of levels, including the fact that he passes the Rosevelt Colvin test — Bill Belichick has been effusive of his praise of Smith in the past with relatively no provocation. “€œI think Will Smith could fit any defense,”€ Belichick said of Smith in 2009 when asked about what he thought about Smith coming out of college. “€œI can’€™t imagine there being a defense that he wouldn’€™t be able to help. He’€™s certainly a guy that we had a lot of interest in. (He’€™s) a big guy that can run, rush the passer, pursue well, strong play at the point of attack, athletic, plays on his feet. He’€™s got a good group of skills. (He) plays hard. He’€™s been productive. I think he’€™s been about the player, where he was drafted, and what people thought he would be, including us.”

2. By this time last offseason, tight end Rob Gronkowski had undergone three surgeries on his left forearm in the span of five months — two in the immediate aftermath of breaks in November and January and another to clear up an infection that had developed in the wake of the surgery. (Eventually, he would undergo another surgery in May on the arm, as well as a procedure on his back in the spring.) However, this offseason had been much better for the big fella — there’€™s only been rehab from one injury, a season-ending knee injury he suffered in a Week 14 win against the Browns. That surgery took place Jan. 9, and while we’€™ve heard from Gronk (and seen him) occasionally over the course of the offseason, our pal Albert Breer of NFL Media reported Friday that Gronkowski is “€œright where he should be”€ when it comes to his rehab, which means he’€™ll start running soon. It remains to be seen where that would put him when it comes to a timetable for a return to action, but would almost certainly rule him out when it comes to the offseason conditioning program this spring. Regardless, he’s certainly in a better spot than he was at this time last year, which should be good news for Patriots fans.

3. With the release of the 2014 NFL preseason schedule this past week, several folks asked about the state of the 2014 regular season schedule. While some notable info has already been unveiled — the defending champion Seahawks will open at home on Sept. 4, while the dates and teams for the three International games have also been revealed — there is no firm date yet for the announcement of the regular-season slate. By way of comparison, here’€™s a look at the dates of the schedule announcements for the last four years.

2013: Thursday, April 18
2012: Tuesday, April 17
2011: Tuesday, April 19
2010: Tuesday, April 20

One thing that could ultimately push the schedule release back is the fact that the league has always been mindful of doling out offseason news on a steady basis, and with the fact that the draft has been pushed back from mid April to early May this year, the league could be interested in drawing out the news cycle just so to keep the steady stream flowing from the league offices. From this viewpoint, our guess is that we’€™ll see it released some time in the next two weeks — either April 22 or April 24, or April 29 or May 1.

4. There are several teams in this year’€™s draft that have a colossal decision to make when it comes to whether or not they should take a chance on one of the several quarterbacks who will be available, and it’€™s not a stretch to say that the success of the franchise for the next decade can depend on which signal caller a team settles on. The correlation between successful, steady and consistent quarterback play and the success of a franchise is an easy one to make, but it was really hammered home this week when a graphic popped up on Reddit that showed the total number of starting quarterbacks each team had since 1999 through last year. The Patriots topped the list with three different starters (Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Matt Cassel), while the Colts, Giants and Packers were all second with five different starters. In addition, the Chargers (seven) and Steelers and Saints (eight each) rounded out the list of the top seven teams. That group accounts for 10 of the 15 Super Bowl titles in that stretch. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the bottom five teams were the Vikings (16), Raiders and Bears (17), Dolphins (18) and Browns (20). Among that group, there are exactly 13 playoff wins between them since 1999, with Minnesota and Oakland accounting for four each.

5. While the Patriots could end up picking up a Florida product or two in this year’€™s draft (defensive lineman Dominique Easley is a name that has come up time and again when it comes to potential Patriots), at least for now, they have moved on from the Gainesville-to-Foxboro pipeline. However, it’€™s clear the relationship between Belichick and former Florida coach Urban Meyer still resonates. Meyer, who is set to enter his third year in charge at Ohio State, was profiled this week by SI.com, and passed on a few things in relation to Belichick and his coaching style we found interesting. First, Meyer references “€œThe Process,”€ a behavioral culture passed down from Belichick to friends Meyer and Nick Saban. In addition, Meyer references a quote from Belichick when it comes to the practical nature of defense. “€œMeyer worries his coaches committed too many resources to stopping the run and not enough to stopping the pass,”€ writes Andy Staples of SI.com. “€œMeyer recalled a conversation with New England Patriots coach Belichick in which Belichick said he was willing to give up a little in the run game if it meant being more sound in the pass game.”€ Later, Meyer provides some of Belichick’€™s insight when it comes to hiring coaches, specifically as it relates to Meyer’€™s decision to hire Chris Ash away from Arkansas to coordinate the Buckeyes’€™ pass defense. “To hire Ash — who worked for Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and Arkansas — Meyer had to extend a branch into another coaching tree. In his early years as a head coach, Meyer tried to hire mostly coaches who, like him, had come from the Lou Holtz, Bob Davie or Earle Bruce trees. This is another trait Meyer picked up from Belichick. ‘€˜When coaches leave, you don’€™t want to adapt to their culture,’€™ Meyer said. ‘€˜They have to adapt to yours. That’€™s why (Belichick) is very particular about who he invites into the family.’€™ ”
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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: West Virginia RB Charles Sims

04.12.14 at 5:57 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Charles Sims (AP)

Charles Sims rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his lone season at West Virginia after transferring from Houston. (AP)

CHARLES SIMS

Position: Running back

School: West Virginia

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 214 pounds

Achievements: 2013 first-team All-Big 12, 2013 Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year, 2012 second-team All-C-USA, 2011 first-team All-C-USA, 2009 C-USA Freshman of the Year

What he brings: The 23-year-old is a strong, quick back with good burst, great vision and excellent catching abilities. Sims is a weapon who can make defenders miss with a mix of power and agility. Analysts note that Sims struggles with ball security and fails to get lower to the ground at times, running too tall, making him easier to tackle.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: Sims started his collegiate career at Houston, playing there from 2009-12 before transferring to West Virginia. … During his senior season at West Virginia, he ran for 1,095 yards on 208 carries for a 5.3 average, scoring 11 touchdowns. He added 45 catches for 401 yards and three receiving touchdowns. … At the NFL combine, Sims ran a 4.48 40-yard dash.

Related articles:

Alabama.com: West Virginia’s Charles Sims gets top rating of running backs at Senior Bowl

NFL.com: Charles Sims of West Virginia might surprise people in NFL

Video: Here are Sims’ 2013 highlights with West Virginia.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Michigan OT Taylor Lewan

04.12.14 at 9:41 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Taylor Lewan (AP)

Michigan All-American Taylor Lewan did not start playing on the offensive line until his senior year of high school. (AP)

TAYLOR LEWAN

Position: Offensive tackle

School: Michigan

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 315 pounds

Achievements: 2013 first-team All-American (Sporting News), 2013 second-team All-American (Walter Camp, Associated Press, CBS Sports, SI.com), 2013, 2012 Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year, 2013, 2012 All-Big Ten first team (coaches, media), 2013 semifinalist for Rotary Lombardi Award, 2012 first-team All-American (Walter camp, AP, ESPN.com, SI.com)

What he brings: Lewan has the size and quick feet to find success in the NFL, but he only became an offensive lineman during his senior year of high school so he is a late switch to the position. Analysts note that he sometimes struggles with technique and reacting to plays.

Where the Patriots could get him: Lewan is projected as a top-15 pick, so the Patriots likely would need to trade up to get him.

Notes: Lewan redshirted his freshman year and was named a CollegeFootballNews.com second-team freshman All-America during his first season playing for Michigan in 2010. … On Sept. 15, 2012, he became the first Michigan offensive lineman to score a touchdown since 1948. … According to Deadspin, … as a freshman Lewan threatened a woman who allegedly was sexually assaulted by Lewan’€™s freshman roommate, Brendan Gibbons.

Related articles:

NFL.com: Taylor Lewan, Seantrel Henderson seek more momentum at combine

Detroit Free Press: Mel Kiper: Wolverines’ Taylor Lewan could be No. 2 overall pick in NFL draft

Video: Here is a video of Lewan playing left tackle during Michigan’s game against Michigan State.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Fresno State WR Davante Adams

04.11.14 at 5:25 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Davante Adams (AP)

Davante Adams (right) set a Fresno State record with 233 career receptions in just two seasons. (AP)

DAVANTE ADAMS

Position: Wide receiver

School: Fresno State

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 212 pounds

Achievements: 2013, 2012 All-American, 2013 Paul Warfield Award, 2012 Mountain West Freshman of the Year, two-time first-team All-Mountain West

What he brings: Adams has good hand-eye coordination as well as leaping ability, allowing him to make grabs in challenging situations. His production may have been inflated by Fresno State’€™s offense and the team’€™s quarterback, Derek Carr.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: Adams caught a touchdown pass in 22 of the 26 games he played during his Fresno State career. He led the FBS with 131 catches as a sophomore during the 2013 season and finished the season with 1,719 yards, second in the nation. Adams, who redshirted his freshman year, set a Fresno State record with 233 career receptions. … The 21-year-old had the third-best vertical jump of wide receivers at the combine, reaching a height of 39.5 inches, but struggled in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.56 seconds. He improved his 40-yard dash, shaving .09 seconds off his time, during his pro day.

Related articles:

49ers.com: Fresno State WR Davante Adams ‘ready to play’

Fresno Bee: Warszawski: Fresno State’s Davante Adams works with track legend for NFL combine speed

USA Today: Fresno State WR Davante Adams to enter NFL draft

Video: Here is a video highlighting Adams’ career at Fresno State.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Florida CB Loucheiz Purifoy

04.11.14 at 10:24 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Loucheiz Purifoy (AP)

Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy (with ball) shows promise but lacks consistency and did not impress at the NFL combine. (AP)

LOUCHEIZ PURIFOY

Position: Cornerback

School: Florida

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 190 pounds

Achievements: 2013 All-SEC second team

What he brings: Purifoy is a frustrating player for scouts to study as he flashes elite ability where he can make plays and cover the field but also flashes poor ability where he appear slow and lost and fails to tackle well. Bottom line is Purifoy is an inconsistent player who needs to get better at tackling. He’€™s a bigger cornerback, which will help him at the NFL level, but he needs to find some consistency as he was lackluster at the NFL combine, running a 4.61 40-yard dash and benching 225 pounds six times.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: In 2013 Purifoy had two interceptions, 24 tackles and two sacks. In 2012 he blocked two field goals and forced three fumbles on special teams. Purifoy recorded 22 tackles on special teams in 2011, a team high. … Purifoy was suspended for the first game by the Gators after he was arrested in February 2013 for a misdemeanor possession of marijuana. … During the 2013 Florida spring practices, Purifoy was tried out at wide receiver. In 2012, he recorded one catch for five yards and a rush for eight yards.

Related articles:

ESPN: Loucheiz Purifoy arrested for pot

ESPN: Catching on

Gator Zone: Purifoy’s Drive and toughness are homegrown

Video: Here are highlights of Purifoy against Kentucky in 2013.

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Patriots kick tires on 3 prospects: A.J. McCarron, Colton Underwood, Weston Richburg

04.11.14 at 12:48 am ET
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Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron met with the Patriots Wednesday. (AP)

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron met with the Patriots on Wednesday. (AP)

Another day, another series of prospect workouts for the Patriots:

1. Several outlets reported that Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron met with the Patriots on Wednesday. On the heels of the news that New England has reached out to Zach Mettenberger, McCarron is likely another quarterback who could be had somewhere after the first round — perhaps on Day 2. (For what it’s worth, at this point the Patriots’ second-day picks are at No. 62 and No. 93.)

The Crimson Tide product didn’t post overwhelming stats as a collegian — 9,019 passing yards, 77 touchdowns and 15 picks — but has a pair of national championships on his resume, as well as the fact that he quarterbacked a team coached by one of Bill Belichick‘s most trusted former colleagues in Nick Saban.

Speaking at the combine in February, McCarron was open in his level of respect for the Patriots, Belichick and Tom Brady. He called New England “the Alabama of pro football,” and was asked if he patterned his game after anyone in the league.

“When it comes to similarities, from body build, to how we were talked about coming out of college, I think Tom Brady,”€ McCarron said, who has spoken with Brady in the past. “I think we play the game the same way. He still moves in the pocket pretty well to get away from blitzes. Everyone doubted his arm strength coming out. It’€™s turned out pretty good so far.

“€œI love the Patriots organization,”€ McCarron said. “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.”

2. The Patriots held a private workout with Illinois State defensive end Colton Underwood on Thursday, per a league source. The 6-foot-3 255-pounder played in 45 games as a collegian and finished with 215 tackles. He finished third in ISU history in career tackles-for-loss with 44 and No. 4 on the career sacks list with 21.5 after senior season. While he was a defensive end in college, his size and skill set suggest that he might be a good fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense at the next level, provided he can show an ability to drop into coverage. To that end, he’s dropped 15 pounds since the end of the season in an attempt to make the switch. (One intriguing part to his game that could also help him at the next level is the fact that he showed some ability as a fullback in some of his pre-draft workouts, and that sort of versatility is always welcome in Foxboro.) For more on Underwood, check out this piece on him here.

3. The Patriots also worked out center Weston Richburg out of Colorado State on Thursday, per Tony Pauline. Richburg, who reportedly was put through his paces by New England offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, is a 6-foot-3, 298-pounder who has manned the middle of the Rams offensive line for the better part of the last four years. (He started in 50 consecutive games over the course of four years ‘€” a school record.) He was a Mountain West first-teamer last season, and considered one of the best centers in the draft. For more on his performance, check out our profile of him here.

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