By: Derek Havens
Over the past several days, 300 college athletes have come to Indianapolis to take part in the NFL Scouting Combine. All 32 NFL teams were present and looking to improve their rosters for the 2012 season.
The Patriots have several needs on both sides of the ball, but are once again in great position to fill holes and make upgrades to the team. Here are a few prospects that stood out throughout the process and could be on New England’s radar this April. –
Biggest Disappointment: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
At the beginning of the pre-draft process, Upshaw was a guy I set my sights on for Patriots to acquire. Several draft experts have made the comparison to Steelers linebacker Lamar Woodley, but the Alabama stand out had a very weak Combine.
Upshaw was very unimpressive in drills and gave people a reason to worry about his athleticism. For a guy who has been slated in the top 20 in almost any mock draft, Upshaw looked stiff and did not seem t have the ability to change direction very fast. Not a reason to pass on the guy, but makes you hesitant to draft him.
Biggest Surprise: Dontari Poe, DL, Memphis
To me, Poe was literally, the biggest surprise.Â Â At just under 6â€™5 and 346 pounds, Poe is an absolute monster. He is not just a 3-4 nose tackle, Poe is a versatile lineman who could be an absolute beast. The Memphis product is an athlete too. He displayed quick feet for his size in drills and he ran a 4.98 40-yard dash to back it up.
Even though he does not necessarily play at an impact position, I would love to see him play next to Vince Wilfork. Whatever scheme Bill Belichick decides to go with in the upcoming season, Poe could certainly find a way to contribute in New England.
Who Opened Up Some Eyes: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Stephen Hill’s stock is sure to skyrocket after the show he put on in Indianapolis. Hill was one of the most impressive college prospects throughout the event and his number were eye popping.
With the fastest 40-yard dash time for wide outs at 4.30, a vertical jump of 39.5â€³ and a broad jump of 11â€™1â€³, Hill was a true workout warrior. There are some concerns about his production, only 28 receptions last season, but you have to take into consideration the triple option offense he was in at Georgia Tech.
I am always skeptical when the Pats acquire a receiver or defensive back through the draft, especially with the luck they have had in the past few years, but Hill could be a guy to focus on in the next two months. The offense would greatly benefit from a weapon with the ability to play outside the numbers and Hill could be that guy.
The Head Scratcher: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Kendall Wright has been one of the highest rated receivers in the early stages of the pre-draft process, but after his Combine performance, his draft stock has taken a bit of a hit. He plays with 4.3 or 4.4 speed, but ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at Combine; a very slow number for an undersized receiver (5-10,196).
Wright was a guy I thought could be a dynamic receiver in the Patriots’ offense if he was available, but after his workout and going back over his profile, he does not seem to be a good fit here.
As much as I believe Wright has some great physical skills, when you watch him play, there are some red flags. Most concerning, is his sloppy route running. In a precision offense like Tom Brady commands, receivers have to be spot on; ability Wright has not displayed to this point in his career.
Also, Wright’s lack of effort on running plays or when the ball is not coming his way stood out. He does not seem to be a team player and I have doubts about hisÂ capability to pick up a complex NFL offense. There is no doubt Wright is an electric football player, but his Combine performance did raise some red flags.
Who Needs A Good Pro Day: Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
Vinny Curry is a prospect who really interests me from a Patriots perspective. Here is a guy who is 6-3, 266 pounds and is a very good pass rusher. He has the ability to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, the base formation New England will most likely play in 2012, and is a guy who loves to play football.
Curry has the measurables, started for three years, was a captain, the football IQ and talent. What is his hang up? Curry ran a 4.98 40-yard dash, which is why his pro day might be very important to his draft stock. The Marshall linebacker did have a solid three-cone drill, showing off his quick feet, but his 40 time could dictate where he is drafted this April.
Overall, there are a ton of great prospects in this year’s draft. The Patriots are in great position to select quality players and upgrade the team for next season.
In the coming weeks I will have positional breakdowns, big boards, interviews, Patriots and league mock drafts until the main event in late April. Be sure to check back for more content! Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!