Patriots rookie Valentine responds to effort questions: 'I'm willing to work'

Patriots rookie Valentine responds to effort questions: 'I'm willing to work'

FOXBORO -- Scouting college football players is a fickle science. A player who said he wouldn't enter the draft unless he was given a first-round grade, may end up declaring and not hear his name called until the fourth. A player argued as a second-round corner, could walk away from the draft known as Mr. Irrelevant

The scouting report on Patriots fourth-round draft pick Vincent Valentine seemed to be relatively consistent, though. 

"Valentine needs to carry more 'good weight' and commit to the work that has to be done leading up to the game," wrote Lance Zierlein of

"Motor spurts, doesn't rev, looking like a different player from snap-to-snap . . . Tape also shows underachieving traits and inconsistent reps due to spotty technique and effort," said Dane Brugler of CBS Sports.

“He’s not always in the best of shape, and at times his play reflects that,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock

Even Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio hinted that the 6-foot-4, 329-pounder from Nebraska might need to put in some extra work to make sure he's well-conditioned.

"This guy's a big, strong guy . . . He's a massive guy," Caserio told Sirius XM NFL Radio. "We'll get him in here, try to get him going early, get him in shape, and try to take advantage of the things he does well."

Valentine met with Patriots reporters for the first time on Thursday, and he said that he understood concerns about his conditioning and his on-the-field effort -- he had just 10 tackles in 10 games in 2015 -- have dogged him.

Though his time in New England thus far has been short, he stood on the Gillette Stadium turf Thursday, wearing a No. 99 practice jersey, and said that he's already trying to disprove those pre-draft perceptions. 

"The past is the past," Valentine explained. "I’m going to use that as motivation. I’ve got a lot of things to do out here. But the past is the past. I’m trying to put the whole thing at Nebraska behind me and just become as good as I can here. I’m not really worried about how things went at Nebraska — I know things could have been better — but I’m in a good spot now, and I think the coaches are ready to bring me along and I’m ready to be as good as I can."

He added: "[I'm] working hard and putting the team first, and trying to be the best that I can. I know guys had issues with me in the past, I guess, with not working hard, but I’m here and I’m trying to prove that I can do that and I’m willing to work and I’m willing to be the best that I can."

Though it was Valentine's first face-to-face introduction with local reporters, he took every question about his effort and seemed to do his best to respond honestly. He said he came ready to hear those types of queries. 

Many of them he accepted with a smile. 

"It’s their opinion," Valentine said of his critics, "but they can’t stop me from putting in work every day and bettering myself. I kind of tune that out and not pay attention to that as much. I’m in the position I’m at right now for a reason — it didn’t just happen, it didn’t just fall out of the sky. But I’m just excited to be here."

Valentine said that the Patriots showed plenty of interest in him leading up to the draft. After he was selected, Caserio said that Valentine caught the team's eye — as did Valetine's teammate Maliek Collins, a penetrating defensive tackle taken by the Cowboys in the third round.

His size, strength, and his versatility to play from nose tackle out to five-technique all helped him in the organization's eyes. So too did the fact that he played for a respected coach in Nebraska's Bo Pellini. 

Despite everything that he had going for him, Valentine knew he would have to prove to the Patriots and every other potential employer that he would be willing to stand up to the vigors of pro life before they determined that he was worthy of a draft choice. 

"I think I had to convince everybody," he said. "That was the word on the street about me. Just trying to convince everybody that I’m ready to work, I’m ready to be a pro, I’m ready to put in all the work that you need to do."

Will he be ready to grab hold of a job as part of the team's rotation on the interior with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and Terrance Knighton? That remains to be seen. 

First things first. He has to prove the scouting reports wrong. 

Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.


What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year.