Patriots

Top NFL Draft tight end prospect Hunter Bryant praises 'GOAT' Tom Brady

Top NFL Draft tight end prospect Hunter Bryant praises 'GOAT' Tom Brady

The New England Patriots need to upgrade their talent and depth at tight end before the 2020 season, and a good place to address this roster weakness is in the NFL Draft.

The 2020 class of tight ends isn't as deep as the group of wide receivers available, but there are still a few really exciting tight end prospects for teams to draft in the first couple of rounds. One of those players is Washington Huskies star Hunter Bryant, who Pro Football Focus ranked as the top tight end in this draft.

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He also was among the players to speak Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. When asked which quarterback in league history would he most want to catch a touchdown pass from, Bryant chose the only six-time Super Bowl champion. 

"Any quarterback in history? Probably Tom Brady, because he's the GOAT," Bryant told reporters, as transcribed by 247Sports. "He's the best that's ever done it. He's a great competitor, and I like how knowledgable he is in the game. So I have a lot of respect for him."

Bryant also told reporters he had an informal meeting with a Patriots scout.

Who knows, maybe Bryant will get an opportunity to catch passes from Brady next season? The Patriots are projected to have 12 picks (including compensatory selections) in April's draft, and tight is among the team's primary needs after getting lackluster offensive production at the position last season. 

Bryant isn't likely to be a first-round pick, but it's hard to imagine he lasts too long on Day 2 when the second and third rounds unfold. 

He set career highs with 52 receptions, 825 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns for Washington in 2019. Bryant tallied at least five receptions and 80-plus receiving yards in each of the last four games he played for the Huskies. 

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2020 NFL Draft: Searching for Gronk's replacement in Patriots 7-round mock

2020 NFL Draft: Searching for Gronk's replacement in Patriots 7-round mock

Let's get this out of the way: It's not a great time to need a tight end in the draft. Relative to other years, at least.

Last spring there were two surefire first-rounders, both out of Iowa: T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. In 2018, only one tight end went in the first (Hayden Hurst), but two taken in later rounds (Dallas Goedert, Mark Andrews) are among the game's best young players at the position. O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and David Njoku all went in the first in 2017.

This year there's a "massive drop" in terms of tight end talent available, one league source told me this week.

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Not ideal for the Patriots, who could use an infusion of tight end talent perhaps more so than any other team in the NFL. And yet we have them selecting two in this year's class. Reach much? How does that make sense?

Well, just because this class doesn't have multiple high-end talents at that spot, that doesn't mean it's completely devoid of players who fit the New England mold. You'll see how it all comes together in our latest seven-round Patriots-specific mock.

Click here for Phil Perry's 7-round Patriots mock draft, Version 2.0.

Jonathan Kraft shares inside story of Patriots plane bringing masks from China

Jonathan Kraft shares inside story of Patriots plane bringing masks from China

The New England Patriots, owner Robert Kraft and president Jonathan Kraft teamed up with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to transport over 1 million N95 protective masks from China to the United States on Thursday.

That's the headline. But there's a whole lot more to the story.

Jonathan Kraft joined 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday to share more details on the elaborate, multi-day process that led to the Patriots commissioning their team plane to bring much-needed supplies back to Massachusetts to aid health care workers in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

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According to Kraft, the plan all started when Baker called him while he was in a virtual meeting with the Massachusetts General Hospital finance committee. (Kraft is a member of the MGH Board of Trustees.)

"The governor said to me, 'I am so ---ing frustrated. ... I have had a couple of big batches of PPE (personal protective equipment), and at the end of the day they just haven't come through,' " Kraft said.

"And (Baker) said, 'We just through a third party secured well over 1 million masks, N95s, in China. But we have no way of getting them here. The supply chains are totally frozen. Do you think people who have airplanes would be willing to fly over?"

That's when Kraft had the idea to use the Patriots' team plane, a wide-body Boeing 767 that's bigger than most commercial jets.

"I said, 'You know what, our team flies around on a 767 ... and we have a huge cargo hold on that," Kraft told Baker.

Fast forward to this week, when the "Air Kraft" was en route to China via an overnight stop in Alaska. But a host of logistics had to be worked out before then, from getting special permission from the FAA to fly a "humanitarian mission" to securing a safe landing zone in China -- to making sure the plane was ready for a such a long flight.

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"First, we had to make sure the plane was equipped with the right software. It needed one upgrade," Kraft said.

Once the plane landed in Shenzen, China, there was another logistical challenge: The plane could only be on the ground for three hours, and no one could leave the plane during that period due to concerns over contracting the virus.

"If we had a maintenance or a tech issue, our maintenance or tech guys couldn't have gotten off the plane to correct it," Kraft said. "Once the pilots left the plane, they would need to be in quarantine for 14 days."

What followed was a three-hour rush to load roughly 1.2 million masks onto the Patriots' team plane that was barely completed in time.

"It was like a NASCAR pit stop," Kraft said. "Fortunately we didn't have any mechanical issues, and we got it done with about three or four minutes to spare and got back in the air for what was a nine-hour flight back (to Alaska)."

That's just a sampling of the details Kraft shared about the incredible trip, which ended successfully Thursday night when the Air Kraft landed at Boston's Logan Airport. (Kraft's full interview is worth a listen.)

But the journey ultimately was a success, and Mass. health care workers are certainly grateful as confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to climb.