Patriots

Which Senior Bowl participants look like Patriots prototypes?

Which Senior Bowl participants look like Patriots prototypes?

The time has arrived for those obsessing over the upcoming NFL draft to obsess over heights, weights, hand sizes and arm lengths. It's not football. It's guys in their underwear, sometimes on stage, in front of a crowd, having their measurements taken. 

It's weird. It might be a little dehumanizing. But it matters. 

How much? That's up for debate. But every year, multiple times a year — at college all-star games, the combine and pro days — scouts, coaches and evaluators of all types spend time paying attention to the fractions of inches that could determine whether or not a player fits their system. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

As we've pointed out in the past, the Patriots have a backlog of draft history more significant than any team in the NFL since there's not another operation that's been run by one individual over the last 20 years. Bill Belichick has types at certain positions. We've labeled them as "prototypes" over the years.

And while it's too early to figure out who's a prototype and who isn't — acquiring athletic testing numbers at the combine and pro days is part of the process — we can look at measurements as they start to come in and key on certain individuals for certain roles in Patriots offensive and defensive schemes.

Senior Bowl measurements were taken on Tuesday in Mobile, Ala. ahead of the week's first practices, for which Belichick is in attendance, allowing us to tear through them and key in on potential Patriots prototypes. Here are some names who stood out based on their size...

QUARTERBACK: JORDAN LOVE, UTAH STATE

Jordan Love's interception numbers in his senior season might've been a little high for Belichick's liking, and he's not out of a Power Five conference, but physically he checks every box. He's a shade over 6-foot-3, 223 pounds and he has massive hands measuring larger than 10.5 inches. In theory, that should help him get a good grip in the elements of New England.

Under Belichick, the Patriots have typically drafted quarterbacks who stand 6-foot-3 or taller and their hands usually measure larger than nine inches. Love, who was reportedly scattershot with his passes on Tuesday, is athletic and possesses plenty of arm talent, but Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is the top passer in Mobile this week.

Herbert measures in at 6-foot-6, 227 pounds with 10-inch hands. The only quarterback the Patriots have drafted under Belichick who was that tall was Ryan Mallett.

TIGHT END: JARED PINKNEY, VANDERBILT

The Patriots have drafted 14 tight ends under Bill Belichick. The "prototype" there is a bit easier to peg than those at receiver and running back, who've come in all different shapes and sizes in New England. The tight end mold falls in the 6-foot-4 range and just over 250 pounds. Big hands (about 10 inches) are preferred.

While we don't have any of those athletic testing numbers yet for Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney, he looks like the Senior Bowl's closest thing to a prototype at this position. The SEC product — Belichick has a good relationship with the Vandy staff, inviting them to attend Patriots spring practices back in 2017 — stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 254 pounds, plus he has those massive mitts the Patriots like (10.6 inches).

Dayton's Adam Trautman is the next-closest prototype at this spot in Mobile. The 6-foot-5, 251-pounder has hands that measure just over 9.5 inches, and he dominated lower-level competition with 70 catches, 916 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

DEFENSIVE END: JAVON KINLAW, SOUTH CAROLINA

One of the most explosive big-bodied defenders at the Senior Bowl, the Patriots may never even get the opportunity to draft Kinlaw at No. 23. He's thought by some experts to be a top-20 talent. But he certainly looks like he'd be a long-term answer at 3-4 defensive end in New England's scheme.

At 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, with 10-inch hands and almost 35-inch arms, he looks like he was built in a lab. And while he's quick enough to beat blockers in a one-gapping scheme, his length and power would make him a dominant two-gapping player in a defense that could use another capable 3-4 end to pair with Lawrence Guy.

Ole Miss' Josiah Coatney (6-foot-4, 309 pounds, 9.5-inch hands, 33-inch arms) is another SEC product who could interest the Patriots as a 3-4 later in the draft.

NOSE TACKLE: LEKI FOTU, UTAH

One of the most physically imposing players at the Senior Bowl, Fotu measures in at 6-5, 337 pounds and would be a perfect middle-of-the-line anchor to eat up double-teams. Danny Shelton played that role for the Patriots in 2019, but he's set to hit free agency this offseason. Fotu's 10.25-inch hands and 34-inch arms helped him fight off blockers and earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2019.

Nebraska's Darrion Daniels (6-3, 322), Ole Miss' Jones Benito (6-1, 321) and Ohio State's DaVon Hamilton (6-4, 327) all hail from programs the Patriots respect and could be seen as potential answers to their nose tackle uncertainty.

LINEBACKER: MALIK HARRISON, OHIO STATE

Never was there a better example of what it is the Patriots are looking for from their linebackers than what happened in the 2018 draft. Looking for depth behind Dont'a Hightower, the Patriots were clearly in the linebacker market. But they waited, and waited, and waited... until pouncing on Purdue's Ja'Whaun Bentley in the fifth round.

Bentley was off draft boards of other linebacker-needy clubs that year because he was viewed as not athletic enough to fit their schemes. But in New England, the player who had a high football IQ and played heavier than 250 pounds in college was ideal. Belichick has long liked his off-the-ball 'backers big (which may narrow his options in the draft as players at that position get smaller every year in order to try to keep up with the speed deployed by opposing offenses). That's why Harrison — who checked in at 6-foot-3, 246 pounds in Mobile — lands here. He's a true middle-of-the-field type with the bulk to hold up as a "Mike" or "Will" backer in a 3-4 defense.

Curran: 

Wyoming's Logan Wilson doesn't quite have the same size (6-foot-2, 241 pounds), but he's close in that regard. Plus, he has other bullet points on his résumé (three-time captain, second-team All-American, Butkus Award finalist, high-school defensive back) that might pique Belichick's interest.

EDGE: ANFERNEE JENNINGS, ALABAMA

We couldn't get through a list of potential prototypes for the Patriots without mentioning someone from Alabama, could we? We could not.

An "edge" defender in the Patriots defense in 2019 was an outside linebacker, called a "Sam" or "Jack" in the Patriots scheme. Those players — primarily Kyle Van Noy, John Simon and Chase WInovich — slotted in between 250 and 260 pounds. They were stand-up players who could rush or drop into coverage. While most of the edge players who fit the Patriots size profile at this position are up-the-field players, there are a few who look like they might fit.

Jennings, in part because of where he played his college ball, is right at the top of the list at 6-foot-2, 252 pounds with 33-inch arms. His teammate Terrell Lewis is someone the Patriots might like better as a player, but he's bigger (6-foot-5, 258 pounds, 34-inch arms) and looks more like a 4-3 end. Two more SEC edge players who fit the mold size-wise: South Carolina's D.J. Wonnum (6-foot-5, 254 pounds, 34-inch arms) and Florida's Jabari Zuniga (6-foot-3, 253 pounds, 33-inch arms).

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

The New England Patriots defense ranked among the NFL's best in 2019, and a huge reason for this unit's success was its ability to force turnovers.

The Patriots forced the second-most turnovers in the league with 36 during the regular season. They also led the league with 25 interceptions and a plus-21 turnover differential. Veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore tied for the league lead with six interceptions and was named AP Defensive Player of the Year.

It's safe to say the Patriots defense was aggressive and opportunistic throughout 2019, and it certainly helped overcome some of the team's offensive struggles during the second half of the campaign.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Check out all of the turnovers forced by New England's defense last season in the video below:

The Patriots' Super Bowl title defense ended surprisingly early with an AFC Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. The defense played pretty well, holding the Titans to just 13 offensive points. Tom Brady and his offense couldn't generate much of anything versus the Titans defense, though, and the Patriots lost 20-13.

New England's defense could look much different in 2020. The unit has several key players eligible for unrestricted free agency, including safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, among others.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

We can understand Derrick Henry supporting Ryan Tannehill amid speculation that Tom Brady may consider joining to the Tennessee Titans.

Tannehill is Henry's quarterback, after all. He's not going to throw him under the bus.

But Chris Simms has no stake in the game -- and still believes the Titans would be better off with Tannehill than the six-time Super Bowl champion in 2020.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Here's Simms on Wednesday's edition of NBC Sports PFT Live with Mike Florio:

 

"Everybody out there: You're crazy!" Simms said. "Tom Brady is not better than Ryan Tannehill right now! I'm just sorry! 

"I know Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback ever, certainly the most accomplished. (He's) the man. But that doesn't mean he's the best in 2020."

Simms didn't stop there, suggesting the Titans may not have defeated the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round if Brady was under center instead of Tannehill.

"The Titans weren't a team that had weapons galore," Simms said "They didn't have great weapons (either). We didn't really know about A.J. Brown until Ryan Tannehill got in there."

Got all that, Patriots fans?

This kind of take is nothing new from Simms, who ranked Brady as the NFL's ninth-best quarterback last summer and put Matthew Stafford ahead of the 14-time Pro Bowler at the midseason point.

He's also not wrong that Tannehill was excellent last season, leading the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6) and ranking second in touchdown percentage (7.7 percent) while going 7-3 as Tennessee's starter.

But 10 starts do not an elite quarterback make -- especially a QB who had the NFL's 2019 leading rusher (Henry) taking the heat off him.

Were Brady's numbers worse than Tannehill's in 2019? Sure. His 6.6 yards per attempt were the second-lowest of his career, while his 3.9 touchdown percentage represented his lowest rate ever.

As Patriots fans will tell you, though, Brady also helped a team with a revolving door of mediocre offensive weapons score the seventh-most points in the NFL while finishing 12-4.

All debates aside, the money could prove Brady's worth compared to Tannehill: The former may command north of $30 million in free agency, while the latter might be several million below that number.

Listen and subscribe to Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: