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. 

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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).

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Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

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The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.