The Patriots have a need for speed at and there was plenty of it to go around at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Thursday night.
An NFL combine record 9 wide receivers clocked in faster than 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash with Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton leading the way. Thornton ran what at the time was thought to be a combine record 4.21 but was later corrected to a still blazing 4.28.
Ohio State receiver and possible Patriots target Chris Olave clocked in at 4.39 (initially recorded at 4.26.) Olave met with the Patriots at the combine earlier this week. CLNS Insider Evan Lazar had Olave going to the Patriots at 21 in his first Mock Draft.
CHRIS OLAVE 4.26 ???
— PFF (@PFF) March 4, 2022
Other notable receivers that the Patriots could have their eye on include Penn State’s Jahan Dotson who ran a 4.43, and Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks who clocked a 4.55. Burks had an extensive meeting with the Patriots at the Combine on Wednesday.
Wes Welker’s Clone
Though Bill Belichick is not at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis he has connected with at least one player. UCLA wide receiver Kyle Phillips.
Phillips told reporters that his former coach, Chip Kelly, introduced him to Belichick once at UCLA when Phillips was trekking to the bathroom last season. Phillips also met Belichick at the Shrine Bowl last month.
“One time I was at the facilities, it was like midterm time and I went to the bathroom and coach Belichick and coach [Chip] Kelly were walking by and coach Kelly introduced me and I got to talk to [him a] little bit,” Philips said. “I was just so surprised, it’s midterms and I was focused on my papers and wasn’t expecting to see him.”
Kelly and Belichick have a long-standing personal relationship, and coach similar offensive schemes. At UCLA, Phillips was exposed to akin offensive concepts to New England’s playbook.
Long before Phillips became familiar with NFL-style play-calling, he has admired former Patriots receiver Wes Welker. Phillips even admitted Welker is who started it all for his football career. He added that he has seen “a whole lot” of Patriots tape.
At 5’11, Phillips measures just two inches taller than Welker. He profiles as a shifty, gritty slot receiver with excellent footwork and route running ability. Phillips’ explosiveness after the catch, run-blocking ability, and punt-returning playmaking dub him as versatile receiver prospect as there is in this year’s draft. He was named First-Team All-Pac-12 last season.
Phillips is currently projected to become a starting slot wide receiver for a pass-heavy offense.
Paving your own path
Austrian-born guard Bernhard Raimann is primed to be a top-50 pick in this year’s draft. Ever since he started playing football at fourteen years old in Vienna, Raimann has looked up to a former Patriot. German born tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
“Sebastian Vollmer was always a huge role model for me and for guys growing up in Austria in general,” Raimann told reporters on Thursday. “The way he pass-sets, and how athletic he was even with his size, is something I try to incorporate into my game as well.”
The 6-foot-7, 305-pound star lineman is looking to pave a similar path to Vollmer’s journey to the NFL through the international route.
Vollmer also did not start playing football until fourteen years old, and was recruited to play college football out of Germany. His standout size and versatility on both sides of the line jumped out to college scouts, bringing him to the University of Houston. Vollmer was drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, and was a linchpin on New England’s line for eight seasons.
Raimann was named Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus this season. He was stout in pass protection for Central Michigan last season, and did not allow a sack or a pressure in his final six games.
The Patriots could be eyeing offensive line help in this year’s draft. Trent Brown is set for free agency, and Isaiah Wynn is entering the final year of his rookie deal.