Hannable: NFL combine takeaways include why didn’t Josh McDaniels attend?

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Photo credit Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL combine officially wrapped up on Monday with the cornerbacks and safeties working on the field in front of coaches, scouts and executives, including Bill Belichick who made an impromptu appearance on the NFL Network.

While none of the Patriots staffers spoke to the media at any point over the course of the week, there certainly were some takeaways from a Patriots perspective.

Here are a few thoughts following our week in Indianapolis.

— One of the biggest takeaways was why wasn’t Josh McDaniels present? 

It seems very likely the Patriots will be selecting a quarterback in the draft, potentially Tom Brady’s replacement, so shouldn’t the offensive coordinator be there? To this point, it appears the Patriots didn’t conduct any formal interviews with any quarterbacks. This seems like a missed opportunity and not taking full advantage of the combine and getting the chance to see prospects for the first time.

Sure, McDaniels, Belichick and the offensive staff will be all over the country over the next several weeks meeting with quarterbacks at pro days and even bringing in some to Gillette Stadium for official visits, but wouldn’t the Patriots want to get a head-start on getting to know the potential prospects at the combine? In addition, wasn’t it reported after McDaniels agreed to stay in New England that Belichick would “show McDaniels his world?” Wouldn’t that include the scouting part at the combine?

It was reported by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN’s Mike Reiss last week that this is standard for when the Patriots advance deep into the playoffs that most coaches don’t attend, but that doesn’t appear to hold true in previous years, especially in McDaniels’ case. We know for sure McDaniels attended the combine the previous two years, and that came after a Super Bowl LI win and a loss to the Broncos in the AFC title game.

Also, Stanford prospect Justin Reid said he met with Bill and Steve Belichick this weekend, so we know one assistant coach was in Indy this year, and there could have been more. Things just don’t seem to add up.

One possibility is the Patriots don’t want to give anything away with which quarterbacks they are targeting, but basically every team meets with every player over the course of the week in Indy, so nothing is really given away. In addition, often times the Patriots tell prospects not to tell the media they met with them. So, this theory doesn’t seem likely.

Another theory floated around over the course of the week was given what happened with McDaniels backing out of the Colts’ head coaching job, the organization didn’t want McDaniels to be in the city where he’s currently despised and also be around a number of NFL staffers who aren’t fans of McDaniels for what he did.

While as petty as that may sound, it’s the best theory out there as to why McDaniels did not attend the combine.

— It is still very early in the process when it comes to who the Patriots could draft at the quarterback position, but there were a few that stood out last week.

As for who we like the most, Washington State’s Luke Falk, Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta and Western Kentucky’s Mike While all stand out as to being the best fits for the Patriots.

Obviously, a lot can change between now and draft weekend, but that is what we see now.

— When it comes to positions, the quarterback and running back classes are said to be very strong and deep.

For the quarterbacks, it puts the Patriots in a tricky position. Ideally, they would wait and select one in the middle-to-late rounds, but this is a very big decision and if they identify who is best for them, they need to make sure they land him — no matter what round it’s in.

Quarterback is the only position where it’s not worth messing around with and trying to get the best value.

As for running backs, there are a number of solid prospects who fit what the Patriots value, so they can afford to wait until the middle-to-late rounds to draft one. The running back position isn’t even close to as important as the quarterback spot, so they can afford to take a chance and wait until say the third-round, or even later to select one and hope they hit.

Generally, drafting a running back high is a risk.

— It is important to put context to a lot of the information that gets reported over the course of the week.

There were numerous reports of players meeting with the Patriots (both formally and informally) and the reality is almost every team meets with almost every player. So, while it’s fun to get excited when a player says he met with the Patriots, private pro day workouts and being one of the 30 official visit players is much more important.

The same thing goes for free agent players reportedly having big markets and getting a lot of interest from multiple teams. With almost every agent in Indy, this information is coming directly from agents and of course they are going to say their clients are getting a lot of interest — what else are they going to say? This is setting their client up to maximize the type of contract they get when free agency opens next week.

— One cool behind the scenes story to pass along.

On Wednesday, following Falcons coach Dan Quinn’s press conference, a volunteer approached Quinn and asked to take a picture with him because her dad is a huge Falcons fan. Quinn obliged and after the picture was taken he asked her what her dads name is. The woman said her dads name and Quinn told her to call him. Quinn ended up FaceTiming with the woman’s father for a minute or so where he told him he would going to get some good players for the team.

It was just a unique moment that the combine brings out because it is such a relaxed atmosphere and the coaches aren’t in the grind of the season.