NFL DRAFT: Patriots Scout Sighting

Find out the rumors involving the Patriots including a potential Brandon Spikes replacement and a warm trade market for Ryan Mallett. Also find out which players scouts raved about at Shrine Week practices.

By Charlie Bernstein
Updated Jan. 17, 2014

[Editor's note: This article was originally run in January 2014. I has been republished on Patriots Insider for our members' benefit]

(St. Petersburg, FL) With the Texas vs. The Nation Game no longer active and the NFLPA Bowl having second rate talent, there is added importance to the East-West Shrine Game, which takes place in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Patriots had several scouts in person this week from Monday through Wednesday to conduct their own interviews and evaluations of the roughly 110 players in attendance.

One of the players that stood out and garnered much of the Patriots attention (as well as many other teams) was former Oklahoma guard/center Gabe Ikard. Ikard has all the intelligence that you'd want out of your starting center as both of his parents are lawyers and he graduated Oklahoma pre-med. Ikard has a nasty streak and really dominated his drills against bigger opponents.

Ikard's final collegiate game, the 50th game started of his career, was memorable as his Oklahoma Sooners shredded the two-time defending National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide's stingy defense in a 45-31 victory. Ikard came into Shrine Week as a third-day pick but could move up into the second day of the draft.

Many of the rumors between scouts, coaches and NFL personnel at the Shrine Game revolved around quarterbacks and that the several quarterback needy teams at the top of the draft aren't completely convinced that there are enough "franchise guys" available in the draft. With a pretty weak free agent class at the position where the crown jewels are Mark Sanchez and Chad Henne, teams are again looking at possible trade options.

On the short list of backups who could turn starters is the Patriots Ryan Mallett. With one year left on Mallett's deal, New England could be fielding phone calls about Tom Brady's backup. With that in mind, the Patriots scouts were paying extra attention to the Shrine Game quarterbacks.

The two quarterbacks that stood out during practices were Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo and Cornell's Jeff Matthews. Garoppolo starred in the FCS ranks and garnered national attention. He showed a lightning quick release during drills and a strong enough arm to make all the throws. At this point in the draft process Garoppolo is slated as a 2nd to 3rd-round draft pick.

Jeff Matthews came into the week without much acclaim and scouts left St. Petersburg knowing exactly who he is. Matthews struggled his senior year at Cornell with what one scout said, "a leaky offensive line and no targets."

Matthews wowed scouts and had plenty of interviews all week as he showed off a very strong and accurate arm and had one NFL source comparing him to "a poor man's Tom Brady." Matthews doesn't have a lot of mobility but showed leadership qualities and despite meeting his Shrine Game teammates just a few days earlier, his East team gravitated towards him. Matthews was better in drills than the more highly touted Garoppolo, and Matthews was slated as a late-round selection prior to this week.

New England scouts spent extra time looking at former North Carolina safety Tre Boston, who showed an ability to range sideline-to-sideline. He had former Green Bay Packers safety and scout Nick Collins impressed with his ability "to line everyone up and call out coverages." At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Boston has the frame to put on some weight and still not affect his speed. Boston was slated as a late-round pick prior to this week.

Patriots scouts were also interested in former Louisville thumper Preston Brown. Brown has the versatility to play inside and outside as he moves well for his 6-foot-2, 255 pound frame. Brown earned second-team All-AAC honors in 2013 and led his Louisville defense. Brown is very strong in run support and showed an ability to get depth this week in the passing game. Preston Brown could be a viable replacement for Brandon Spikes and could be had on the third day of the draft.

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