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(St. Petersburg, FL) With the Texas vs. The Nation Game no longer
active and the NFLPA Bowl having second rate talent, there is added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.
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
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
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
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
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