With Thomas, Pats cover Combine bases

INDIANAPOLIS -- The majority of coverage from the NFL Combine focuses on the top prospects, but that doesn't truly capture what is happening behind the scenes here at Lucas Oil Stadium.

That thought was reinforced during an interview with West Virginia linebacker J.T. Thomas on Sunday morning.

Each NFL team can schedule 60 interviews with prospects at the Combine. These formal meetings are arranged in advance and are 15 minutes in length.

The interviews are one of the more important part of the Combine for teams, as it gives them a chance to get to know the players better, making the process more personal. These interviews range from the top prospects to late-round picks or even free agents.

Thomas, a fifth-year senior who was considered a leader of the Mountaineers' No.2-ranked defense, fits in the latter category as a mid- to late-round possibility. A speedy linebacker, he is scheduled to meet with the Patriots tonight.

"That's a great ballclub. I'd never want to pass up the opportunity to play for Coach Belichick," Thomas said. "He seems like the same type of guy as my position coach at West Virginia, Jeff Casteel. So I would definitely jump at that opportunity."

By the end of the scouting process, the Patriots will likely have talked with every prospect in the draft, so little can be read into a scheduled meeting like tonight's between Thomas and the Patriots. More than anything, from this perspective, it reflects the depth of this entire process.

Thomas measured 6-foot-1, 241 pounds here at the Combine, and if he winds up in New England as a mid- to late-round selection, he'd initially compete for a role as a core special teams player.