One of the more challenging parts of the NFL scouting process is the sheer volume of it all. There are several hundred prospects to begin with, and then a late influx of about 100 underclassmen to add to the evaluation.
Without draft analysts like ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, NFL Network's Mike Mayock, and NFL.com's Nolan Narwocki (formerly of Pro Football Weekly), among others, many beat reporters in this position would struggle to put together a general snapshot of the incoming draft class.
With this in mind, Kiper's top-10 list at each position is passed along as a pre-combine primer.
For me, at this early point in the process, it is mostly about becoming more familiar with some of the prospects, looking closer at their measureables, and then eventually attempting to match up their testing scores/game tape with a general feel for if they might be a fit for the Patriots.
Kiper's list is a great resource, and here were a few things that caught the eye:
1. You get a good feel for the underclassmen and how they've boosted the quality of the overall draft class. It shows up at receiver, in particular.
2. How a prospect like Troy Niklas (Notre Dame) stacks up against consensus top tight ends Eric Ebron and Jace Amaro and how he could be a challenger as a late first-round pick. Some analysts have the Patriots tied to Amaro, but at this very early point in the process, my hunch tells me the "combination" aspect of Niklas' skills -- blocker and pass-catcher -- would be more to their liking.
3. Kent State's Dri Archer is primed to generate a buzz. Although he fits a different profile than Kent State alum Julian Edelman (college QB turned WR/PR), Archer is an interesting prospect as an undersized running back who, similar to Edelman, scouts might have to think a bit outside the box when evaluating.