Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. As we enter the final day of media availability at the NFL Combine, I’d estimate it at 80-20 that the Patriots take a defensive player with their top first-round pick (No. 17 overall). If the selection is on offense, I think it’s a lineman. I just don’t see them going with a running back or receiver.

2. I heard mixed opinion from NFL folks on what they’d do if in Logan Mankins’ situation. Some favor signing the $10 million franchise tender so he can guarantee himself that money in this uncertain environment. Others said they’d wait it out longer. Although it isn’t what Mankins wants – he’d prefer a long-term extension which provides more security – I’d sign it. Just too much money to leave on the table.

3. Jets coach Rex Ryan is a showman. One thing that stood out to me from his “guarantee” that the Jets will win the Super Bowl was that he was reading from notes on a blue piece of paper, and occassionally looked down to stay on point with his message. It was all calculated.

4. Every year, it seems the same storyline plays out at the NFL Combine when it comes to quarterbacks. Last year at this time, Sam Bradford wasn’t a consensus No. 1 choice; instead it was defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. But Bradford quickly shot up the ranks, and now the momentum seems to be building for Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert. No position generates more buzz and it makes sense given its importance.

5. Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward has health questions (elbow surgery) that could affect his draft stock, but I don’t buy into those who knock him for so-so statistics in 2010. In one respect, it reminds me of Richard Seymour coming out of the 2001 draft. One of the knocks on Seymour was a lack of sacks.

6. Maybe it’s luck, or maybe there is something more to it, but this nugget from Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum drew my attention: Since 2000, the Jets have had the fewest number of players in the NFL on season-ending injured reserve.

7. Of all the top personnel decision-makers in the NFL, one of my favorite to listen to is Pittsburgh’s Kevin Colbert. I appreciate his insight on the game. Here is one thought from Colbert that made a lot of sense: As more colleges run spread offenses, defenses are playing more 3-3-5 type packages, which is making it easier for NFL teams running the 3-4 defense to evaluate prospects.

8. Curious what the Patriots’ draft room to interview prospects at the Combine looks like? Brian Lowe, who hosts Patriots Today on the team’s official website, provides a glimpse.

9. Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi spoke with confidence at the NFL Combine, declaring himself the best player at his position in the draft. I spoke with one general manager who said those type of comments are a turn-off to his organization. That was a reminder to me that while the Combine might be overrated in terms of evaluating prospects, every little nuance is still scrutinized.

10. Seeing all the hard work that scouts put in at the Combine, it makes you appreciate some of the personnel men working behind the scenes in New England, such as Jon Robinson (Director of College Scouting), Brian Smith (Assistant Director of College Scouting), Jason Licht (Director of Pro Personnel), Bob Quinn (Assistant Director of Pro Personnel) and the team’s scouts. These guys really grind.