The combine is over, so now what for the Patriots' coaches and scouts?
The answer is multi-layered, as while the draft took center stage for most of the coaches and scouts during the combine, the organization will spend time now juggling both the draft and free agency.
Related to the draft, coaches and scouts will begin updating their player evaluations with combine considerations, as the information gathered helps to solidify their take on each player they are required to evaluate.
They'll also make preparations for Pro Days, which begin as soon as tomorrow. Teams don't necessarily attend every Pro Day, but major programs with draftable prospects are typically accounted for. It's not only an opportunity to further evaluate players that teams met with or watched during the combine, but also to see other prospects who may have gone overlooked but still have NFL value (safety Nate Ebner used a strong Pro Day last year to propel himself onto the Patriots' radar).
Additionally, the Patriots will soon begin their facility visits with up to 30 prospects, who will travel to Gillette Stadium to spend a day with the coaches. Those on-site visits typically include a physical examination with team doctors, and also allow the coaches to evaluate tape with prospects and further familiarize themselves with players of potential interest.
As it pertains to free agency, coaches and pro personnel staffers have already begun the process of evaluating looming free agents at their respective position. The Patriots have some cap flexibility, and how they spend on the open market is tied into their plans with Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, and Sebastian Vollmer.
A critical part of both draft and free agency evaluations is not just how the player stacks up to your team, but where he stacks up league-wide. Encapsulating that value is key. For example, rather than tabbing a college prospect as a first-round pick, the Patriots may label him as a "first-year starter for our team and in the NFL." Highlighting players' value simply by assigning them a round doesn't always paint a descriptive picture. The more detail that can be delivered in a concise description, the better.
And yes, while the cycle of the NFL seemingly never stops, the coaches will buy themselves a little bit of time away from football, be it a weekend off or a shortened workday compared to what they experience during the season. Re-charging the batteries is needed for all coaches. The scouts will have a little more time to relax following the draft, but not much as they'll actually start laying the ground work for the 2014 draft class before this year's draft takes place.
Interest in the NFL is a 365-day affair, and building a team is as well.