Tuesday pro days: Patriots' Belichick meets with top TE prospect

There's no telling whether 2018 NFL Draft prospect Hayden Hurst will be Rob Gronkowski's teammate with the New England Patriots next season, but on Tuesday, Bill Belichick took advantage of an opportunity to become more familiar with the South Carolina tight end.

With a large contingent of high-profile prospects working out at Florida State and Penn State pro days, the Patriots coach instead traveled to Columbia, S.C., where Hurst worked out as one of the draft's top tight end prospects. Belichick held a meeting with Hurst, as well as LB Skai Moore, according to The State. And it wasn't the first time Belichick and Hurst have crossed paths -- Hurst confirmed the two met in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine, as well.

Gronkowski, a five-time Pro Bowler, hinted at the possibility of retirement following the team's Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last month and hasn't yet made a decision about his playing future, according to MMQB, which makes it all the more important that Belichick do his due diligence on the TEs available in this year's draft.

Despite Hurst playing just two years at the position -- he played wide receiver in high school and in 2015 at South Carolina, following a three-year struggle in pro baseball -- he's emerged as arguably the top tight end in the draft class. He broke the Gamecocks' record for receptions by a tight end in 2016 with 48, and his blocking improved significantly from his first year as a starter to his second in 2017. With such limited experience, he's considered by scouts to have a high ceiling despite his success.

Here are four other things we learned from pro day workouts around the nation on Tuesday:

  1. Both Penn State's Saquon Barkley and FSU's Derwin James declared themselves the best player in the draft at their respective pro days, and James' claim was supported by former teammate and Jacksonville Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey.

"I do truly believe I'm the best player in the draft. There are a lot of great players from the Bakers (Mayfield) to the Josh Allens to the Bradley Chubbs and so on," Barkley told NFL Network's Kimberly Jones. "I give respect to those guys, but I personally think I'm the most versatile player in the draft. And not just talking about stat-wise. I think I bring a value to a team that doesn't show up on film, doesn't show up in the stat book."

  1. For Barkley, there was nothing to do on pro day but talk. He stood on his physical testing from the NFL Scouting Combine, and didn't even get to go through position drills.

"The goal was to come out here and do stuff, but there aren't really any running backs coaches or anyone out here to put me through drills," he said.

It was a highly unusual circumstance, to be sure. Even the best of prospects whose combine performances allow them to skip testing typically go through position drills, and finding NFL coaches to volunteer to lead those drills isn't hard at well-attended pro days like Penn State's. If there's one player in the draft who doesn't have anything more to prove, however, it's Barkley.

  1. Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton ran impressive unofficial 40 times of 4.47 and 4.51, per Jones. The middle-round projection did not run the 40 at the combine.
  1. A few whereabouts for notable NFL evaluators on Tuesday: Buccaneers GM Jason Licht (FSU); Steelers GM Kevin Colbert (Penn State); Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner (South Carolina); Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin (FSU); Panthers GM Marty Hurney (Penn State).

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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