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Raised by Wolf: Scouting legacy leading Patriots into new era

Tue Feb 27 5:59pm ET
Field Level Media

INDIANAPOLIS -- Eliot Wolf attended his first combine 31 years ago as one of the easiest faces to identify.

The 10-year-old son of Packers general manager Ron Wolf is back at the NFL Scouting Combine this week running the personnel department of an NFL team for the first time. Wolf is director of scouting for the New England Patriots, ushered in alongside new head coach Jerod Mayo in the changing of the guard sparked by Bill Belichick's exit.

"My dad used to sit down at the start of the 40s and it was him, Bill Parcells and Al Davis and I just sitting there like soaking it all up," Eliot Wolf said Tuesday at his 30th combine (the 2021 event was called off due to COVID-19). "It was just tremendously rewarding. And, you know, kind of as I look back on it, it was you know definitely a special time."

The elder Wolf, 84, and Belichick have been associates for decades dating to Belichick's father coaching at Navy.

A scouting legend with the Raiders and Packers in his heyday who is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ron Wolf attended training camp at Belichick's request, even in recent summers, to advise on roster decisions and position competition.

Belichick worked as coach but also wielded final say in personnel decisions, including the draft. One of the voices he called on most in recent years was Eliot Wolf, who had the same title as a scout with a diverse role under Belichick.

Not only is Wolf following an all-time great, the 41-year-old holds the cards with New England's first top-10 pick since drafting Mayo -- a linebacker at Tennessee -- in 2008.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft didn't knock down expectations or conjecture in labeling the 2024 draft the "most important in team history."

New England picks No. 3 in the first round and doesn't have a franchise quarterback in the building at the moment. While much has changed, his Ron Wolf made this kind of call -- he acquired Brett Favre from the Atlanta Falcons and drafted Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell and Aaron Brooks as backups while in Green Bay -- there are hints in the draft history books.

Eliot Wolf said his father passed down many lessons that will prepare him to be ready for draft day.

"I think in terms of scouting itself, it just kind of trust what you see and believe in it. But also really lessons about people," he said. "I still believe and this is great to be able to work with Jerod who also believes this is a people business and it's about developing people. And the culture is created from the people in your building, whether that scouts coaches players support staff and I think that's tremendously important as you try to build the culture that you want."

While diagramming the Patriots' path forward under Mayo comes with a status level Eliot Wolf hadn't yet achieved in the NFL, he's still a relative pup by general manager standards. That will still expose him to the type of good-natured ribbing even his old man would appreciate.

A former Packers scout under Wolf and Ted Thompson, current Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Tuesday he was already feeling his "over-50" age before the questions about Wolf started.

"I used to babysit him! Thanks a lot - I appreciate that," a smirking Schneider said. "He was always around us; he was always in the draft room with us. He was always sitting in our offices, always taking as much information as he possibly could, always had very strong opinions. If you ask him, I'm sure he was All-Conference, but I don't know if he ever played a down for the high school... little dig there, Eliot.

"He was just really into it, and we hired him back - he went to Miami, went to school there, and worked in their scouting department. One of those first jobs that really ever existed. He went down there and came back. Reggie {McKenzie} and John Dorsey and Ted Thompson and myself hired him back, and he just took off. I haven't had a chance to talk to him, but I'm happy everything's turned out for him."

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Tee Higgins Feb 28 12:20am ET
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Derrick Henry Feb 28 12:00am ET
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In a media availability at the 2024 NFL Combine, Tennessee Titans head coach Brian Callahan was asked about the Cincinnati Bengals' decision to draft wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase instead of offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Callahan was the team's offensive coordinator at that time, and Cincinnati desperately needed offensive line help. Tennessee is facing similar circumstances ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft, with the offensive line and wide receiver positions being its top team needs. "When all things are equal," Callahan said. "Guys that can score touchdowns make more of an impact." Tennessee has a key decision to make with its No. 7 overall selection. Offensive tackles Joe Alt and Olu Fashanu and wide receivers Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze have been popular prospects to keep an eye on to potentially land with Will Levis and the Titans.

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Fantasy Spin: Adams is coming off his fourth consecutive 100-catch season despite playing most of his snaps with Jimmy Garoppolo and Aidan O'Connell. There is a distinct possibility Las Vegas will be able to upgrade that position this offseason, which should only lock Adams in as a top-10 fantasy receiver yet again. Assuming Adams gets the quarterback upgrade, he should be able to improve on last year's 103-1,144-8 line.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year next month, but general manager Jason Licht made it clear on Tuesday, Feb. 27, that the team is 'going to do whatever we can to make sure he's a Buc.'

Fantasy Spin: With the league recently announcing the salary cap will take a $30 million hike in 2024, it certainly should increase Tampa Bay's chances of retaining the only receiver ever to begin his career with 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons. However, the change at offensive coordinator from Dave Canales to Liam Coen may result in a slight hit to his fantasy stock next season - assuming he is re-signed.

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Jonnu Smith Feb 27 3:43pm ET
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Sam Howell Feb 27 3:40pm ET
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Rashod Bateman Feb 27 3:30pm ET
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Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that wide receiver Rashod Bateman is going to get the ball "a lot more" next season and said that he expects the wideout to take a big step forward in 2024. Odell Beckham Jr. may not return in free agency, which would help, but most fantasy managers will likely want to see it before believing Harbaugh's words. The 24-year-old disappeared more often than not in his third NFL season in 2023, finishing with just 32 receptions for 367 yards and one touchdown on 56 targets in 16 regular-season games. A lot more would have been expected of the former first-rounder had we known he was going to stay healthy all year. Unless Zay Flowers or tight end Mark Andrews miss time with injury in 2024, Bateman will have an uphill battle to climb again for consistent fantasy value.

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Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell said that wide receiver Jameson Williams is going to push to be a full-time starter in 2024. "By the end of the year, we really felt like he was coming into his own," Campbell said of Williams. The 22-year-old former first-round pick was suspended for the first month of his sophomore season in 2023 due to gambling and ended up finishing the regular season with 24 catches on 42 targets for 354 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games (10 starts). He added a TD on three rushing attempts. Williams steadily saw more time on the field as the season progressed, but he wasn't much of a factor as a deep threat with quarterback Jared Goff preferring underneath routes. As long as Goff is Detroit's starting QB, Williams will likely be a boom/bust fantasy receiver.

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