INDIANAPOLIS — SMU wide receiver James Proche seemingly has fans in the New England Patriots’ organization.
That shouldn’t come as a big surprise since Proche is a versatile slot receiver with some of the best hands in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Last month, Patriots scouts reportedly were “gushing over” Proche at the Senior Bowl. Proche didn’t notice the positive report at the time.
“I wasn’t really focused on it,” Proche said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I was just focused on doing my job at a high level. And whoever liked me liked me. I wasn’t really focused on who was looking at me.”
Proche met with the Patriots at the combine Monday night, and it seems he made another strong impression on New England.
“It was cool — nice and short and brief,” Proche said. “It was kind of what I expected. No smiles or emotions, just like, ‘What do you know?’ They asked me questions. I feel like I did a good job of showing my football knowledge. That’s something they respected.”
Proche measured in at 5-foot-11, 201 pounds at the combine. He caught 301 career passes at SMU for 3,949 yards with 39 touchdowns, plus 10 carries for 50 yards, 50 punt returns for 382 yards and 31 kick returns for 615 yards.
The SMU product, who dropped just three passes on 164 targets in 2019 and nine total in his college career, is also known for making contested catches and one-handed grabs.
“I feel like I catch the ball better than anybody in football,” Proche said. “I love catching the ball. My girlfriend’s throwing me the ball, my brothers, I’m catching the ball in the dark. It’s just something I’ve always loved to do. I feel like God blessed me with that tool.”
Proche said he’s been making one-handed catches since he was 11 years old.
He said his personality also could set him apart in a loaded receiver class.
“I just want to show I’m a good locker room guy, good team guy,” Proche said. “I’ll be good for the community for whatever team drafts me.”
The wide receiver prospect said teams have talked to him about playing outside and in the slot. Proche caught 56 passes for 581 yards from the slot in 2019. He’s recently been picking the brain of former SMU wide receiver Cole Beasley, who now plays for the Buffalo Bills.
“I just want to learn a lot of stuff from him,” Proche said. “I feel like he’s the best in the game in the slot, especially with his quote-unquote size deficiencies. He does a great job of making it work, using leverages, knowing coverages. I just want to pick his brain and learn as much as possible.”
The Patriots reportedly were interested in Beasley as a free agent last offseason. Proche wouldn’t necessarily compare his game to Beasley’s, however.
“I think I’m me,” Proche said. “I’m a unique blend. I work very hard of trying to create my own identity and separate it from other guys. I’d be an idiot to not learn from him. He’s a baller.”
The Patriots could use some additional help at wide receiver even after selecting N’Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Proche currently is regarded as a mid-round prospect. The Patriots are projected to have three third-round picks.
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