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Patriots prospects who might fill Bill's bill

Posted May 7, 2014

PFW takes a look at a few prospects at each position who might make logical Patriots selections this coming draft weekend.

One day from now all 32 teams will begin picking prospects from the 2014 NFL draft class.

Whether a franchise picks No. 1 overall like Bill O’Brien’s Texans or last in the round-by-round process like Pete Carroll’s Super Bowl champion Seahawks, each will be looking to find talented players who fit a specific scheme, philosophy and organizational way.

Not every player is a fit for every team. Needs play a role. But so, too, do many other unique individual factors.

Figuring out which players are going to pique Bill Belichick’s interest and fancy is a thankless task for media and fans alike each and every spring. Sure there are times when we get an inkling and pose a guy like Chandler Jones as a possibility. More often, though, we’re blindsided by names like Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer and Matthew Slater.

Still, we don’t give up trying to align a few of the hundreds of draft prospects as possible Patriots. With that in mind, here’s a position-by-position look at a few guys who might find their way onto the New England roster by the time this week’s three-day draft concludes come Saturday night.

Quarterback – Sure is fun to talk about Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater visiting Foxborough. But it would still be surprising to see the Patriots go after one of those bigger names near the top of the draft. One intriguing name is LSU’s Zach Mettenberger. He’s been under a barrage of bad press in recent days and was already coming off a torn ACL. He has the skills to be one of the better passers in this draft, but if he slips in the fashion that Ryan Mallett did Mettenberger might make great mid-round value. Potential New England passers later in the draft would include Alabama “winner” A.J. McCarron, South Carolina “game manager” Connor Shaw and Cornell strong-armed passer Jeff Mathews.

Running back – It looks like the first round may be running back-free for the second straight spring. But there is depth in the crop of ball carriers and with both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in the final season of their rookie contracts there is a pretty good chance New England will add a back at some point in its eight selections. LSU’s Jeremy Hill has the big body and big-play potential of the departed LeGarrette Blount. Hill also has some character/off-field red flags. Charles Sims is a possible mid-round pick who could be a three-down player with the ability to run and catch. He also has decent size. A later-round pick with size is Tennessee’s Rajion Neal, who might be a nice addition to the Patriots committee backfield, as would be the case with Central Florida’s Storm Johnson.

Tight end – With Rob Gronkowski coming back from a torn ACL, there is a hole at the top of the Patriots depth chart at this position. Even when Gronkowski returns, adding a guy to the stable would be ideal. There are a number of prospects that could be considered as potential Patriots in the first three rounds. Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro is a pure pass catcher who’d fill the Aaron Hernandez void. He’s also studied the Patriots offense in the past. Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins is another enticing pass catcher with a tad more as a blocker. Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas and Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz are well-rounded tight ends who could contribute in a variety of ways early on. Fiedorowicz’s time working at Iowa with former Patriots tight end coach Brian Ferentz might make him a more Foxborough-ready option. If tight end isn’t addressed until later in the draft don’t rule out Cal prospect Richard Rodgers, who played his high school football in Massachusetts. Rodgers has some versatility to be both a move tight end/H-back but also to develop as a blocker.

Wide receiver – New England returns three receivers who were rookies a year ago, including second-round pick Aaron Dobson. Still, that wouldn’t eliminate the team from going after a bigger, outside threat at the position to help upgrade and diversify the depth chart. Dreams of Texas A&M’s Mike Evans are a waste of time. Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin seems overrated and destined to be overdrafted at this point. Marqise Lee from USC and LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. are intriguing, but neither has much size. So, possible Day 2 names like Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Penn State’s Allen Robinson, Fresno State’s Davante Adams, Mississippi’s Donte Moncrief and Clemson’s Martavis Bryant bear watching.

Offensive line – Given the young stability the Patriots have at tackle, it’s actually one of the few positions that would seem an unlikely target in this draft, especially early on. But focusing on the interior line – center or guard – a spot the team has hosted a couple free agents this spring makes sense. Early guard possibilities include UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo and Stanford’s David Yankey. Alabama’s Anthony Steen, Penn State’s John Urschel, injured Clemson big man Brandon Thomas and Tennessee’s Zach Fulton are later options. Colorado State’s Weston Richburg, Florida State’s Bryan Stork, USC’s Marcus Martin and Florida’s Jonothan Harrison are some names that might be plausible center prospects.

Defensive end – It’s fun to think about trading up for Jadeveon Clowney. A waste of time, but fun. Almost any end after Clowney, though, could be in play as a position of need. A first-round candidate, if he falls, is Missouri’s Kony Ealy. The second round would be the spot to maybe snag Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence, Oregon State’s Scott Crichton or North Carolina’s Kareem Martin, but the talent at the end position falls off pretty dramatically later in the draft. So it might be a defensive end/pass rusher relatively early or not at all for the Patriots.

Defensive tackle – The age/recent injury history with Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly makes the interior line a possible target area. Maybe the best fit would be possible first-round pick Louis Nix III out of Notre Dame. His teammate, Stephon Tuitt also might make sense. As pure run stuffers go, Tennessee’s Daniel McCullers is a mountain of a man. Cal’s Deandre Coleman is built in the Kelly mold and could be had late on Day 3.

Linebacker – The depth behind starters Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins is nonexistent. If ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are right in there mocks – they aren’t – then the Patriots would have a shot at UCLA edge athlete Anthony Barr – they won’t. There is also the question as to whether the addition would come on the inside or outside. Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier is an exciting athlete who might be in the mix at No. 29. Other interesting options in the second round or so would be Arizona State’s Carl Bradford or Utah’s Trevor Reilly. Later on, Notre Dame’s Prince Shembo brings an interesting package of skills for OLB. If replacing Brandon Spikes on the inside is more the idea, the pickings are slim after possible top-10 pick C.J. Mosley. Waiting till the late rounds would be the best scenario in the middle for a guy like true run stuffer Andrew Jackson out of Western Kentucky or Iowa State’s Jeremiah George.

Safety – There is certainly room to add a top-end talent at safety next to Devin McCourty. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor is probably the top prospect for such a role, but he’s also likely to be gone before the Patriots have a shot at him. That leave’s Washington State’s Deone Bucannon as a top target and maybe the perfect Patriots pick in this entire draft class. Later on the likes of USC’s Dion Bailey or Wisconsin’s Dezmen Southward might be of interest.

Cornerback – In the pass-happy world of the NFL a deep cornerback class makes the position an option for all teams on draft day, regardless of the perceived depth they may already have. The Patriots – with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner now in town – are no different. If adding another bigger corner were the goal, then Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert would be a high-priced but talented target. Another early option with decent size is Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, who might also have a future at safety. TCU’s Jason Verrett is an ideal, quick cover guy who is of the more traditional 5-9 build that we’ve seen from so many Patriots corners over the years. He’s also going to be a high first-round pick. Intriguing big corners from the crop of mid-round options include Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir and Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Other corners to keep an eye on include Oregon’s Terrance Mitchell, Missouri’s E.J. Gaines, Vanderbilt’s Andre Hal and Mississippi’s Charles Sawyer.

What do you think of this huge list of potential Patriots? Who’s missing? Let us know with a comment below.

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