Kellen Clemens, Oregon – Clemens was my sleeper after I left the Combine because I thought he was the best quarterback there but now his draft stock is sky rocketing to the point where he may be selected as high as the second round. Clemens has a strong arm and is extremely accurate throwing the football. He has all the tools to be one of the best quarterbacks to come out of this draft.
Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo – He's a winner and a leader. Gradkowski doesn't have amazing physical skills but he's intelligent, accurate and has those intangibles that you just can't measure. He throws well on the run and hits receivers in stride. Reminded Andy Hart and myself of Tom Brady in college. He doesn't wow you but he has those extra qualities you love your quarterback to have.
Ingle Martin, Furman - Started his career at Florida before transferring to Furman. Martin really impressed at the Combine where he showed he had a strong arm and was very accurate in all the drills. Tested out as having the best velocity of any quarterback at the Combine, yet throws a catchable ball. Martin has good poise in the pocket and can make plays out of nothing. He's a very intriguing late-round prospect.
Tavaris Jackson, Alabama State – An athletic quarterback with a very strong arm. Transferred from Arkansas, so he was a Division I talent playing at Alabama State. He moves around well in the pocket and throws the ball with accuracy on the run. Jackson can be inconsistent at times and needs to work on his decision-making but for a mid-round selection, he has a lot of upside. Andy Hart calls him the steal of the draft.
Andre Hall, South Florida – Probably one of the most overlooked players in this draft. Hall is a patient runner who lets his blocks develop. He's listed at 208 pounds but Hall is very effective between the tackles and in short yardage situations. Hall is an explosive runner once he gets into the open field and very hard to bring down because he runs with a low center of gravity. Didn't get a lot of national coverage but put up 2,731 yards and 27 total touchdowns against some pretty good defenses in his two seasons at South Florida. His running style reminds me a lot of Emmitt Smith. If he turns out to be half as good as Emmitt was, some team will have a draft day steal on their hands.
P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech – A downhill runner with good vision, Daniels has the skills to be a late-round steal. Daniels is very physical and breaks a lot of tackles once he gets through the hole. He doesn't have great speed and wasn't known for breaking long runs in college but he plays a lot quicker than he's given credit for. Daniels runs low to the ground and is very effective in finding the cutback lanes. He's the kind of back the Broncos could draft in the sixth round and turn into a Pro Bowler. Daniels could end up being a much better back in the NFL than he was in college because of his physical running style and strong work ethic.
Demetrius Williams, Oregon - In a weak year for receivers, Williams could end up being the best player to come out of this class. He's big, physical, goes across the middle, makes the tough catch and has the speed to run by defenders. Williams knows how to use his size to shield himself from defensive backs and he makes a lot of tough catches in tight coverage. If Williams last until the third round, that would be a steal in my book. May not be the best fit for the Patriots system but Williams has the potential to be a star for some team.
Todd Watkins, BYU – Watkins is a tall receiver who is a big-time deep threat. Scored 15 touchdowns in two seasons at BYU, despite the team's inconsistent play at the quarterback position. He has very good hands and a knack of making tough catches look easy. Watkins readjusts well to the ball and made a lot of acrobatic catches in college. Needs work on his route running and with his slim build he doesn't break a lot of tackles. At the very least, Watkins will be a dangerous deep threat in the NFL.
Hank Baskett, New Mexico – Baskett is a big, physical receiver who goes after the ball aggressively. He knows how to overpower smaller defenders and uses his big frame to his advantage. Baskett has great leaping ability, which makes him a tough matchup in the red zone. He doesn't have blazing speed or acceleration, so he's best suited to be a possession receiver in the NFL. Baskett is a very good blocker in the running game and while he doesn't posses great measurables, he has the intangibles on the field that teams look for. He'll never be a dominant NFL receiver but could have a very productive career as a David Givens-type of player.
Tim Massaquoi, Michigan - You don't hear much about Massaquoi but I think he's one of the better receiving tight ends in this draft. He runs well after the catch and has the speed to stretch defenses. He isn't that big for a tight end and needs to get stronger at the next level but when you are talking about the sixth and seventh round of the draft, you're looking for players with potential and Massaquoi has upside. He'll never be a dominant blocker but Massaquoi has the physical skills to be a solid pass-catching tight end at the pro level.
Troy Bienemann, Washington State – Bienemann is a big target with good hands who excels at catching the ball on the short-to-intermediate routes. He doesn't have great speed but has a knack for getting open. Bienemann is a strong, physical blocker who does his best work in a short area. Versatility and toughness should make him a solid backup tight end and he's also an established long snapper. Looks like the kind of player the Patriots would be interested in if he's available in the later rounds. Andy Hart loves this guy and thinks he's the most underrated tight end in the draft.
Jahri Evans, Bloomsburg – A big lineman with a huge wingspan. His long arms allow him to fight off defenders. Evans is versatile: he can play either guard or tackle in the NFL. Absolutely dominated at the small college level and is a punishing run blocker. He'll probably play guard in the NFL because he's a Larry Allen-type mauler inside. Evans is raw and needs work on his technique but he's one of those small school players who could end up dominating in the pros.
Ryan Gibbons, Northeastern – A local product who is a smart player and got better every year he was at Northeastern. Plays with a mean streak and has the attitude and athleticism a lineman needs to dominate. Gibbons is a better run blocker than he is a pass blocker right now but if a team can get a hold of him and improve his footwork, Gibbons could be a late round/undrafted free agent find. He's the kind of player who has enough skill that a team like the Patriots can mold in two or three years to be a solid starting offensive linemen like they did with Tom Ashworth and Stephen Neal. Paul Perillo – our local Northeastern expert who hasn't missed a Huskies game in any sport since the Taft administration- gave Gibbons this glowing endorsement, "I don't know, he plays on the offensive line. I don't know how to evaluate linemen." Luckily for Patriots fans, Bill Belichick and Dante Scarnecchia are the ones who will be evaluating Gibbons, not Paul.
Brent Hawkins, Illinois State – Looking for the possible steal of the draft who is also a perfect fit for the Patriots system? If so, Hawkins could be your man. Hawkins began his college career at Purdue before transferring to Illinois State where he was a two-year starter. He dominated at the Division I-AA level, recording 17 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss as a senior. Hawkins has one of the quickest first steps of any player in this draft and that's something you just can't teach. He's so quick off the ball that he looks like he's offsides most of the time. He played defensive end in college but at 245 pounds, Hawkins projects as a 3-4 edge rusher in the NFL. He was the Defensive MVP of the Hula Bowl and with his athletic ability Hawkins has as much upside of any defensive player in this draft. Hawkins isn't only athletic but he shows good instincts on the field and is also better in coverage than most people would think.
Hawkins is a little raw and did play against a lower level of competition than some of the other 3-4 tweeners in this draft. He has a good swim move but sometimes when he doesn't beat his man to the outside bigger linemen can overpower him. Overall though, Hawkins has very few holes in his game when it comes to rushing the quarterback.
Hawkins won't fit into every scheme but he has the freakish skills to be an impact player in the right system and that system is the one the Patriots run. Give Belichick a guy with Hawkins' raw physical tools and ability to rush the passer and you could be looking at a Pro Bowler two or three years down the road. He has that much upside. There hasn't been much buzz about Hawkins but if he lands in New England on draft day, Patriots fans may look back years from know and laugh at where the team selected one of the most dominant 3-4 pass rushers in the NFL. I'm telling you, this guy has that kind of potential if he goes to the right team.
Mark Anderson, Alabama – Anderson really shined at the Senior Bowl. He finished off a great week in Mobile by beating D'Brickashaw Ferguson for a sack during the game. With a lot of the DE/OLB tweeners expected to go high in this draft, Anderson is sort of flying under the radar. Projected to go somewhere in the late first day-early second day area, Anderson's pass rushing skills are as good as some of the player who will be selected ahead of him. He's extremely quick off the ball and also shows a nice inside move. Anderson has good instincts and can beat offensive linemen in a variety of ways. He's only 254 pounds, so there are some concerns about him holding up against the run but he did a pretty good job in that area at Alabama despite his size. Anderson has the ability to play outside in the 3-4 defense, so he's a possibility for the Patriots if they don't go linebacker early in the draft.
Chris Gocong, Cal Poly - Gocong finished his college career with an NCAA record 42 sacks. He averaged nearly two sacks per game during his senior season. Gocong started at nose guard in 2003, despite only weighing 235 pounds. He switched over to defensive end in 2004. The move proved to be a wise one as Gocong led the nation with 17.5 sacks and ranked second in tackles for losses with 22. Last year as a senior, Gocong won the Buck Buchanan Award (Division I-AA Defensive Player of the Year) while leading the nation with 31 stops behind the line of scrimmage and setting a Division I-AA record with 23.5 sacks. At 263 pounds, he lacks the size to play defensive end on a consistent basis in the NFL. His speed and quickness make him a better fit in a 3-4 scheme as a pass rushing outside linebacker at the pro level. Gocong is a player that definitely fits the Patriots scheme and someone they could be targeting in the middle rounds.
Babatunde Oshinowo, Stanford – A perfect fit for the Patriots as a backup to Vince Wilfork. Oshinowo has experience playing nose tackle in the 3-4 defense at Stanford and is very stout against the run. He's a smart player and that allows him to recognize plays and get to the ball carrier despite his lack of quickness. Oshinowo isn't a great inside pass rusher but neither is Wilfork. In a 3-4 defense, nose tackles need to take on blocks and stuff the run and that's exactly what Oshinowo excels at. He isn't as highly regarded because he lacks some of the physical skills teams crave. The Patriots, however, look for players who fit their system and Oshinowo is one of those players.
Montavious Stanley, Louisville – Stanley is an underrated prospect at defensive tackle, probably because Elvis Dumervil overshadowed him at Louisville. While Dumervil got all the sacks, Stanley was a big reason why. He is such a force inside that most teams had to double-team him and that allowed Dumervil to beat one-on-one blocking. Stanley is a powerful run defender who does a really good job at shedding blocks. He tore his pectoral muscle late last season but he appears to be fully recovered. Watching him on tape, he makes a lot of plays in the backfield, especially against the run. At 321 pounds, Stanley has the size and playing style to play nose tackle in the NFL. For a middle-late round pick, Stanley offers a lot of upside and could turn into a really good pro player.
Oliver Hoyte, North Carolina State - The best middle linebacker prospect in this draft according to PFW. Hoyte is the most physical player at his position and was extremely productive in college. This guy is so good, I keep thinking I'm missing something on him but so far, I can't figure out what that may be. He played all over the place for North Carolina State because of his versatility but his physical style of play, instincts and toughness project him inside at the pro level. Hoyte has all the traits and intangibles the Patriots like and defensive coordinator Dean Pees is already impressed with his knowledge of the game. He could be another middle-to-late round steal for Belichick and Scott Pioli.
Dale Robinson, Arizona State - The best way to describe Robinson is he's a bad dude with one heck of a mean streak. Watching Robinson, he not only tackles people, he punishes them. Sometimes he tackles a little high but he's a vicious hitter and the kind of physical player who would fit in well as a 3-4 middle linebacker. Robinson makes plays all over the field and really excels against the run. He makes a lot of tackles in the backfield but he needs some work in coverage. He wasn't asked to do that much in college, however, so it may be an area he'll improve in at the next level. Another positive with Robinson is he played both inside and outside linebacker at Arizona State. While he has the speed to play outside, his bruising style of play probably makes him a better fit inside in the NFL. Robinson is a player with a nasty streak who has fun dishing out punishment on the football field so if the Patriots do draft him, they should put his locker right next to Rodney Harrison because the two of them play with a similar attitude.
Anthony Schlegel, Ohio State - The former Buckeye was overshadowed by his more publicized teammates in college but he's a very good player in his own right. He won't chase runners down from 50 yards away but he has a good burst in the 10-20 yard range. That's really the most important thing for linebackers playing in the 3-4 system. Schlegel gets overlooked but he was very productive for a great Ohio State defense. He won't wow you with his athleticism but he's a highly intelligent and productive player. Schlegel looks like a Ted Johnson clone when you watch him on tape and he could flourish as a run-stuffing middle linebacker in the Patriots system.
Clint Ingram, Oklahoma – Ingram is an underrated prospect who has good instincts and finishes off his tackles well. He made a lot of big plays for the Sooners and is a very fluid linebacker in coverage. Ingram has good size at 245 pounds and can play both inside and outside. He doesn't have great 40 times but he plays fast when he's on the football field. Ingram is the type of player that may not wow you with his measurables but put a helmet on him and he makes plays all over the field. While not highly regarded, Ingram's ability to drop back in coverage and stuff the run could make him a good fit in New England.
Anthony Smith, Syracuse – Smith could be the most underrated safety in this draft. He doesn't have great size (5-11, 190) but he makes up for it on the field with his physical style of play. Smith made a number of big plays and had six interceptions last year for a terrible Syracuse team. He shows very good instincts on the field and breaks on the bell well. Smith isn't only effective in coverage but he's a solid blitzer who also doesn't mind coming up and supporting the run. He's the kind of player who would fit in well with the Patriots because they can do a lot of different things with him and Smith plays with intensity on every snap.
Bernard Pollard, Purdue - At 6-2, 225 pounds, Pollard has good size and unlike Darnell Bing - who misses a lot of tackles - Pollard is a big hitter who also wraps up very well. When he hits someone, they go backwards. Pollard really attacks the line of scrimmage against the run and makes a lot of plays in the backfield. He showed great closing speed on tape and while he struggled in man coverage, his overall coverage skills weren't horrible. Pollard also excels at blocking punts. He doesn't get a lot of publicity but after breaking him down on tape, Pollard appears to be the kind of safety that would interest the Patriots. He could be a possibility in the third or fourth round because of his versatility and physical style of play.
Derrick Martin, Wyoming – If the Patriots don't draft a cornerback early, I think Martin would be an excellent selection in the middle rounds. He's a player who can come in and play in the slot as a rookie and contribute on special teams. Martin is very athletic and has the speed to break on the ball and run with receivers down the field. He plays well against bigger receivers and has the ball skills to make a lot of big plays. Martin has the instincts to look up for the ball at the right time and make a play on it, something that's very hard to teach. He plays with good technique and showed the ability to blitz off the corner at Wyoming. Martin is a good tackler and physical against the run, despite weighing only 190 pounds. He's a little raw but with good coaching and hard work, Martin has enough physical ability to become a starting cornerback in the NFL in the near future. He would be an excellent middle-round pick for the Patriots.