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Patriots Monday (WEEI Simulcast) Mon Nov 29 | 08:55 AM - 03:00 PM

Draft prospectus: D-line

The last position we look at is the one that has fueled the most talk in Patriots Nation this offseason. With New England's unbearable struggles to stop the run last season, the unit ranked 31st in the NFL is rushing yards allowed per game, general consensus is that the team must find help along the interior of the defensive line.

While second-year pro Richard Seymour was elected to his first Pro Bowl in 2002, the overall depth and talent along the defensive line was poor. Veteran free agent Steve Martin, a guy that was brought in to specifically help the team against the run, was a bust. Martin was released in December after the team struggled out of the gate to stop the run and his playing time eventually became non-existent. As it stands just two days before the draft the team has just two other tackles besides Seymour, first-year player Ken Kocher and veteran backup Rick Lyle. And should the team be inclined, as has been speculated, and move Seymour to the outside in a 3-4 front, there is currently no player on the roster likely to claim the nose position in New England.

The other three defensive linemen on the roster, second-year player Jarvis Green and veterans Bobby Hamilton and Anthony Pleasant, are more suited to play end. Green and Hamilton showed some versatility in seeing action on the inside for the coaching staff as they searched for answers last season, but to ask them to play inside on a regular basis would be unlikely.

That said, every expectation points to the Patriots selecting at least one defensive lineman, likely an interior type player sometime early in the draft. While this is considered one of the deepest crops of defensive linemen in history, recent reports indicate that New England may not sight and wait at picks 14 and 19. While no trade would likely tack place until draft day and the picks begin to unfold, there is a chance the Patriots could move up in the draft, either to the number four pick of the Bears or elsewhere in the top ten, to select one of the elite linemen.

Things have changed over the last few months, but the elite interior guy is now projected to be Kentucky's Dewayne Robertson. The 6-1, 317-pound powerful inside player ran a 4.8 forty time and is now expected to be one of the top five players taken. Prior to Robertson's hop into the top of the draft, 6-4, 322-pound Penn State tackle Jimmy Kennedy was considered the elite of the class. Kennedy visited Gillette earlier this month and could be another option for the Patriots if they choose to trade up.

But while New England might have to be in the top seven or so picks to get Robertson or Kennedy, there are a number of other options, although numerous defensive linemen are expected to go in the first 20 picks of the first round. The next group of players includes another guy the Patriots have shown interest in, 6-3, 313-pound Georgia tackle Johnathan Sullivan. Sullivan is a former teammate of Seymour's at Georgia, but could be another player that might not last to the 14th selection. Other top tackles expected to go off the board early are Miami's William Joseph, Oklahoma States Kevin Williams, Ohio State's Kenny Peterson, Washington State's Rien Long and Texas A&M's Ty Warren.

Should New England not trade up and not feel comfortable with the talent that slips to its current picks, there are options later in draft. Names that could be had in the mid to later rounds include Clemson's Nick Eason, Alabama's Jarret Johnson, Tennessee's Rashad Moore, Penn State's Anthony Adams, Oregon State's Eric Manning, Florida's Ian Scott, Iowa's Colin Cole, Temple's Dan Klecko, Stanford's Matt Leonard, N.C. State's Terrance Martin and Tennessee's Aubrayo Franklin.

There is also a chance that the team could decide that there is more talent in this year's crop of ends and go that route. Should that be the case it is unlikely the team would move up for the top prospect, Terrell Suggs. Suggs has run poor forty times this spring (some as high as 4.9) but with his record 24 sacks in 2002 is still expected to go at the top of the first round. Guys who could be an option for the Patriots in the middle of the round are Miami's Jerome McDougle and Penn State's Michael Haynes. Nebraska end Chris Kelsay is expected to go at the end of the round.

Ends that could be available in the mid to later rounds include Louisville's DeWayne White, Texas' Cory Redding, Colorado's Tyler Brayton, Wake Forest's Calvin Pace, Alabama's Kenny King, Alabama's Kindal Moorehead, Cal's Tully Banta-Cain, Florida's Clint Mitchell, Florida State's Alonzo Jackson and Miami's Andrew Williams. Outside players that could be had late in the draft are Boston College's Antonio Garay, Oklahoma's Jimmy Wilkerson, Fresno State's Nick Burley, Texas Tech's Aaron Hunt, Miami's Matt Walters, Miami's Jamaal Green, Clemson's Bryant McNeal, Tennessee's Omari Hand, Michigan's Shantee Orr and Kansas State's Melvin Williams.

So just as is the case in most year's, 2003 draft weekend in New England will be filled with questions. With 13 picks and needs across the board, the Patriots could choose to go in numerous directions. Whether it is a trade up into the top of the draft, separate trades to move up within the draft or moves involving future picks, expect the Patriots to very active participants this weekend. The true measure of the work that is done this weekend won't come for years, but there is a chance that fans could look back on the 2003 draft as a key time in the franchise's success. Of course the opposite is also true. The decisions made in the war room at Gillette Stadium this weekend will decide.

Prospect Video

For video of some of the many prospects that are available this weekend check out the pre-draft edition of Patriots Video News on Friday right here on Patriots.com

Colvin to participate in WalkAmerica

Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin will greet participants at this Sunday's Boston WalkAmerica event to support the March of Dimes. The event will also include a member of the New England Revolution, as well as mascots from both the Revolution and Patriots. The event takes place Sunday, April 27 at noon at the MDC Hatch Shell.

"On behalf of the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution, we are proud to team up with the March of Dimes in their campaign against prematurity," Jonathan Kraft, President of the Kraft Group and Vice Chairman of the New England Patriots, said of the organization's participation in the event. "By participating in Boston's WalkAmerica, you will help the March of Dimes take an important step toward eliminating premature births."

For more information on WalkAmerica call 1-800-525-WALK or go to www.walkamerica.org

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