Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe takes a look at USC Trojans running back LenDale White. Solomon writes that White, who shared running duties with Reggie Bush at the University of Southern California, has done little to impress NFL teams since the Trojans lost to Texas in the Rose Bowl in January. White chose not to work out at the Combine in late February, supposedly to save it all for USC's Pro Day April 2. But he somehow gained 6 pounds in the interim, as he prepared to impress. Worse yet, his Pro Day performance was disappointing. He was not impressive in the bench press (only 15 repetitions at 225 pounds, compared with 24 lifts for the 200-pound Bush), and claimed a hamstring injury prevented him from running the 40-yard dash. Teams will have to go to the videotape to do so with White. That should help him. It is evidence of how White made a name for himself in a positive way in his three years with the Trojans, building his stock to where he once was considered a top-10 pick.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe takes a look at the top running back prospects in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Steve Conroy of the *Boston Herald * takes a look at Boston College defensive end Mathiuas Kiwanuka.Kiwanuka, the all-time sack leader at BC and the young man Eagles coach Tom O'Brien calls the best defensive player he's had at the Heights, was considered a top-10 pick by many when his senior season ended last winter. But after struggling against Virgina tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson in practice at the Senior Bowl before suffering a sprained shoulder and then having his strength come up as a question mark at the scouting combine, Kiwanuka has been pegged by most draft-seers to be taken somewhere in the lower stages of the first round Saturday.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that at this time in 2005, the Patriots were earning daily praise not only for the depth of their secondary, but their embarrassment of riches there. To a core of Super Bowl starters Tyrone Poole, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson and Rodney Harrison, they added free agents Duane Starks and Chad Scott, as well as safety Guss Scott, who had missed his rookie season to injury. The draft would soon yield cornerback Ellis Hobbs and safety James Sanders. Then the group struggled out of the gate. Harrison went down in Week 3, Poole couldn't get off the exercise bike, Starks became the most maligned Patriot since Scott Sisson and depth yielded to despair. With the 2006 draft just two days away, keep this experience in mind. Because while attention has focused on needs like linebacker, wideout and running back, don't be surprised if the Patriots use their first pick on a defensive back, even if it means trading up to get him.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that you hear it time and again when it comes to the Pats and the draft: They're reaching. Deion Branch was too small to be picked in the second round, Asante Samuel too slow to be taken in the fourth. A no-name guard (Logan Mankins) was a waste at the end of the first round, as was yet another tight end (Benjamin Watson). And did you really have to trade up to get Eugene Wilson and Matt Light? Then, a few years later, you often hear the same mea culpa: Guess they were right. Again. So what's the magic formula? Bill Belichick is a great coach (news flash), someone who can take B-level talent and turn it into A-level production. He makes personnel director Scott Pioli look good. But it's a two-way street, which brings us to the second reason. Pioli knows how to find the guys who will take Belichick's demanding style of coaching and thrive under it. He makes Belichick look good by giving him the right kind of clay to work with, because not many players are cut out for Belichick's brand of coaching.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald also writes that under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have had excellent success in the NFL draft. Yet they've done so while taking many players that have not necessarily been thought of as hot commodities. To illustrate this, Felger offers a pre-draft analyses of players the Pats were said to "reach" for and how those draft picks turned out.
Over the last month, Tom Curran of the Providence Journal has profiled a number of players in this year's draft. The players profiled had three things in common: 1) they figured to be on the board when the Pats drafted, 2) be at a position of need (Jay Cutler is there) and, 3) have some kind of redeeming value for the Patriots. We didn't profile every possibility (wide receiver Chad Jackson and inside linebacker Abdul Hodge are two guys we never got to). Today, Curran stacks the players profiled. Based on research on the players, conversations with agents, scouts and coaches and a knowledge of the Patriots' system gleaned from having covered them throughout the Bill Belichick-Scott Pioli Era, Curran lists how they're rating the group that has been looked at.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal also takes a look at Ohio State kicker Josh Huston.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that at his pre-draft press conference eight days ago, Patriots coach Bill Belichick called this a "typical" offseason. Actually, it has been anything but. Not only did the Patriots fail to reach the Super Bowl for only the second time in five years, they suffered what were far and away their worst free agency losses since Belichick became head coach more than six years ago. But this weekend, the Patriots seem to be in luck. Not only do they have six picks in the first four rounds (21, 52, 75, 86, 106, 118), but there seems to be a deep pool of attractive candidates at linebacker and defensive back, where the Patriots have the biggest need. But the pool is shallow at receiver, where the Patriots added former Charger Reche Caldwell but still have needs because of the loss of Givens, Dwight, and Andre Davis (Bills). Because the Patriots have two picks in the third and fourth rounds, they could package those picks to move up in either the first or second round if they believed a player they really coveted would be taken by someone else.
Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger writes that Over the last three drafts the New England Patriots have added only one "skill position" player who has amounted to anything - tight end Benjamin Watson, the second of their two first-round picks in 2004. The jury is still out on quarterback Matt Cassel, a seventh-rounder last year, and swings and misses on tight end Andy Stokes (seventh round) in 2005, running back Cedric Cobbs (fourth round) and receiver P.K. Sam (fifth round) in 2004 and receiver Bethel Johnson (second round) and quarterback Kliff Kingsbury (sixth round) in 2003 have not come back to haunt them yet. The stakes are a little higher this year. The Patriots enter this weekend's draft with a gaping hole at receiver after losing David Givens in free agency. And there is a major question mark at running back, where Corey Dillon's disastrous 2005 campaign has clouded his future. On a lighter note, they could also use a third tight end.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.