By my count, the Patriots have made contact this draft season with no fewer than 13 running backs, undoubtedly with the idea that reinforcements are needed to support second year man Laurence Maroney. This would seem particularly true in light of the departure of Corey Dillon, who carried the ball 200 times in 06. The common perception is that the Patriots will wait until later in the draft to address this need, but just in case, here’s a two-pack of first-day runners.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal
Junior, 5’11, 215, 4.46, Stats
Ranked 15th overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/31)
The profiles call the early entry a three-down back because of Lynch’s proficiency as a runner, receiver and blocker. He is said to have the size and explosiveness to be a home-run hitter inside and out, as a lead back and as a receiving threat. Not seen as particularly shifty or elusive, and has had some durability issues. He was the accused in a rather unsavory off-field incident last December, which may red flag him. For what it’s worth, Lynch is considered a good team player, and after Adrian Peterson, the best RB prospect in the draft. There is almost universal belief among the mocks that he will go to the Packers with the 16th pick. The Pats have not been linked to Lynch to date. New England doesn’t seem to be in the market for a feature back as much as they are for a complimentary one, so this doesn’t seem like the most natural fit for Lynch.
Brian Leonard, RB, Rutgers
Senior, 6’1, 226, 4.52, Stats
Ranked 36th overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/31)
Leonard is so goddam Dirt Doggy that I fear he would be spirited away by the extreme elements of Red Sox Nation should he be drafted by the Pats. Prototypical high character, big effort guy. Seen as a hybrid type that may not be fast enough to be a halfback nor big enough to be a lead blocking fullback. Has carried the workload as a one-back, and as a senior, he moved to fullback, where he displayed determination as a blocker and good hands as a receiver. Runs hard with good balance, excellent in gaining yards after contact, and he can break one every once in awhile as both a runner and receiver. Nobody seems to know exactly where he will play, but everyone seems to agree he will play somewhere and contribute. He’s seen as a possible first-rounder by a couple of mocks, and one even earmarks him for the Pats (Draft Countdown, at #28), but largely, it’s expected he’ll come off the board somewhere in the second round. He might be an intriguing addition to the Pats backfield, particularly as a halfback, but the question is whether they can use a high pick in this draft on a guy that could end up simply as a utility player in the New England offense.