October 22, 2014

Patriots Draft Scenarios: In Belichick We Trust, Mostly

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

This season on PD, we’ve shown different scenarios of how we think the Patriots draft will go, and how we want it to go. Now, armed with updated pro day info and a different week’s perspective, we revisit how April 28-30 will go down.

New England has six picks in the first three rounds (say them with me, people: 17, 28, 33, 60, 74, 92) and one pick in each of the following three. The Patriots have selected 24 rookies over the past two years, 17 of whom remain on the roster.

In short, youth has been served; at this point, quality rules over quantity.

A review of the second round of the 2009 draft helps us predict Bill Belichick’s draft tendencies. He traded down for safety Patrick Chung, a potential long-term starter at Foxboro, then fulfilled a defensive line need with Ron Brace.

Belichick later grabbed cornerback Darius Butler, whom many saw as a first-round talent. Finally, he surprised New England fans by taking offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, an under-the-radar prospect who quickly became a starter.

The second round yielded two starters (Chung, Vollmer), one contributor (Brace), and Butler, who may not pan out for the team despite coming in as the highest-rated of the bunch.

Based on that round, let’s predict the Patriots 2011 draft.

FIRST PICK (17 and 33) – Belichick will trade up for the pass rusher he wants here. As much as we’ve been begging for UNC’s Robert Quinn, we can more safely predict that Cal’s Cameron Jordan gets the call.

At 6-4, 285 pounds, Jordan can rush the passer as a down end or contain the run as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That flexibility makes him an every-down player and gives opposing offenses something else to think about.

SECOND PICK (28) – Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin. New England’s O-line needs help and Carimi can provide it, as he was the best on the Badgers’ formidable front in 2010.

In the past we would have liked to see a defensive end drafted here, but Jordan gives the Pats some leeway to improve the other side of the ball.

THIRD PICK (60) – Running back DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma. Here’s where we differ with Coach Belichick. We see plenty of backfield talent available on Day Three, and would seek defensive help here. However, Murray’s speed (4.38 40) and production (school record 6,626 career all-purpose yards) bring him to the Pats in the second round.

While recent pro day results have many looking at Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones in this area of the draft (including a 4.33 40 and a 39.5-inch vertical), Jones’ double-digit fumbles over the past two seasons (danger!) will keep him out of a Pats uniform.

FOURTH PICK (74) – Defensive lineman Terrell McClain, South Florida. The word “explosive” gets thrown around in sports the same way “genius” gets used in Hollywood: far too often. Still, McClain’s physical nature fits the description. At 6-2, 295 pounds, he ran a 4.85-second 40, faster than most fullback candidates.

Though we’d look for a taller candidate to fill out the defensive end spot, McClain’s (wait for it…) explosiveness will entice Belichick to draft him here.

FIFTH PICK (92) – receiver Greg Salas, Hawaii. Now, if we were picking, Edmund Gates of Abilene Christian would wind up in Foxboro. Gates has breakneck speed that can open up the field.

Salas lacks that straight-line zip, but he has mid-range quickness and a knack for getting open that Belichick will appreciate, as will a certain someone whose name rhymes with Pom Shady.

SIXTH PICK (125) – Traded for future considerations. Let’s face it: when it comes to Belichick and trades, the man can’t help himself.

So, let’s try that again…

SIXTH PICK (159) – Outside linebacker Bruce Miller, Central Florida. The Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year proved a nightmare for opposing defenses. His size (6-1, 254) will keep him on the board late, but his strength (35 bench reps) and his tenacity (watch him wreak havoc here) will make him a contributor on any 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker convert.

SEVENTH PICK (193) – Offensive lineman Andrew Jackson, Fresno State. The 2009 All-WAC guard spent most of this past season injured, pushing back his status to later on Day Three.

Jackson tossed up 225 pounds 25 times at the combine. Besides having a historical name, he plays for old Belichick pal Pat Hill at Logan Mankins’ alma mater. None of that hurts.

FREE AGENTS – With only seven picks taken in this year’s draft (we hope), the Pats will need some players to round out rookie camp. We offer some prime choices below.

Running back Terrence Holt, Austin Peay. Holt already made our superlatives list as the Danny Woodhead of 2011 (he’s 5-7, 185). We’d like nothing better than for the Pats to give him a shot. The running back/returner did yeoman work for the Governors this past season, leading the team in rushing, receiving and return yards (averaging 23.4 per kickoff).

For confirmation that kick and punt returns can be the most exciting plays in football, watch Holt here.

Tackle David Mims, Virginia Union. He’s about as raw as a fresh egg, but who better to deal with young linemen than Belichick and Coach Dante Scarnecchia? Having size (6-8, 331) and strength (29 bench reps) adds a ton of potential.

Receiver Jeremy Ross, California. Ross led the Golden Bears in punt return yardage and, at 6-0, 209 pounds, qualifies as a bigger wideout in New England (aka Receiver Lilliput). His speed (4.44 40) and – dare I say it – explosiveness ( 39-inch vertical) should get him a look.

If you want a look, see his highlights here.

Defensive tackle Elisha Joseph, Temple. Though he got overlooked in favor of teammate Muhammad Wilkerson, Joseph’s pro day turned heads. He benched 225 pounds 43 times (whoa) and managed to hurl his 295-pound body 28 inches skyward (yeesh). If he goes undrafted, he should get a call from Foxboro.

Cornerback Darrin Walls, Notre Dame. The Pats found success signing Irish safety Sergio Brown last year, so why not return to South Bend for his battery mate? Walls managed a 4.42 40 at his pro day and showed good quickness. He had three interceptions and four pass breakups this past season.

Middle Linebacker Cobrani Mixon, Kent State. New England got their money’s worth out of Kent State alum Julian Edelman; look for them to invite this All-MAC Football first-teamer to camp. The 6-1, 245-pound Mixon ran a 4.68 40 and had 33 bench reps at his pro day. In 2010 he had 82 tackles, including 6.5 sacks.

You can see Mixon’s pass-rushing ability in his highlight reel.

Well, dear readers, any thoughts on this year’s draft – or any players we should be looking out for – please let us know in the comment section below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: Picks To Avoid

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Well, now that I have as much chance of winning my NCAA pool as Pittsburgh does (thanks a lot, Big East!), time to refocus on the NFL draft.

Today we’ll discuss some players whose names have appeared on many mock drafts, but with whom we have some issues. (For a concise rundown of Pats mock picks, check out the draft tracker on patriots.com.) While most of the choices below have some merit, we just don’t see them as helping out the team as much as others could.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: (Um, just one, please?) While New England needs a boost to its front five, we disagree with taking two with their first two picks.

For the love of all that’s decent, Coach Belichick, WILL YOU PLEASE DRAFT A PASS RUSHER?

In other words, Mike Pouncey or Derek Sherrod or Gabe Carimi. Also, as much as we enjoy watching BC football – although “enjoy” is stretching it of late – we’re not looking to bring tackle Anthony Castonzo to Gillette. After watching his matchup against North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, we don’t have the confidence that Castonzo can start right away as an NFL tackle.

Jake Locker

QUARTERBACKS: We’ve seen Jake Locker of Washington mock-selected by prospective Pats fans in the first or early second round. Except for trade scenarios, we don’t want to see any QBs picked until at least Round Five. I mean, come on. That’s obvious. Or “obvi,” as the kids are saying.

Heaven help me, I just don’t get the kids.

PASS RUSHERS: The Patriots lack a pass rusher in the same way the moon lacks gravity: what’s there will hold you, but it’s less than what you really need. Some of the names being floated around on the team’s behalf make us nervous. For example, Aldon Smith of Missouri has good size (6-4, 263) but not-all-that-great strength (20 bench reps of 225) or quickness (4.5 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle). Declaring early for the draft after his sophomore year, he’s also greener than Kermit.

Dontay Moch of Nevada has tremendous speed (4.4 40) and production (22 tackles for loss in 2010), but at 6-1, 248, it’s hard to imagine him setting the edge in New England’s 3-4 defense.

While we like the leverage of Akeem Ayers of UCLA (6-3, 254), he failed to impress at the combine. A slow 40 (4.81) and a weak bench (18 reps) take him off our list.

RUNNING BACKS: New England needs a running back the same way I need a workout – if I continue without one, it doesn’t bode well for the future. That said, Daniel Thomas of Kansas State has left our draft boards due in part to a slow 40 (4.63), but mostly because of nagging injuries that have prevented him from displaying his quickness. While he remains on our radar, his current rank as a second-rounder looks too risky right now.

Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech has been posited as a first- or early second-round pick, but for whatever reason I don’t see it (that means good news, Ryan: you’re going to Foxboro!). He has solid quickness (4.18 in the shuttle) but only so-so speed (4.63 40); he’s also a smaller guy at 5-9, 212 pounds. His 2009 highlight reel looks impressive (the first three minutes of it feature the BC defense, by the way) but we wonder how well his game will translate from the ACC to the NFL.

WIDE RECEIVERS: First and foremost comes Jon Baldwin of Pittsburgh. The Brobdingnagian ballplayer (6-4, 228 pounds) failed to impress scouts at the combine, running dull routes, showing little quickness, and missing too many catches. While his athleticism intrigues, his lack of fundamentals frightens.

Tandon Doss of Indiana (6-2, 200) was unable to participate in the combine due to double groin surgery (Good gracious: two groins?). He looks like a solid, versatile receiver; however, so does Julian Edelman. If Doss puts up the kind of 40 time that makes him a downfield option, that’s just fine. If not, New England needs to look for something beyond what they already have.

Greg Little of North Carolina looks better on paper than a winning lottery ticket. At 6-2, 230 pounds, he ran a 4.5-second 40, leapt 41 inches and completed the 3-cone drill in 6.80 seconds. All remarkable. One problem with bringing him to Gillette, though: don’t the Pats already have a gifted, raw receiver out of UNC in Brandon Tate? As a third-rounder, there’s more than a Little temptation here (get it? So funny), but the team needs to stay away from another developmental project and look for a pass-catcher who can contribute from day one.

So, what mock Pats players chafe your chaps? Let us know in the comment section below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Pats Draft Scenarios: The Too-Early Mock

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

While trying to guess whom Bill Belichick and Company will select in the last weekend of April, we reviewed recent history and came up with these basic rules for a New England draft.

Rule One: Avoid the flashy guy. Sure, there could be an incredible athlete available right when they’re picking, but the Pats tend to look past the Players of the Week to review each player’s overall career and see how it fits in Foxboro.

Rule Two: Trade down when possible. Relates to Rule One. This will happen, people. Heaven help us, this will happen.

Rule Three: Find a lesser-known player who may have been available later, and draft him. Too harsh? Maybe. While the Pats have a well-earned reputation for finding proverbial diamonds in the rough, for every Julian Edelman there’s at least one George Bussey.

With those three rules in mind, we’ll give this a shot. New England has six picks in the first three rounds (17, 28, 33, 60, 74 and 92 overall). They also have one pick each in rounds four, five and six (numbers to be determined). Ladies and gentlemen fans of Foxboroites, your 2011 Patriots draft…

Gabe Carimi

Just after Pick 17: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin OT. Yep. Despite needing a dominant pass-rusher more than a waterfall needs gravity, New England will trade down (see Rule Two) for an offensive lineman. A great one, sure – Carimi won the Outland Trophy this past season – but was it the Pats’ offense or defense that had us screaming at the TV in January?

We’d like to see: We at PD have made our hopes clear regarding trading up for pass rusher/athletic freak Robert Quinn of North Carolina (How about San Francisco at number seven, Bill? Think about it). Barring that, defensive end J. J. Watt would fit quite nicely, as would myriad other pass-rushing candidates.

Pick 28: Cameron Heyward, Ohio State DE. Here’s a situation where the Pats look beyond Heyward’s elbow surgery earlier this year that prevented him from participating in the combine. His body of work, his size (6-5, 294) and his status (a captain at OSU) put him on the local radar and bring him to Gillette as a rookie starter.

We’d like to see: Barring a trade up for Quinn, maybe another pass-rushing type like Ryan Kerrigan of Iowa or Justin Houston of Georgia. But we have no problems with picking a defensive lineman, as it fills a need with a productive player. In fact, writing the previous statement makes us wonder if it’s going to happen. We’ll just be quiet now.

Pick 35 or so: Brooks Reed, Arizona OLB. The Pats will trade down again (because they can) and snatch up the best pass rusher available. That looks like Reed, an outside linebacker who – unlike the Pats’ current crop – can get to quarterbacks before they have a chance to set up their proverbial picnic blankets. Reed’s 6-3, 263-pound frame and 30 reps on the bench press should hold up against the run as well, potentially making him an every-down player on defense.

We’d like to see: Nothing against Reed (we heard his name was going to be Rivers but he was smaller than expected. Ha), but we’d address the pass-rushing position in Round One and take Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith here. Smith has good size and excellent speed; he would add a deep threat to New England’s well-stocked wideouts.

Pick 60: Kenrick Ellis, Hampton DT. Not the flashy receiver or running back fans will want, but a big body who can take up space in the middle – or anywhere else along the line. At 6-5, 346, Hampton brings to mind a big body like Ted Washington of the 2003 Patriots.

We’d like to see: It’s hard to mess with this pick, and not only because that dude just got classified as a planet. (Sorry, Mercury!) The more monoliths along the defensive line, the better.

Pick 74: Ronald Johnson, USC WR. He doesn’t have great straightaway speed (4.46 in the 40) nor size (5-11, 199), but Johnson’s experience, big-school production and versatility (second team All Pac-10 punt returner) get him drafted ahead of schedule here.

We’d like to see: Wide receiver Edmund Gates of Abilene Christian. Faster and quicker than Johnson, Gates proved an exciting playmaker at the Division II level. With time – much like what they allowed for Taylor Price this past season – Gates could develop into a reliable receiver.

Pick 92: Delone Carter, Syracuse RB. Due to his stature (5-9), Carter may get compared to Lil’ Danny Woodhead. Some similarities hold true, especially when looking at the quickness of each player (compare Carter’s combine numbers with Woodhead’s 2008 pro day numbers). Though slower in the 40, Carter actually showed quicker times in the 20-yard shuttle and the 3-cone drill. Plus, Carter outweighs Woodhead by 25 pounds. We envision the ol’ coach hearkening back to the days of Joe Morris with this pick.

We’d like to see: Based on pure athleticism, cornerback Buster Skrine (pronounced screen) of Tennessee-Chattanooga warrants a long look here. Though undersized at 5-9, his 40 (4.37), quickness and return skills give Skrine the ability to help the team immediately, both as kick returner and defensive back in a dime (six-DB) package.

Round Four: Cortez Allen, Citadel CB. Ever heard of him? Nope? Exactly. Our nod to Rule Three comes in the form of a solid athlete who attended a military-style academy. Allen made second-team all conference and led the Bulldogs with five pass breakups. He has good size (6-1, 197) and quickness (4.1 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle) and seems like the type of guy about whom the Pats’ scouts would have enough inside info to warrant a selection.

We’d like to see: As we’ve said before, Hawaii running back Alex Green seems to fit the Patriots. As part of the Warriors’ pass-oriented offense, Green still gained over 1,000 yards this past season. His combine 40 (4.45) belies his size (6-0, 225). If the Pats decide to wait until the middle rounds, they can get some heft and speed for their backfield here.

Round Five: David Arkin, Missouri State OG. The Pats have taken offensive linemen recently in this area of the draft. This off-season has given them no reason to stop such a trend, as Stephen Neal has retired and Logan Mankins has made his contract dissatisfaction clear. Arkin earned All Missouri Valley Football Conference honors for every one of his four years at college. That’ll work.

Also, while Arkin attended Missouri State, Pats guard Dan Connolly went to Southeast Missouri State. So… that’s something. Right?

We’d like to see: If he’s still available, this looks like a great spot for linebacker Mark Herzlich of BC. A heady player with strength, Herzlich has been a great leader for the Eagles and could contribute right away on special teams.

Round Six: T. J. Yates, North Carolina QB. The Pats pick up another dependable, productive QB from a solid system who will make a dependable, solid backup. (I mean, when you have Tom Brady, who wants to see anyone else under center?) Yates (6-3, 219) holds both the career and single-season passing records at UNC. When New England trades him for a second-rounder in a few years, we shall all nod with the understanding that this was part of the plan.

We’d like to see: Something about quarterback Josh Portis of California-PA intrigues us here at PD. He showed his ability to run (4.59 combine 40), yet he passed for over 6,000 yards in his two-year career. Maybe we’re just hearkening back to the days of Michael Bishop at backup QB, but it would really mess with opposing defenses to have someone like Portis take a snap once in a while.

Thoughts? Opinions? Martha Stewart crafts? Please post any or all of them below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: Day One

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

We miss the good old days of the NFL draft weekend, spending Saturday and Sunday sitting on the couch, blogging, eating pizza and sipping diet Dr. Pepper.

(Sorry, ladies: I’m married.)

Over the next few days, we’ll be posting our thoughts on what New England might do on each draft day of the new, ratings-improved, three-day format beginning Thursday, April 28 with Round One. (Friday night will feature Rounds Two and Three; Saturday afternoon has Rounds Four through Seven – and no, I don’t know why I’m putting rounds in capital letters.)

Every year, it seems, Bill Belichick gets his team in prime position heading into draft weekend. And every year, it seems, he trades down to get his team in prime position for next year.

You’d think at this point that it wouldn’t be a surprise.

Due to such finagling of picks past, New England finds itself with two selections on Day One (17, 28). This gives them some serious bartering power. We’ll see if they use it.

SCENARIO ONE: The Big Kahuna

As mentioned in a previous PD piece, Coach Belichick could trade up for a top pick such as Robert Quinn of North Carolina. Despite some off-field issues (health questions and a suspension this fall), the pass-rusher helped himself during the NFL combine. His speed numbers (4.62-second 40) fit a running back, much less a 6-foot-4, 265-pound college defensive end.

Sure, there’s risk involved (What if he can’t stay healthy? What if he’s a jerk? What if he reads a headline that says “The Mighty Quinn” for the 7,000th time and loses it?). But for the past few years, New England’s defense has been like a drummer, bassist and piano player doing jazz: okay in general, but you need some sax.

Cal's Cameron Jordan

Sorry. It’s been a long winter.

Other looks: Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Cal DE Cameron Jordan and Alabama DT Marcell Dareus would each merit a trade up. All have the potential to start right away in New England’s defense.

If the Pats make a move for anyone other than a front seven defender, get me a throat lozenge because I’ll be screaming myself hoarse.

SCENARIO TWO: The Blue Chippers

With the depth in this draft at outside linebacker and defensive end, the Patriots should improve themselves by the end of round one.

At outside linebacker, we like Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, Adrian Clayborn of Iowa and Justin Houston of Georgia. All can get after the QB, and all showed the quickness necessary to drop back into coverage. While Missouri’s Aldon Smith had an impressive combine, the sophomore’s lack of experience scares me off.

Defensive ends include Wisconsin’s J. J. Watt and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward. When healthy, Heyward has changed games. Of course, “when healthy” is the Mephistopheles of introductory clauses, promising great things but always leading you astray.

Other looks: New England needs help on the offensive line. The one athlete who really pops out is tackle Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin. Watching him take on Clayborn in this highlight reel shows his agility and strength. He makes a top-ranked pass rusher look about as relevant as a tailor at a nudist colony. Mike Pouncey out of Florida could help the O-line as well.

So, Mr. Belichick, no specialists. No receiver (A. J. Green of Georgia), no running backs (Mikel Leshoure of Illinois, Mark Ingram of Alabama). Plenty of guys to look at on Days Two and Three.

Deal? Deal.

SCENARIO THREE: The Contributors (aka The Fans’ Nightmare)

Hey, it could happen. Maybe the coach will be too busy to consult PD on draft day and he’ll fail to heed our advice. In that case, he’ll trade down and get some less flashy players who will help the team – just not as much as we’d hoped.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson of Temple, cornerback Jimmy Smith of Colorado and linebacker Martez Wilson of Illinois all fit that description for me. Each seems able to get onto the field and help the team out; none seems like an immediate game-changer in New England.

Coming up: Day Two possibilities, including wide receivers and running backs.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

College Scout – Offensive Line

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

Offensive line is tough to rate from casual viewing. But even us lay people and fans of the draft can get some idea of a guy’s quality if you actually take the time to watch. You don’t need to watch the lineman literally every single play. We all know its more fun and natural to just follow the ball. But I sometimes make a point to check out some guys on the o-line and will watch. If a play is coming up for replay and isn’t something spectacular I really want to study, I sometimes then will say…..okay, lets see how such and such a guard did. Replays are actually a great time to see how the blocking held up that sprung a play or caused it to fail. In any event, here is our rankings of the best offensive linemen in college right now.

Clint Boling

1.) Clint Boling (#60), Offensive Tackle, Georgia: Boling has been rated anywhere from the 5th best player in next year’s draft and best lineman, to further down the list and a late first rounder. Georgia’s poor season does have potential to damage Boling, but this kid is as complete a lineman as you’ll find. He’s a technician and very good in many areas, but not outstanding in any. He can be versatile, having played left and right tackle and right guard. He is tough, physical and competitive. He’s never missed significant time with injuries and been a 4 year starter. He did have ankle surgery in the offseason, but it was minor. Boling will be a steady, starting tackle in the NFL for a long time. Its conceivable a better athlete will wow teams prior to the draft, leaving Boling to be chosen behind them. But for my money, Boling is as much a can’t miss, will-be-good prospect as there is along the offensive line.

2.) Anthony Castonzo (#74), Offensive Tackle, Boston College: Local product Castonzo has manned BC’s offensive line virtually from the moment he stepped on campus as a freshman. A physical and tough kid with an attitude, Castonzo plays left tackle for BC. Many have him rated as the best lineman in the draft and a top 10 pick. Watch him tonight pave holes on the left side and protect a freshman quarterback, Chase Rettig, making his first college start. BC will be on ABC at 8PM EST playing Notre Dame at home.

3.) DeMarcus Love (#65), Offensive Tackle, Arkansas: Antother former guard who has made the switch to tackle. Love is a better athlete than the above two, but probably not as good a football player overall right now. Still, his natural physical ability points to a big upside. He could switch back inside to guard in the NFL, but given his talent to be a top tackle that would seem to be a waste. Right now, Love plays right tackle but he has the talent to switch to left. His upside could vault him to be taken ahead of the above two. He also shows weight room strength, benching 415 regularly. Given that he’s a right tackle and the Patriots prefer a different style lineman, they probably won’t be interested in Love. But many teams will be.

4.) Stephen Schilling (#52), Guard, Michigan: Schilling is a captain for the University of Michigan football team that is off to a pretty good start this season after some down years. The Patriots always like to see players who display leadership. He also is versatile, having started his first two years at right tackle and now playing left guard for this last two years in college. As a left guard, it could be he’s a match for the Patriots as they may be looking for a player at that position next offseason given the Logan Mankins situation. Schilling fits the Patriots typical lists of requirements of strong, tough, physical, loves the game, versatile, smart and a leader. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they look in this direction next year at the draft.

5.) Gabe Carimi (#68), Tackle, Wisconsin: Carimi is rated higher by some, including as high as the best tackle in the draft. He is a typical Wisconsin road grader. Big, strong as an ox and excels in run blocking over pass blocking. Carimi actually took over left tackle for Joe Thomas after he graduated. Thomas has gone on to become one of the best tackles in football playing for the Cleveland Browns. Carimi has a massive frame and a lot of talent. His rawness as a pass blocker could scare away the Patriots, but given how Thomas adjusted and excelled that is unlikely.

6.) Nate Solder (#78), Tackle, Colorado: This guy has tons of talent. Runs fast with a 4.88/40 time but also puts up great strength numbers such that those in the Colorado football program have taken to calling him “The Freak.” Came to Colorado a tight end, which is a biography the Patriots like for their tackles. They like guys who are not just maulers, but also have some foot speed and quickness. They have repeatedly brought in former tight ends who have converted to tackle. Solder is a guy who maintains the speed he had as a tight end and is a good athlete. But now he is packing it on a 6’9″ 315 lb. frame. Solder is a guy the Patriots will likely have an interest in. The day after Thanksgiving he’ll be on with his Colorado teammates taking on a tough Nebraska squad on ABC at 3:30 PM EST.

7.) Mike Pouncey (#52), Florida, Center: The twin brother of Steelers first round choice Maurkice Pouncey, who has won the starting center job in Pittsburgh. Mike Pouncey himself is now a center taking over after converting from guard for his brother Maurkice. The reason one twin is in the NFL while the other, Mike, isn’t is that Maurkice came out early to the NFL Draft while Mike decided to wait. Mike has shown some versatility in his ability to play guard and center and that could interest the Patriots. Like his brother, Mike is likely to be the top center in next year’s draft.

8.) Derek Sherrod (#79), Mississippi State, Tackle: If you’re noticing a trend of tackles you are absolutely correct. The best linemen in this draft are at that position. And Sherrod is another good one with left tackle ability. He consistently grades out as one of the best Mississippi State linemen. Slower and less athletic than Solder, but still not a slouch. Has good power and is a run blocker.

9.) Kristopher O’Dowd (#61), USC, Center: The second best center in the draft, he has plenty of experience in the shotgun and pass blocking. He’s had a few injuries, but is another line captain who can be physical, tough and strong but also has the intelligence and leadership you look for from a center. USC takes on Stanford October 9th at 8PM EST on ABC.

10.) Danny Watkins (#59), Baylor, Tackle: Another big, strong tackle who can play on the left side and has plenty of experience pass blocking. May end up being one of the strongest players at the Combine. Watkins has an interesting back story as well. He turns 26 years old this football season and will be 27 midway thru his rookie year in the NFL. Additionally, he never played football until 2007 and played only hockey in high school. Tried out for football team on a whim when he enrolled in some classes at Butte Junior College to study firefighting. Eventually that led to a spot at Baylor and here he is, being talked about as one of the better linemen in college football just years after he first tried the game. His age and inexperience will likely hurt him at draft time. But its important to remember how talented and strong he is and how far he’s come. He proved in college he could leap in and contribute right away and any team drafting him high will have to feel comfortable he could make the leap in competition quickly again.