Which 2013 NFL Draft Prospects Should the Patriots Already Be Scouting?
The 2012 season may have yet to begin, but for the scouting departments of NFL teams, thoughts are already on the 2013 draft. For at least one day, so are mine.
The Patriots may look very well-stocked across the board right now—but depth in June does not equal depth in February. Holes will undoubtedly open up from injuries or under-performing players and what seems like a competitive position may ultimately reveal itself to be a liability.
Here is a look at some talented draft-eligible collegiate players at spots that may become positions of need for New England a year from now.
Robert Woods, WR, Southern California
I know what you are thinking. The Patriots are loaded at receiver, why do they need a top talent?
Well, when you really take a hard look at what they have at the position, one things stands out; there are no real surefire options for the team long term. The one player who could become a major contributor down the road is Julian Edelman, who could possibly take the reigns from Welker as the team's slot receiver. But even Edelman is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Jeremy Ebert, Matt Roark and Britt Davis are young targets, but it is very possible none of them will even make the team. That all points to one thing, the team needs to go get a stud who they can depend on to be their man for the future.
There is no better option in next year's draft than Robert Woods. He has been one of the top receivers in the nation ever since he stepped on the field as a true freshman in 2010.
If Belichick wants to remain aggressive in next year's draft, he should waste no time trading up to draft Woods. Woods would give Brady an explosive target on the outside to pair with Brandon Lloyd, and together, they would form a scary duo to let Brady end his career in style.
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Cornerback is a position the Patriots currently have a bit of a logjam at, but if Devin McCourty still cannot perform at his 2010 level and Ras-I Dowling continues to be hobbled, corner could become a huge need once again.
Everybody knows Bill Belichick loves his SEC prospects. Jonathan Banks would be another in a long line of stars in the conference to step in and play for the Patriots. He will be a first-round prospect, but likely not a top 10 talent like Woods. He just may fall into the Patriots' lap if they stay put.
Banks has been a solid contributor in each of his first three seasons for the Bulldogs and has made key plays for them in every one of them. If nothing else, he has some serious experience picking off passes from a certain new Jets quarterback, as you can see above.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Offensive tackle is a spot where the Patriots could be looking to upgrade if Sebastian Vollmer does not stay healthy and Marcus Cannon is unable able to step in and fill the right tackle spot.
Jake Matthews, like Banks, is a prospect who also could fall to the Patriots at the end of Round 1 if they feel comfortable standing pat. He may have the ability to play either tackle spot similar to Nate Solder and Vollmer, but he is currently playing right tackle for the Aggies, where the Patriots would also likely need him.
His play has gotten better, as it should, over each of his first two seasons. He did an excellent job keeping Miami Dolphins first-round pick Ryan Tannehill out of the dirt last season and excelled in the running game as well.
He also has some family football ties that may interest some as he is the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, as well as the cousin of current NFL linebackers Casey and Clay Matthews.
Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
The Patriots may be looking for another possible quarterback to groom behind Tom Brady a year from now if 2011 third-round pick Ryan Mallett does not show any sign of improvement over the next year. Bill Belichick has already shown no hesitation in cutting ties early with a similarly drafted player in Kevin O'Connell.
Between Mallett's struggles thus far this offseason, as reported by Patriots Football Weekly's Andy Hart, and Brian Hoyer's likely departure from Foxboro via free agency next March, the Patriots could fall into the market for a new backup to develop. Perhaps the next quarterback they select could be groomed as their next starter for down the line. Let's not get ahead of ourselves with that one though, since Brady plans on playing for quite a while as he told SI's Peter King in May.
Mike Glennon is a quarterback that burst onto the scene at N.C. State just one year ago, throwing for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns in his first season replacing Russell Wilson, who left for Wisconsin and has since been drafted by the Seattle Seahawks.
Already viewed as a mid-round pick, Glennon heads into this season with many more eyes on him than he did previously. He has some arm strength to him, just not up to Mallett's caliber. He does, however, display more of a comfort level throwing touch-and-screen passes than Mallett, something key in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' offense.
He may be a bit under the radar as of now, but something tells me if the Patriots do not get their hands on this kid, someone else will still turn him into a good player in the league down the line.
Eric Reid, S, Louisiana State
Safety, like most of these other positions, could be a big need depending on a few things. Patrick Chung is currently scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent who may command more money than the Patriots are willing to shell out, and who knows what the team will get out of much-questioned second-round pick Tavon Wilson.
Eric Reid is a name who is going to float under the radar because of all the attention given to his teammate Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu throughout this season and the draft process. Make no mistake about it though, Reid is a real player for the LSU defense.
Reid was a Second-Team All-SEC pick last season and tied Mathieu for the team lead with 76 tackles. Reid also showed an ability to get his hands on the ball, intercepting two passes and forcing two fumbles. He will have a chance to really prove himself this season as he is no longer protected by cornerbacks Brandon Taylor and Morris Claiborne, who left for the NFL after last season.
Right now he is viewed as a top-pick in the second round, a round the Patriots are notorious for collecting extra picks in.
The Patriots could find themselves a potential playmaker to be part of a newly invigorated defensive backfield in 2013, if not with Reid, than with any number of players in what will be a much deeper safety class than the one we witnessed this past April.