Some of those guys will be lucky enough to land on Bill Belichick's team next season, and maybe a few of them played in this weekend's East-West Shrine Game where some of the nations' best small-school stars were on full display.
Here's a seven-round update on how the Patriots' draft may unravel this April, with a focus on potential draftees from the Shrine Game.
Patriots 2013 Draft Picks:
7th Round (Acquired from Tampa Bay in Aqib Talib trade)
Drafting Terrance Williams would immediately inject three things of need into the Patriots' wide receiver group: Speed, size and youth.
At 6'2'', Williams isn't huge by any stretch of the imagination, but he's long enough to really exploit his speed.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently highlighted how important bringing in youth at the wide receiver position is for the Patriots in a recent mock draft, writing:
[K]ey players are either getting older or entering free agency this offseason...Wes Welker and Julian Edelman are both free agents, and while Brandon Lloyd was a key signing in 2012, he wasn't quite the impact most hoped for...At 6'2" and with exceptional run-after-catch skills, Williams would open up new avenues for Tom Brady and the offense even if Welker and Edelman return.
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd are all under contract in 2013. So if the Patriots can make a deal with Welker and Edelman this offseason, they'll be loaded in the passing game once again.
However, if they could throw Williams into the mix as well, they would be absolutely unstoppable through the air.
Dion Jordan is a physical freak with a lot of upside.
However, he is far from a finished product and that could be why he slips into the second round.
At a ridiculous stature of 6'7'', Jordan only weighs about 240 lbs, so he'll definitely need to bulk up if he is to become a good run defender at the next level.
That being said, as it stands today, Jordan is still a great pass-rusher.
He has a quick first step, long arms and very active hands. He doesn't have much of a power rush, given his weight, but he could still be effective at getting after the passer in a limited role in his rookie season.
Down the line when he fills in his frame a bit, Jordan could become a premier defensive end/outside linebacker for years to come.
He is certainly worth a second-round pick.
There is a lot to like about Richmond's strong safety, Cooper Taylor.
Some will sound off in the comments section about how Taylor isn't worth a third-round pick, but this enormous small-school safety is starting to turn heads.
Jared Stranger of SBNation had a lot of good things to say about Taylor, writing:
[Taylor is a] Seahawk-type strong safety out of Richmond...Measuring between 6'4"/228 and 6'5"/235, Taylor is huge. Not only does he grab attention with measurables, the guy had production at Richmond this year after transferring from Georgia Tech before 2011 season...we’re talking: 78 tackles (5 for loss), 4 INT, 9 [Pass Breakups], and 3 forced-fumbles.
Eric Galko of MiamiDolphinsDraft.com, who attended Shrine Game practices all week, also thinks highly of the gigantic safety:
[A] really impressive defensive back was Cooper Taylor of Richmond. Get used to hearing that name this week, because he really looks the part of the hype I heard about him in the pre-season of this year. The 6’4 safety is a monster in the defensive back drills compared to his 6’0 or smaller counterparts, yet he’s reacting and closing on passes as well as any of them. His change of direction, efficient aggression, and reaction to the play were fantastic today, including a Collin Klien interception. I’ll look for him to be maybe one of three small schoolers here fighting for a Top 3 round pick.
The Patriots did just invest a second-round pick in safety Tavon Wilson in the 2012 draft, but with Patrick Chung set to hit free agency this offseason, the Patriots may be intrigued by a guy like Taylor, who could add some serious size and physicality to a rather small safety group (both of their starting safeties, Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory, are under 6'0'').
The Patriots may be interested in another player who was on the East team in the Shrine Game: Terron Armstead.
NEPatriotsDraft.com's Dan Hope sees Armstead as a potential Patriot, writing:
There aren’t any offensive linemen in the Shrine Game who will be selected before Day 3, but one player with big upside who could pique the Patriots’ interest late in the draft is Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive tackle Terron Armstead.Armstead has great size, both in terms of girth and length, and he has terrific feet. He is a terrific pull blocker in the ground game, and he has big potential, especially if he were to enter the Patriots system with esteemed offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia...he could be a steal.
Though it's likely he'll be re-signed, starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is set to hit free agency this offseason, so it may be wise to draft some depth there just in case.
Tom Brady, at 35, will be [New England's] quarterback for a couple of more years at the minimum, so they are able to look for one late in the draft as a developmental prospect...Jordan, of course, does not have the talent of Aaron, but he has shown signs of growth and has been a competitive player this season in the SEC.
As Kyle pointed out, J. Rodgers isn't a standout by any means, but he has certainly improved across the board from last season.
His completion rate improved from 50 percent to 59.9 percent, his touchdowns jumped from nine to 15 and his interceptions fell from 10 to just five.
By all accounts, this kid seems to be very coachable and absolutely worthy of a seventh-round draft pick.