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10 Draft Prospects Every New England Patriots Fan Should Know About

James DiMaioCorrespondent IFebruary 13, 2013

10 Draft Prospects Every New England Patriots Fan Should Know About

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    After biting the dust in the AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots are officially in rebuilding mode.

    One way the team will have a chance to bolster its roster is through this April's NFL draft.

    From this writer's view point, these are the Patriots' biggest needs this offseason (not necessarily in this order):

    Defensive Back: Whether it's a safety or a corner largely depends on the fate of in-house free-agent Aqib Talib and whether the team views Devin McCourty as a safety or a corner going forward. Either way, the Pats need depth here at a minimum.

    Defensive Tackle: Vince Wilfork can't do it all by himself, and Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick will never be top-tier defensive tackles.

    Wide Receiver: Brandon Lloyd is the only true wide receiver under contract in 2013. Even if Wes Welker and/or Julian Edelman return, the Pats could still use an injection of youth and explosiveness at wide receiver.

    While the Patriots don't always draft for need over value, these three positions seem to be deep in this year's draft, so drafting for need and value could be one and the same.

    Through a need-based and best-fit lens, here's a look at 10 draft prospects all of Patriot Nation should know about come draft day.

Eric Reid, S, LSU

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    Height: 6'2''

    Weight: 208 lbs

    Draft Projection: First-second round

     

    Eric Reid may be the most athletically gifted safety in the 2013 draft class.

    His fluid athleticism, size and length allow him to be effective in coverage, particularly against big tight ends and receivers—something the Patriots' safeties have struggled with as of late.

    In a recent scouting report, NEPatriotsDraft.com views Reid as one of the top safeties in this year's draft.

    He’s a very smart and instinctive defender in coverage and piles up a lot of tackles by reading his keys quickly...He comes downhill aggressively, laying big hits on receivers and [makes] his presence known...Reid is likely to be a top 40 selection and will be one of the top three safeties off the board in the 2013 draft.

    Reid would add to New England's secondary another guy they can trust in coverage, and given his willingness to deliver bone-crushing hits, he could potentially fulfill the "enforcer" role Rodney Harrison was talking about.

Matt Elam, S, Florida

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    Height: 5'10''

    Weight: 202 lbs

    Draft Projection: Second round

     

    Matt Elam may be small, but he is a big hitter.

    This kid is hands down the scariest safety in this year's draft.

    While he is certainly a physical player, Steve Muench of Scouts, Inc., reminds us that he does have flaws (per Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston):

    If you are wondering why [Elam] doesn't project as a first-round pick, the biggest reason may be his cover skills. While he is a playmaker, he's not as fluid as Texas' Kenny Vaccaro and he's going to have a tough time matching up with quicker slot receivers.

    He'll likely have trouble covering tight ends at the NFL level as well, given his short stature.

    Elam is a still a top prospect with room to grow, though. If he's around when the Patriots pick at the end of the second round and they still need a safety, they should absolutely take Elam.

Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU

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    Height: 6'0''

    Weight: 210 lbs

    Draft Projection: First-second round

     

    After overlooking him in a recent article (and infuriating commenters in the process), I was forced to do some homework on Jonathan Cyprien.

    My findings?

    This kid is the real deal.

    Bleacher Reports' NFL draft expert Matt Miller had some kinds words for Cyprien, tweeting:

    Jonathan Cyprien is my favorite defensive player in this class. Pray your team drafts him.

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 26, 2013

    After turning heads left and right at the Senior Bowl, it's clear that Cyprien will be able to make plays both against the pass and the run at the next level.

    The Patriots need another playmaker in the secondary and Cyprien is a playmaker.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

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    Height: 6'2''

    Weight: 185 lbs

    Draft Projection: First-second round 

     

    Ball hawk.

    Those are the two words that come to mind when considering Johnthan Banks, one of the SEC's finest corners in 2012.

    NEPatriotsDraft.com summarizes Banks' skill set in a recent scouting report, writing:

    Banks is an experienced ballhawking corner who has played against some of the best receivers in the country in the toughest conference. At 6’2″ Banks possesses well above average height for the position to go with long arms. He plays an aggressive style and tries to make a big play whenever he has the chance.

    Evidenced by his four interceptions and seven pass deflections, Banks' ball skills may be his biggest strength.

    However, he also has the size to match up against opposing offense's largest receivers.

    That was Aqib Talib's job during his brief stay in New England.

    If he's not back, Banks looks like a top candidate to fill the open position.

Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

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    Height: 5'11''

    Weight: 190 lbs

    Draft Projection: Second round

     

    Desmond Trufant can do a little bit of everything.

    He can play left or right on the outside as well as in the slot and could probably play free safety as well.

    Steve Muench of Scouts, Inc., recently shared some thoughts on Trufant (per Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston), highlighting both the good and bad:

    [Trufant's] Southern Cal tape is a testament to his ability to match up with the best. Trojans WR Marqise Lee is one of the most talented receivers in the country and he had his least productive game of the season against the Huskies thanks in large part to Trufant...Trufant also turns and runs well enough to stay with most receivers, but it doesn’t look like he has the extra gear to run with the Mike Wallaces of the world...He has small hands (8.2) and shorter arms (30.5) for a corner prospect.

    The former Husky is a versatile player with a lot of talent, but if the Patriots are looking for a No. 1 NFL corner in the draft, it's probably not him.

    However, if Trufant is around when the Patriots pick No. 59 overall in the second round, he could prove to be a steal.

     


Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

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    Height: 6'4''

    Weight: 295 lbs

    Draft Projection: First round 


    If Vince Wilfork is an immovable object, Sheldon Richardson is an un-blockable object. 

    Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick, who have been splitting time as Wilfork's running mate, are both fine defending the run, but both offer next to nothing in the pass-rush department.

    With Big Vince consistently taking on double teams, the Patriots needs an athletic defensive tackle who is quick off the ball and can win one-on-one battles regularly.

    In other words, the Patriots need a true three-technique tackle.

    ESPN's Draft guru Todd McShay had high praise for Richardson via twitter:

    DT Sheldon Richardson is perfect fit as 3-technique. Quick first step and Hans. Outstanding redirection skills and closing burst

    — Todd McShay (@McShay13) January 22, 2013

    If the Patriots want to upgrade their front seven with their first-round pick, Richardson fits the bill.

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

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    Height: 6'3''

    Weight: 303 lbs

    Draft Projection: First round

     

    Sharrif Floyd is disruptive.

    His combination of power and quickness allow him to get to the backfield in a hurry on a regular basis.

    WalterFootball.com recently shared some thoughts on Floyd and his strong finish to the season:

    Floyd played really well for the Gators and was a disruptive force. He had 46 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and three sacks. Floyd made a real impact against Texas A&M and Tennessee when Florida's defense played great in the second half to lead to comeback road wins. Floyd ended the regular season with dominant performances versus Florida State and Louisville.

    A Floyd and Wilfork duo could be one of the most prolific defensive tackle duos in the NFL. 

    Did I mention that Floyd is a Florida Gator?

    We all know how much Bill Belichick loves him some Gators.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

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    Height: 6'1''

    Weight: 200 lbs

    Draft Projection: First-second round 

     

    DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins can get deep. 

    If the Patriots want a speedy guy that can truly threaten the deep part of the field, Hopkins is their guy.

    He also has terrific burst out of cuts and runs very crisp routes, so he can work underneath as well.

    The former Clemson Tiger would look fantastic in a Patriots Jersey, and as Matt Miller points out via Twitter, he should be available to the Patriots at the end of first round. 

    #Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins headed to the NFL. Should receive late 1st/early 2nd round grade from most teams. Talented, fast, strong hands

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 11, 2013

    It's getting old at this point, but the Patriots haven't had a real deep threat since Randy Moss left town.

    Hopkins would change that.

Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

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    Height: 6'2''

    Weight: 205 lbs

    Draft Projection: First-second round

     

    Simply put, Terrance Williams is a big, strong receiver with reliable hands.

    Every team needs a guy like Williams. He can catch deep balls, make yards after the catch and he's tough.

    Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com echos this sentiment in his scouting report of the former Baylor Bear, writing:

    Williams made a lot of tough catches in the short to intermediate part of the field while also making long catches downfield. His deep speed was impressive, and he picked up a lot of yards after the catch.

    Williams could be taken as early as the end of the first round and as late as the end of the second round, so if the Patriots want him, they should be in a position to grab him.

Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall

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    Height: 6'3''

    Weight: 205 lbs

    Draft Projection: Second round 

     

    Aaron Dobson has everything he needs to be a playmaking wide receiver in the NFL.

    He has ideal size, ridiculous hands and great athleticism. 

    As was pointed out in a scouting report at NEPatriotsDraft.com, the only thing Dobson was missing at Marshall was a good quarterback.

    Aaron Dobson has quietly had a great career at Marshall, despite not having an NFL-quality arm throwing to him. With an arm that can deliver the ball down the field on a consistent basis, Dobson’s production would have been greatly improved...his best football [will] be played in the NFL.

    If the Pats don't use their first-round pick on a wide receiver, Dobson could very well be available at the end of the second round.

    They should draft him if that's the case. Dobson could be the vertical threat the Patriots lack.



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