Updating New England Patriots First Round Big Board Post-Combine

Sterling Xie@@sxie1281Correspondent IIFebruary 26, 2014

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 19: Louis Nix III #1 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates near the end of the game against the University of Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium on October 19, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated USC 14-10. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, one of the final opportunities for this year's draft prospects to make significant impressions on prospective employers, reaches its conclusion today. While it is debatable whether or not the combine should noticeably alter one's draft stock after years of game film, the reality is that NFL teams often solidify their final impressions during this week of intense scrutiny.

The New England Patriots are among the most tight-lipped teams in the league and are as likely to send smoke screens at the combine as any other organization. So while these updated post-combine rankings might reflect the changing mainstream perception, it is important to remember that the Pats have developed a penchant for zigging while others zag.

Note that this team-specific big board represents players the Patriots might realistically consider with their first pick, either by trading up, staying pat, or trading down. Versatile edge-rusher Khalil Mack would be a wonderful fit, but New England would never pay the price necessary to trade up for him.  Likewise, Teddy Bridgewater might be a better prospect than, say, Troy Niklas, but the Pats are highly unlikely to invest a first-rounder on someone at his position.

With that, let the airing of opinions, complaints and snide remarks commence. Here's one evaluation of the top-25 prospects on the Patriots updated first-round big board following the combine:

New England Patriots First Round Big Board
1Eric EbronTENorth Carolina
2Louis Nix IIIDTNotre Dame
3Jace AmaroTETexas Tech
4Ra'Shede HagemanDTMinnesota
5Darqueze DennardCBMichigan State
6Justin GilbertCBOklahoma State
7Kony EalyDEMissouri
8Stephon TuittDENotre Dame
9Aaron DonaldDTPittsburgh
10Troy NiklasTENotre Dame
11Austin Seferian-JenkinsTEWashington
12Timmy JerniganDTFlorida State
13Bradley RobyCBOhio State
14Calvin PryorSLouisville
15Ha Ha Clinton-DixSAlabama
16Xavier Su'a-FiloOGUCLA
17DaQuan JonesDTPenn State
18Allen RobinsonWRPenn State
19Ryan ShazierOLBOhio State
20Kyle Van NoyOLBBYU
21Marcus RobersonCBFlorida
22Brandin CooksWROregon State
23David YankeyOGStanford
24Jason VerrettCBTCU
25Travis SwansonCArkansas
Top 25

Just Missed: Dee Ford, Loucheiz Purifoy, Odell Beckham, Jr., C.J. Fiedorowicz, Kelvin Benjamin, Scott Crichton, Jordan Matthews, Dominique Easley, Gabe Jackson, Cyril Richardson

1. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Ebron was outstanding at the combine, with his 4.60-second 40-yard dash time and 120-inch broad jump standing out at his position. The former Tar Heel has cemented himself as the top player at his position, and as SI.com's Chris Burke illustrates, Ebron believes he is the class of a very talented first-tier of tight ends:

I’m very fast and very different. I play the tight end role like no one else. I just do different things than other tight ends do. If you watch film, you’ll probably say the same thing.

Indeed, Ebron possesses the speed and route-running polish of a receiver, which are traits that have drawn comparisons to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Ebron is the best of an increasingly popular brand of 'F' tight endsones who are essentially receivers.

Like Graham, Ebron is a huge one-on-one mismatch against either a defensive back or a linebacker, and he could make a living shredding seams. The Patriots would have to trade up for Ebron, though few players could make as immediate an impact in Tom Brady's twilight years.

2. Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Despite dropping 23 pounds since the end of the season, per Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports, the 6'2", 331-pound Nix would be a huge anchor and an ideal two-gapping fit in the Patriots system. You've likely heard the Vince Wilfork comparisons before, and NESN reporter Doug Kyed only re-affirmed that notion after seeing Nix at the combine:

The Patriots have generally been seeking lighter and faster players along the front seven to account for the increasingly prevalent trend of NFL offenses predicated on creating spacing issues for defenses. Nix would be a bit of a throwback pick in that sense, as he represents someone meant to anchor the interior of a line rather than play in space.

Nix may never put up stats as flashy as his 3-technique defensive tackle brethren, but his ability to occupy multiple blockers while maintaining gap integrity would be an ideal fit in the Patriots system. New England may have to trade up a few spots to take Nix, much like they did in selecting Chandler Jones in 2012, but there are few better matches in this class.

3. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Other than Ebron, Jace Amaro stands out as the best receiving tight end in the class. The Texas Tech product has been a popular choice for the Pats in early mock drafts, and it's not hard to understand why:

Amaro's 6'5" and 265-pound frame makes him an excellent red-zone target, and while he does not bring NFL-caliber blocking ability, he would go a long ways towards rectifying a Patriots' offense that struggled in the red area without Rob Gronkowski last season.

He is not nearly as smooth and quick as Aaron Hernandez, whose skill set is similar to that of Amaro. But Amaro does possess similarly versatility to line up all along the formation, and he would permit offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels a more creative license than he enjoyed with last year's limited corps.

4. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

The supremely athletic Hageman has overcome a difficult childhood to emerge as a late first-round prospect with early-round upside. The former Golden Gopher has earned some criticism for his inconsistent motor, but when he is focused, Hageman has the potential to become a rare three-down defensive tackle.

Hageman's most intriguing assets are his explosive burst and ranginess, as they portend a player who could be a disruptive interior pass-rusher. As Oliver Thomas of NEPatriotsDraft.com reports, there are few limitations to Hageman's pass-rushing tool kit:

Hageman’s athleticism and length often leave pass protection accounting for the unaccountable. Whether it’s his basketball background, his versatility as a former red-zone target, his driving legs or his 33.75-inch arms, Hageman has found a way to be dominant in disrupting the passing game.

He can do so anywhere from the zero-technique – head over the center – to the seven-technique – shading the offensive tackle. He can do so with a bull rush, a rip move or a swim move. And while he delivered a stifling straight-on punch, he also delivers the lateral agility and closing speed to carve in an out of gaps and chase down the quarterback.

Hageman's physical tools allowed him to excel at the combine, with his 32 bench press reps standing out, in particular. He might be a slight stretch for the Pats, but if he falls to No. 29, New England must consider his game-changing potential.

5. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Cornerback is not a position of need if Aqib Talib re-signs this offseason. But if the Patriots' top corner leaves in free agency, few prospects could be a better replacement than the cousin of current Pats corner Alfonzo Dennard.

At 5'11" and 199 pounds, Darqueze Dennard possesses the type of size the Patriots are looking for in the press-man coverage they have played over the past year-and-a-half. His speed and ball instincts are tremendous, and as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller suggests, he may be the best man-coverage corner in this draft:

Consequently, despite periodic injury woes in college, Dennard's stock has steadily risen over the past several months, to the point where the Patriots will now almost certainly need to trade up for an opportunity to select him. If Talib leaves, however, a discussion about Dennard and the next prospect on this list is at least warranted.

6. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Gilbert represents Dennard's main competition to be the first cornerback selected. Unlike Dennard, Gilbert is more reliant on his speed, fluidity and leaping ability. At 6'0" and 202 pounds, his rare combination of size and blazing speed could be the factor that propels him into the top half of the first round:

Gilbert is not nearly as physical in man coverage, a weakness that drops him slightly below Dennard on this Patriots-specific big board. The former Cowboy also comes with more character questions, as his NFL.com draft profile notes an "inflated ego" and mental mistakes stemming from an over-reliance on his natural ability.

Nonetheless, those natural abilities are top-notch, and if Gilbert stays in line, there is little reason to believe he will not develop into an elite corner. Those questions probably drop him off the Patriots radar, though, especially considering the price they will need to sacrifice to trade up and get him.

7. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The Patriots currently lack secondary pass-rushers behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, and while they might try to address this area of need through free agency, someone like Missouri's Ealy looms as a wild-card possibility.

Ealy is currently projected to go in the late teens or early twenties in most mocks, so the Patriots would likely need to trade up for the long and athletic defensive end. Indeed, his measurables combined with an excellent 6.83-second time in the three-cone drill could make him a target for New England:

It's unclear how the Patriots would incorporate Ealy, who looks like a three-down 4-3 defensive end. His addition might necessitate Ninkovich moving back to outside linebacker, which is something that has him ranked a bit lower on this board than one might expect. Still, on the basis of a pure skills evaluation, Ealy would be an excellent fit in Foxboro.

8. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

The third Notre Dame player on this board comes in at a position where the Patriots have a pair of entrenched starters in Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Nevertheless, Tuitt would infuse the defensive line with significantly more versatility, making an ostensible luxury pick a potential system-changer.

Tuitt is the prototypical five-technique 3-4 defensive end, with long arms and a strong lower body that allows him to stack and shed offensive linemen effectively. Despite this, NFL.com draft guru Mike Mayock has called Tuitt a "lightning rod," so he has a higher variance in draft range than most top prospects:

It doesn't help that a small foot fracture prevented Tuitt from working out at the combine, per NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, though he may schedule a workout for scouts before surgery sidelines him for six-to- eight weeks. Tuitt may be a possibility if the Patriots trade down, and he could allow for intriguing future wrinkles like Jones as an interior rusher or Ninkovich blitzing as a linebacker from the second level.

9. Aaron Donald, DT Pitt

In a vacuum, Donald is a better prospect than some of the defensive tackles ahead of him on this board. However, at just 285 pounds, Donald is an undersized defensive tackle whose strengths do not necessarily dovetail with the Patriots' needs at the position.

Nevertheless, his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage makes Donald arguably the best interior pass-rushing prospect in this draft, something the Patriots must consider. As MMQB.com's Greg Bedard illustrates, Donald has an eerily similar skill set to that of Bengals' All-Pro Geno Atkins:

You might have heard that University of Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald seems very similar to Bengals All-Pro Geno Atkins. Both are undersized, pass-rushing, three-technique tackles. Scouts have made the comparisons. Chiefs general manager John Dorsey told TheMMQB.com that it’s fair, too. And now, Atkins has given the comparison his stamp of approval.

“Yes, definitely,” Atkins told TheMMQB.com this week. “He has the tool set and skills to be a dominant three technique: motor, speed, leverage and strength. I’m definitely looking forward to see what he does in the league.”

Canadian League import Armond Armstead was supposed to fulfill the role of a smaller interior pass-rusher for the Patriots last season, but a severe infection sabotaged his season. Donald, who ran a eye-opening 4.65 40-yard dash, is a superior prospect to Armstead. So while New England would likely need to trade up for him, he could be a home-run pick.

10. Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Niklas did not run at the combine, but his stock has nevertheless been steadily rising as scouts continue to identify him as the draft's most complete tight end:

Indeed, the former Notre Dame product easily has the highest potential as a blocker of all the top tight end options. Consequently, B/R's very own Chris Trapasso has likened Niklas to Gronkowski, though that comparison is imperfect due to Gronk's superior route-running and physicality.

Nevertheless, Niklas is moving into the first-round conversation, right around where the Patriots will select, and Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported that he met with the Patriots at the combine. Niklas stands to make a slightly less impactful impression in the passing game than the other tight ends, but he is also likeliest to produce the most all-around value.

11. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington

The Washington product's stock is falling after he apparently could not test at the combine because of a fractured foot, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.Net:

The larger questions about Seferian-Jenkins, however, surround his spotty character. Seferian-Jenkins had to defend himself after questions about a DUI in March 2013, which led to his suspension in the season-opener, as well as concerns about why his production dipped so drastically last season.

If Seferian-Jenkins is also unable to work out for scouts at his April 2 pro day, that might drop him to the bottom of the position's first tier, likely landing him somewhere in the early to middle portions of the second round. 

The physical tools are undeniable, and as an ex-basketball player, his size fits the mold of some of the biggest successes at the position in recent seasons. Thus, Seferian-Jenkins could still be a consideration if the Patriots trade out of the first round to acquire more assets.

12. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Jernigan is a tough prospect to rank, as the tools do not always seem to match the film. Jernigan is a potentially explosive interior pass-rusher who has above-average range for a defensive tackle. As he himself explained to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, the former Seminole has the skill set to play in either the 3-4 or 4-3:

I’ve played in a shade [technique], I’ve played over the center, I’ve played in the three-technique. So I can play a three-technique and when it’s a pass situation and you want to go to a three-man front, you can put me on the nose guard, right on the zero [gap]. I can get pressure from the middle of the offense. I feel like that’s where my game changes from anyone else.

However, stamina issues in college largely limited Jernigan to a two-down role, something that often counteracted his pass-rushing ability. Moreover, at just 299 pounds, he seems ill-suited to be a two-gapping anchor from the zero-technique, despite his natural strength.

Jernigan performed about as well as expected at the combine, with 27 bench press reps standing out as his highlight. A team with a better fit for him might take Jernigan before the Patriots get a chance, hence the lower ranking on this Pats-specific big board.

13. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Of all the corners in this draft, perhaps none provide a better combination of value and desired skill set than Roby. He may not be a better prospect than Dennard or Gilbert, but for where the Patriots are picking, ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss suggested Roby as a possibility in a recent mailbag:

If they viewed it differently and ticketed an early-round pick at the position, I'd say Ohio State's Bradley Roby looks like a prospect who would interest them from a pure football perspective. That will be one important thing to watch at the combine -- how well the cornerbacks run.

Roby brings the physicality, fluid hips and excellent recovery speed the Patriots desire in their corners.  In addition, as an Urban Meyer product, Belichick and the Patriots figure to receive extra intel on Roby.

Roby does not have ideal size for his playing style (5'11"), though, like Dennard, he plays bigger than his frame. With the ability to fit into both man and zone schemes, Roby would fit nicely into the Patriots' hybrid coverage schemes.

14. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Safety might be an underrated need for the Patriots. While Devin McCourty is a lock as a roaming free safety security blanket, the strong safety position has featured a rotating cast of average—and sometimes worseplayers, with Steve Gregory, Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson.

Harmon may receive a crack at the position next season, especially if Gregory and his $3.7 million cap number get cut, but Pryor represents another alternative. Though he played free safety in college, Pryor's downhill physicality and willingness in run support might make him a better fit as an in-the-box strong safety, as Matt Waldman of FootballOutsiders.com elucidates:

However I believe few teams will use Pryor in a scheme where he’ll have to see a lot of single coverage opportunities against a receiver. Put him in a Cover-2 or Cover-3 and let him hit or place him in the box as a disruptive force and he’ll develop into a valuable piece in a hard-hitting, play-making defense.

The Patriots have played a lot of Cover-1 Robber in recent seasons, and it's not hard to imagine Pryor thriving in the robber role. With many fans clamoring over the Pats' lack of a Rodney Harrison-type enforcer in the secondary, Pryor could be an underrated possibility in the first round.

15. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Clinton-Dix looks like the top safety in the draft, as he offers a combination of size, coverage instincts and run support that no other prospect at his position can match. As Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, the Alabama product is selling himself as an all-around prospect with few weaknesses:

As a sophomore, alongside bulky Robert Lester, Clinton-Dix was the deeper-than-deepest safety. As a junior in 2013, he played in the box more.

On the field, a team gets a safety who handled a complicated defense in the nation's fastest conference...Clinton-Dix indicated he was the one relaying calls to the cornerbacks and linebackers in Alabama.

Clinton-Dix was asked to cover, move in space and support the run in finishing with 51 tackles and two picks.

"I'm very fast, very physical and not afraid to line up in the slot," Clinton-Dix said. "I can do it all."

The Patriots already have an excellent cover safety in McCourty, meaning that Pryor's in-the-box skill set coincides better with New England's needs. Clinton-Dix can fulfill the same role, as indicated above, though there is enough redundancy with McCourty that it might discourage such a high investment.

But in a vacuum, Clinton-Dix looks like the clear-cut top safety prospect, and pairing him with McCourty could potentially give the Patriots two excellent coverage safeties—that's certainly far from a bad thing. 

Given Bill Belichick's connection to Nick Saban, Clinton-Dix is a trade-up possibility worth keeping an eye on.

16. Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA

The Patriots could see some turnover along what has been a relatively stable offensive line. Right guard Dan Connolly has been a passable right guard, but he could be a cap casualty with a $4.1 million cap hit for next season. Center Ryan Wendell is a free agent, and he's had trouble with bigger defensive tackles throughout his career, as Denver's Terrance Knighton exposed in the AFC Championship Game.

Thus, Su'a-Filo could be a consideration at the end of the first round. The 6'4", 307-pound ex-Bruin is a athletic and versatile blocker who could fit in with some of the Patriots' stretch-blocking schemes.  In fact, Su'a-Filo even compared himself to a current New England lineman, per ESPN.com's Eric Williams:

Su'a-Filo has played in zone and man blocking schemes...[he] is agile for his size, able to get out and pull around the edge in the run game.

Su'a-Filo says one of the players in the NFL he patterns his game after is New England offensive guard Logan Mankins.

"He's a bad-ass," Su’a-Filo said. "He started from Day 1 in New England, and I love how nasty he is, something about his game that I really try to implement. Other guys like Mike Iupati and Trent Williams, are really mean and nasty like that and that's what I'm trying to be like."

Patriots followers scratched their head when the organization selected the relatively unknown Fresno State product in 2005. Su'a-Filo would elicit a similar response this year, and while he may not become the All-Pro Mankins has, he could start right away and infuse the interior line with some much-needed youth.



17. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State

Think of Jones as the second-tier version of Louis Nix. Like Nix, the former Nittany Lion has ideal size for a two-gapping anchor, with a 6'4", 322-pound frame.  As ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss recently opined in a chat, Jones has some similarities to a certain division rival's young stud defensive tackle:

They don't need another undersized DT...I like the look of Penn State's Daquan Jones. Have some similar thoughts on him as I did Muhammad Wilkerson coming out. I had the Patriots taking Wilkerson in my mock that year. If they keep Wilfork (32) and Tommy Kelly (33), I don't think they sign another later-career player at that spot in free agency.

Jones has a bit of pass-rushing ability as well, with a powerful bull-rush that can move quarterbacks off their spot in the pocket. The Penn State product lingers as a possibility if the Patriots trade down, and the Bill O'Brien connection should provide insider intel for New England.

18. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

If the Patriots choose to supplement Brady with another young receiver, Robinson represents the ideal blend of system fit and draft value. A potential second-rounder, the 6'2" Penn State product is not a downfield burner, but rather a big possession receiver, similar to Anquan Boldin.

A 4.60 40-time is a bit reminiscent of the 4.71 time that dropped Boldin into the end of the second round back in 2003. Robinson's greatest strength is his ability to track balls in the air, as his excellent body control often allows his size to take over against smaller defensive backs:

As someone who ran a full route tree in Bill O'Brien's system, Robinson arrives in the league with more polish than most receivers. For a Patriots team seeking immediate help for Tom Brady, Robinson's learning curve would be considerably smaller than any other rookie receiver in this class.

19. Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Shazier fits the mold of the smaller and faster linebackers the Patriots might be seeking as part of their increasing reliance on sub-package defenses. Though Shazier is on the edge of being too small to play in the NFL, a bulked-up frame and 25 reps on the bench press at the combine helped assuage those concerns:

Indeed, apart from top-five possibilities Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack, the former Buckeye is arguably the most disruptive playmaker at his position. With quickness, agility and excellent range, Shazier is equally effective while both attacking downhill and dropping back into coverage.

As a late first-round or early second-round possibility, the Patriots could do worse than adding another explosive front-seven talent. Considering the dearth of playmaking behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, the Pats figure to address the need for another pass-rusher at some point this offseason.

20. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU

The Patriots addressed their need for lighter coverage linebackers in last year's draft with second-round pick Jamie Collins. However, if New England is seeking more depth or considering a transition to more 3-4 sets, BYU's Van Noy would be a solid option.

At 6'3" and 243 pounds, Van Noy is not at fast as someone like Collins, but he compensates with excellent coverage instincts. With solid range and a skill set that should fit into the Patriots' amorphous defensive schemes, Van Noy is a nice match with the Patriots:

It's a bit of a luxury pick; even if Brandon Spikes leaves in free agency, as expected, the Patriots could still start the season with a starting trio of Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Higtower and Collins. Still, the depth behind the starters is shaky, and Van Noy's unique ability in space would be an invaluable skill as the demand for coverage linebackers grows.

21. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida

College teammate Loucheiz Purifoy is generating arguably more hype than Roberson, but the 6'0" Gator would be a better fit for the Patriots defensive scheme. Despite a concerning 4.61 40-time, it's Roberson's advanced ball skills that are keeping him in the early-round discussion:

While Roberson needs to add strength to handle the NFL's bigger outside receivers, the ex-Gator has the natural coverage abilities to be a third or fourth corner right away, much like what Logan Ryan was for the Patriots last season. 

He may not have No. 1 shutdown potential like Dennard or Gilbert, but Roberson should be a functional secondary piece for years.

22. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

If the Patriots are going to take another rookie receiver, it seems more likely they would take one with more polish, rather than the raw upside types they selected last season. Cooks would seem to fit that model, as he drew rave combine reviews due to excellent route-running and speed times at the combine, per NFL.com's Bucky Brooks:

The Biletnikoff Award winner continues to impress scouts with his combination of speed, quickness and burst. Cooks led all receivers in the 40-yard dash (4.33), 20-yard shuttle (3.82) and 60-yard shuttle (10.72). He continued to impress in positional drills by exhibiting noteworthy polish as a route runner. Cooks is not only smooth and fluid coming out of breaks, but he shows terrific awareness in finding the ball at the last minute. These traits are uncommon in young receivers, which is why the buzz should build around Cook's game and potential following his solid performance in Indianapolis.

At 5'10" and 189 pounds, Cooks has the stature of a slot receiver, a position where the Pats may want to add insurance to if Julian Edelman leaves via free agency. Cooks' electric 4.33 40-yard dash time and record-breaking 10.72 shuttle time might push him up into the late first-round range, where the ex-Beaver looks like one of the better system fits for the Patriots.

23. David Yankey, G, Stanford

The 6'6" and 315-pound behemoth that is Yankey ranks as arguably the best guard in the draft and a late first-round possibility for the Patriots. As Conor Orr of NJ.com illustrates, Yankey represents an old-school road-grader who is not worried about playing in a pass-oriented league:

But he's not the least bit worried about getting pigeonholed as a run blocker, especially if he's drafted to a pass-heavy team.

"As long as you have the athleticism and the footwork and everything to pass block at an elite level, it can't hurt to be a really good run blocker that has a physical mean streak nowadays," he said.

Yankey isn't the most agile offensive lineman, as his plodding 5.48-second 40-time indicates, and he does have some trouble with quicker interior lineman. If the Patriots were to select Yankey, that might signal a permanent switch to the run-oriented ball-control offense they became by the end of last season.

24. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

The 5'9" Verrett lacks the ideal size most teams seek from first-round cornerbacks, as they need to be able to play outside against bigger receivers. However, given the prevalence of sub packages around the league, a nickel corner is essentially a starter in nearly every NFL defense, a trend that bodes well for Verrett's draft stock:

Indeed, with excellent speed and feisty competitiveness in man coverage, the TCU product has the necessary demeanor to succeed in the NFL, if not the ideal size. The Patriots already have a pair of smallish corners receiving extensive playing time in Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington, but Verrett has as much upside as either current starter.

25. Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas

The ex-Razorback looks like the lone center prospect who could come in and start immediately, making him a consideration if the Patriots decide to trade down. As NJ.com's Jordan Raanan describes, Swanson possesses the size and athleticism to make second-level blocks that the Patriots seek in their offensive linemen:

Swanson’s size is obvious. He measured in this week at a solid 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, with potential for more. His arms were 32.88”. For a man at that size, Swanson moved very well during South team drills. He showed an excellent ability to get to the second level. For a team that runs a lot of screen passes...that could be very useful.

Paradoxically, however, Raanan also notes that Swanson struggled with bigger defensive tackles in spite of his size. His NFL.com scouting report echoes the need to add strength, and with just 20 bench press reps at the combine, Swanson was the low man on the totem pole in that drill.

That paints the picture of a player similar to what the Pats already have in Wendell. Perhaps New England would seek a different type of player if Wendell left in free agency, but Swanson looks like a safe option who could start from Day 1.

*All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.


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