8 Draft Sleepers Who'd Fit Perfectly with the Patriots
Many mock drafts have defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman going to the Pats at 29th overall now, after tight end Jace Amaro was the popular pick early in the offseason. Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley has also been a recent popular connection to the Patriots.
But what about the other potential prospects that might be under the radar as far as the draft pundits are concerned? The Patriots usually zig when the rest of the league thinks they'll zag, so there are sure to be surprises early and often on draft weekend.
Here's a list of a collection of prospects across the spectrum who could fit just what the Patriots need.
Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana State
Linebacker is a position the Pats need to round out their depth. After starters Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, there is no experienced player. Thus, expect the Pats to spend at least one draft pick, and maybe more, on a linebacker.
Jordan Tripp could be the kind of under-the-radar small-school player who fits the mold of what the Pats need. He has good size at 6'3", 237 pounds, and looks smooth in space while dropping into coverage.
Coming out of Montana, he might need some time to both develop physically and pick up the speed of the NFL game, but Dane Fletcher made a similar transition in 2010 out of Montana State and was a solid contributor in his rookie year after not getting drafted.
Tripp's experience long snapping is also a big plus that shows he's the kind of football player who would fit in New England.
Jeff Matthews, QB, Cornell
With Tom Brady set to turn 37 this summer, the clock is ticking on his Patriot career. Brady wants to play past 40, and it would be foolish to say he can't do it, but sometimes the body goes before the mind does, and the Patriots must be prepared.
As we saw with the selection of Ryan Mallett in 2011, Bill Belichick still likes his pocket passers, and that's what Jeff Mathews out of Cornell is. There's no question, coming from an FBS school, Mathews would need time to develop, but he has the kind of height (6'4"), hand size (10 1/8") and football intelligence needed to play quarterback in New England.
The time for the Pats to start taking chances on developmental quarterbacks is now. In a few years, who knows, one might develop to push Brady for the starting spot.
Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report reported last week that the Patriots want to find a game-changing wide receiver for Tom Brady in his golden years. Would they trade up to do so? Probably not, especially in what many are calling the deepest draft in years.
Enter a handful of prospects like Jared Abbrederis, a great route-runner with the necessary concentration to make tough catches in traffic. Abbrederis also has solid size at 6'1", 188 pounds.
The Patriots won three Super Bowls without a game-changing wide receiver. The reliable and diverse cast of Troy Brown, David Patten, Deion Branch and David Givens in the later years gave the Pats all the offense they needed.
What matters most is finding receivers who can execute within their system, and Abbrederis has the kind of traits that could make him that kind of player.
Ladarius Perkins, RB, Miss. St.
The Patriots have both a short-term and long-term need at running back after the departure of LeGarrette Blount to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are entering the final years of their rookie deals, and both have had their respective issues that have kept them off the field frequently in past seasons.
While Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com (via PatsPropaganda.com) could see the Patriots making a bold move and drafting a top-ranked running back like Carlos Hyde in the first round, a player like Ladarius Perkins out of Mississippi State could be a better value in the later rounds.
Perkins might not be the power back replacement for Blount, but he would give them a solid receiving back option behind Vereen while also contributing in the kick return game. He's extremely quick and elusive; the kind of player the Pats have lacked since Danny Woodhead's departure last offseason.
Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford
The Patriots' depth at defensive end is paper thin at the moment, and while they might be the favorites to land veteran Will Smith, they still need to build for the long term.
Josh Mauro could be an excellent mid-round option for the Pats to play on the edge. With great size (6'6", 282 pounds) and strength, Mauro would fill a 3-4 defensive end mold that the Pats have lacked in recent seasons.
The question is whether or not Mauro has the versatility that Bill Belichick likes in his defensive ends. Both Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich have the athleticism to drop into coverage.
Mauro would be another tool in Belichick's versatile toolbox and has the kind of size and strength that would be a great boost to the Patriots' front seven.
Brandon Linder, OG, Miami
The Patriots' shortcomings at center and right guard have been discussed often this offseason. Neither Ryan Wendell nor Dan Connolly appear to be long-term answers at their respective positions, and allowing consistent pass-rush pressure up the heart of the offensive line is not going to help Tom Brady in his final seasons.
The Pats need to reinforce the interior of their offensive line with youth and size, and Miami's Brandon Linder could be a mid-round option to fill that need. Linder has played all spots on the line but excels at center and guard, where he can maximize his size and strength.
That's the kind of versatility that the Patriots love on their offensive line.
While Linder might be limited a bit athletically, that shouldn't matter once he's playing inside. He could instantly compete for a starting position at two spots and be just the kind of injection the Pats' offensive line needs.
Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
The Patriots have a need for multiple interior offensive linemen, and Russell Bodine fits the mold of what they like most.
Bodine was a top performer in both the bench press and vertical jump at the scouting combine, proof positive of his explosion and strength. But perhaps best of all is his playing temperament, which is described as "rugged" and "aggressive."
He also has some interior versatility, which always helps, and at 6'3", 310 pounds, he has the kind of size necessary to take on the bigger nose tackles in the game.
Bodine could push for a starting role at center right out of the gate if he can get the mental aspect of the game down. If not, he would provide good interior depth as he takes some time to develop and adapt to the pro game.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Projecting a wide receiver into the Patriots' system can be extremely difficult, but in the case of Allen Robinson, who played for former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, it's pretty clear to see how he would fit in New England.
Robinson has great size at 6'3", 210 pounds, and he has excellent acceleration. Patriots fans are used to seeing Julian Edelman or Wes Welker running slip screens; imagine what Robinson could do with them. If the Pats do want another explosive wide receiver, Robinson might be safest bet in the entire draft. He already should know much of the Pats' terminology and would be asked to run many of the same routes he ran in college.
While he might be a little stiff and need some refining, Robinson has the potential to be an impact player immediately for the Patriots, and he just might be worth a first-round pick if he's still available.