5 2015 NFL Draft Prospects Patriots Fans Need to Know

James Christensen@@nepatriotsdraftContributor IMay 16, 2014

5 2015 NFL Draft Prospects Patriots Fans Need to Know

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    The ink has barely dried on all of the analysis of the New England Patriots' 2014 NFL draft, but their scouts will have already begun preparations for the next batch of prospects.

    It is difficult enough to predict what Bill Belichick will do mere hours before the draft, let alone nearly a year before. That said, cornerback, wide receiver and defensive end are areas that need constant maintenance and could have some openings to fill next offseason.

    Here is an early look at five 2015 NFL draft prospects who could catch Belichick's eye later this fall.

Dante Fowler Jr. (DE, Florida)

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    Bill Belichick's fondness for Florida Gators seemingly knows no bounds, the latest acquisition being defensive lineman Dominique Easley. The New England Patriots could double-dip with a second Florida lineman in 2015.

    At 6'3" and 266 pounds, Dante Fowler Jr. has the potential to become a defensive end or outside linebacker—both isn't out of the question—for New England. He has experience doing both, filling the "Buck" role on the Florida defense. As a sophomore, Fowler racked up 3.5 sacks and 50 tackles, 7.5 of those behind the line of scrimmage.

    In the above play, Fowler shows up a quick first step, good balance fighting off a block, change-of-direction skills and the ability to wrap up and bring down a runner.

    If Fowler can continue to produce in the SEC as a junior, he could very well hear his name called in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. If New England wants another versatile defender to move around, Fowler will be a likely target.

Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)

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    Shawn Oakman is not a small man. At 6'8" and 285 pounds, Oakman lives up to his name, looking like a tree among his fellow linemen. In 2014, Oakman will look to build on his sophomore season that saw him rack up two sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss.

    In the play above, you can see his formidable bull-rush ability and a hint of the athleticism that makes you wonder if you read his measurements correctly. He has improved his hand usage and will only get better with experience. 

    A similar prospect—Detroit Lion Ezekiel Ansah—ended up in the first round of the draft. Oakman could easily end up there as well with a big junior campaign. Lining him up across from Chandler Jones could be quite imposing.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)

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    Vic Beasley is overrated, but that doesn't mean he can't be a very useful player in the NFL. His 13 sacks are eye-popping to be sure, and the play above illustrates just what he can do.

    Beasley embarrasses the left tackle from Georgia, slapping his hands away and turning the edge before violently sacking the quarterback. Those explosive plays are what will surely start some talk about him going in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.

    Unfortunately, Beasley is very undersized. At 6'2" and 235 pounds, he can't play defensive end in the NFL and could be even be downgraded due to size and teams that look at him as a rush linebacker. He struggles with power and length in college, something that will likely not change in the NFL.

    As a Day 2 pick, New England could certainly find a spot for a quick outside rusher, but they will want a three-down player on Day 1.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon)

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    Physical corners who can press, tackle and have size/length are all the rage in the NFL. Just ask Richard Sherman. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu only has two of those three—5'10" and 185 pounds is hardly big or long—but you wouldn't notice from his play.

    Ekpre-Olomu tallied three interceptions and six pass breakups in 2013. On the above play, he is lined up against 2014 first-round pick Brandin Cooks. He shows off fluid hips, excellent route recognition and enough speed to close on the ball and make a play.

    Those sorts of plays against top competition will endear him to NFL teams. With Darrelle Revis' 2015 future in doubt, the New England Patriots will be taking a long look at this Oregon Duck.

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)

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    Polished route-runners will always have a home in the NFL. When they are 6'1" and 205 pounds, that is just icing on the cake. With those tools, Amari Cooper notched 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns. 

    Cooper shows off these skills in the above play, running a nice out and up. He baits the cornerback with a deft move to the outside and then blows by the hole in Cover 2 in between the cornerback and the safety. A better thrown ball would have resulted in six points for Alabama, but Cooper adjusts well to the ball and is still able to get a chunk of yardage after the catch.

    If Danny Amendola doesn't live up to expectations in 2014, Cooper could be a first-round replacement in 2015.


    Stats and figures are courtesy of CFBStats.com.