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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Florida OLB Dante Fowler Jr.

03.21.15 at 1:21 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Dante Fowler Jr. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

A second-team All-American in 2014, Dante Fowler Jr. is one of the top linebackers in the draft. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

DANTE FOWLER JR.

Position: Outside linebacker

School: Florida

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 277 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-America second team, 2014 All-SEC first team, 2014 team MVP, 2013 All-SEC second team, College Football News All-Sophomore team, 2012 SEC All-Freshman first team

What he brings: Fowler has experience playing multiple positions and filling various roles, and he was successful doing all of them. Scouts note his ability to use his size and bulk to shed blockers, as well as his athleticism, which helps him in run defense. Some experts and scouts are concerned that he will take some time adjusting to whatever role he is given in the NFL, but versatility is considered one of his strengths and he is expected to settle in and become very effective. An AFC East scout told NFL.com that Fowler will be “way better in his pros than what he is now.”

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Fowler finished his 2014 junior season with 57 tackles and 5.5 sacks. CBSSports.com lists him as the top outside linebacker and fourth overall in the draft. He did not miss a game in college.

Related articles:

Orlando Sentinel: Fowler’s draft stock on the rise

Video: Fowler records six tackles and a sack against Kentucky in September 2014.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Dante Fowler Jr.,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Florida State C Cameron Erving

03.21.15 at 9:18 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Cameron Erving (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Cameron Erving has a reputation as a standout run blocker who is not as strong protecting in the passing game. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

CAMERON ERVING

Position: Center

School: Florida State

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 308 pounds

Achievements: 2014 Jacobs Blocking Trophy for best blocker in ACC, All-ACC, 2013 Jacobs Blocking Trophy, 2013 All-America first team, 2013 All-ACC first team

What he brings: Erving is seen as one of the best run blockers in the draft, but scouts are not as impressed with his ability to protect the pass. He started his career as a tackle and switched to center in the middle of the 2014 season. He is considered very athletic for his size and has the ability to make blocks in the second level. However, there are concerns that his legs are not as strong as his upper body, which could hinder his ability to handle quick, strong defensive linemen.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: ESPN.com ranks Erving as the best center and 20th overall in the draft. He missed the 2010 season with a back injury but started every game his last two seasons with the Seminoles.

Related articles:

NFL.com: Erving among top performers at combine

Video: Here are Erving’s highlights from FSU’s November 2014 game against Miami.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Cameron Erving,

Scott Chandler is excited to get to Foxboro and ‘deal with’ Bill Belichick, work with Rob Gronkowski

03.20.15 at 4:53 pm ET
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Scott Chandler is ready to begin a new career in New England. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Scott Chandler is ready to begin a new career in New England. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Scott Chandler knows the situation he’s in coming to Foxboro. He leaves Buffalo where he was clearly the best pass-catching tight end in the Bills’ offense and comes to New England where he will be the second-most recognizable tight end behind Rob Gronkowski.

During a conference call Friday, Chandler called Bill Belichick a straight shooter.

Did Belichick lay out to him what it will mean to be the second tight end in a potent offense behind Rob Gronkowski?

“We didn’€™t get into that too terribly much,” Chandler said. “I think what I want to do is be part of a team that’€™s a winning team. Whatever that role that the coaches define for me there, I want to do whatever I can to help the team win.

“I’€™ve talked to Rob on the field after games and that’€™s about it. I’€™m sure we’€™ll get to know each other and get along well. He seems like a fun guy to be around. Obviously he’€™s a great player. I’€™m looking forward to being able to learn from him and watch him do his thing. He’€™s pretty fun to watch.”

Chandler, like Gronk, is a tall tight end, at 6-foot-7, and – like Gronk – could provide more blocking along the offensive line as he has developed that part of his game.

“I think it’€™s one of those things that it can be tough, but I’€™ve been dealing with it for a while now,” Chandler added. “You learn to sink or swim pretty quick in this league. You want to do whatever you can to get low and stay low. It’€™s hard, but you learn how to deal with it because if you can’€™t get the job done, they’€™re going to find someone else.”

Chandler, who signed a two-year, $5.3 million contract on March 13, will be more than happy to make some personal sacrifices to attain more team glory. In five non-playoff seasons in Buffalo, Chandler caught 17 touchdowns, including 28 catches on 42 targets and four touchdowns in nine games against the Patriots.

“I think you go into a game just wanting to do what it takes for your team to win and sometimes that means catching the ball and sometimes that means blocking well,” Chandler said. “I’€™ve probably had games that I didn’€™t have very good stats, but they were some of my better games throughout my career. It just so happened that in those games I needed to catch the ball a little bit and I was able to do that.”

Belichick can trust that Chandler has been taught well. Before playing for the Bills, he played his college ball under Belichick’s good friend and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 NFL free agency, Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Kirk Ferentz

Jabaal Sheard: Familiarity with Patriots, Mike Lombardi made it easy to settle on New England as free agent

03.20.15 at 3:45 pm ET
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Pass rusher Jabaal Sheard joins the Patriots via Cleveland. (Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

Pass rusher Jabaal Sheard joins the Patriots via Cleveland. (Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

He signed as a free agent with the Patriots last week, but Jabaal Sheard has been on New England’s radar for a long time.

The Patriots’ interest in the edge rusher dates back to 2011 when he was coming out of college. That’s when he took a visit with New England, and in that time, he was struck by how the Patriots handled their business.

“It was real business-like, real focused; you could tell that it was going to be all business once you get there,” he said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “I mean, it was a bit nerve-wrecking, I can’t lie. I was a bit nervous.”

That previous visit — combined with Sheard’s background with former Browns GM Mike Lombardi, who is now with the Patriots — set the stage nicely for him signing with New England earlier this month as a free agent.

Sheard, who also drew interest from Seattle and Tampa Bay, said his stint with Lombardi “definitely” play a role in his new deal with the Patriots.

“I think that was huge. I think that’s what got New England interested in me right away,” Sheard said. “Obviously, he believed in me coming out as a rookie into the league and seeing what I could do. I think that’s going to translate to this year.”

One thing the Patriots hope translates is an ability to consistently get after the quarterback. Sheard’s pass rush numbers have dipped every year he’s been in the league, going from 8.5 sacks as a rookie in 2011 to two last year. Sheard pulled no punches when asked to assess his game the last few years: It wasn’t a switch in Cleveland’s scheme or injury, but his own level of execution.

“It was just me not executing, me not sticking to the game plan,” he said. “But I’m more focused; I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been. Like I said, I look forward to getting with these coaches and learning new things. Pass rushing is about learning new things, getting comfortable and coaches helping you out along the way. I just can’t wait to get started.”

The 25-year-old Sheard has played both outside linebacker and defensive end, and said Friday he feels like he “can play anywhere up front.”

He added: “I think my main strength is knocking guys back and creating penetration in the line of scrimmage, ultimately stopping the run and being a big factor there and getting after the quarterback or dropping, whatever else may come with it. Ultimately my strength, personally I think, is knocking guys back and creating penetration.”

Sheard is also looking forward to enjoying a level of consistency in New England that wasn’t necessarily there in Cleveland.

“I envision that they have some great plan for me, just knowing the system that they run,” he said of the Patriots coaching staff. “I’ve been around three different systems in my last three years so I’m ready for whatever. I’m always ready to embrace something new and something different and I’m up for the challenge, whatever it is.”

“I definitely look forward to working with Chandler [Jones] and Rob [Ninkovich]. Those guys are definitely excited, just talking to them a little bit. I think we’ll make a nice three-[man] tandem. We’ll get after guys and create a lot of [havoc] in the backfield and on quarterbacks.”

Read More: chandler jones, Jabaal Sheard, Mike Lombardi, Rob Ninkovich

Chris Price and Mike Petraglia break down Patriots offseason in latest edition of ‘It Is What It Is’ podcast

03.20.15 at 2:22 pm ET
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From the losses of Darrelle Revis and Vince Wilfork to the re-signing of Devin McCourty to the restructuring of the contracts for Rob Ninkovich and Danny Amendola to the addition of Jabaal Sheard, Patriots beat writers Chris Price and Mike Petraglia talk about an extremely busy offseason for the Super Bowl champions.

How can they go about repeating? What should they expect in the revamped AFC East? The latest edition of the “It Is What It Is” podcast has Price and Trags talking about the offseason, the draft and where the team goes from here.

Give a listen HERE.

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong

03.20.15 at 1:21 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Jaelen Strong (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Jaelen Strong caught 82 passes for 1,165 yards last season as a junior. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

JAELEN STRONG

Position: Wide receiver

School: Arizona State

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 215 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-Pac-12 first team, 2014 ESPN All-American, 2014 Biletnikoff Award semifinalist for best receiver, 2013 All-Pac-12 first team

What he brings: Scouts are impressed with Strong’s ability to fight off defenders and pull down contested balls. He has shown a very good all-around game, but there are some concerns about his acceleration and ability to create separation. Via NFL.com, an NFC West scout said, “[Strong]’s not going to run fast, but it won’t matter because any team that drafts him is going to have a plan for him.”

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: Strong had 82 receptions totaling 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior for the Sun Devils in 2014. ESPN has him ranked as the sixth receiver and 30th overall player in the draft. His father, John Rankin, was a star basketball player at Drexel who died from leukemia when Strong was 9. Overall, scouts and experts agree that he has the potential to be a star in the NFL but has to work on some aspects of his game in order to reach that point.

Related articles:

SB Nation: Strong is ready for NFL

Sports Illustrated: Strong honors, remembers father on way to NFL

The State Press: Strong should be first round pick

Video: Here’s Strong catching eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame in 2013.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Jaelen Strong,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Kentucky DE Alvin ‘Bud’ Dupree

03.20.15 at 9:39 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Bud Dupree (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bud Dupree (right) impressed at the scouting combine, posting the third-best broad jump of any player since 2003. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

ALVIN “BUD” DUPREE

Position: Defensive end

School: Kentucky

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 269 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-SEC first team, 2013 All-SEC second team

What he brings: Dupree is a leader off the field and, per NFL.com, scouts give him a plus grade for character. He is very athletic, locates the ball quickly and is passionate in his pursuit, according to CBS Sports. He is capable of changing his rush moves and tricks opponents with one speed before bursting out to create big plays.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-2

Notes: Dupree was a team captain in 2014 and started in all his four years at Kentucky. His results in the combine earned him top-performer status as he posted a 4.56 40-yard dash, 42-inch vertical jump and 11-foot, 6-inch broad jump, which is the third best of any outside linebacker at the combine since 2003. The Irwinton, Georgia, native departs from Kentucky with 23.5 total sacks, good for second best in school history. He had 7.5 sacks as a senior.

Related articles:

Pro Day: Dupree glad he stayed at UK to train

UK football: Alvin Dupree has played his way into a possible first-round draft pick 

Video: Here is a highlight video of Dupree’s time at UK.

Read More: 2015 NFL Draft, 2015 Potential Patriots, Alvin Dupree, Bud Dupree
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