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It Is What It Is Cast, Episode 2: Focus on the Combine

02.22.11 at 8:04 pm ET
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In the second edition of the It Is What It Is Cast, Christopher Price and D.J. Bean discuss the NFL Scouting Combine, what the Patriots look for when they assess a prospect at the combine and how some teams fail to put the combine in the proper perspective when it comes to evaluating a prospects chances for success at the NFL level. Check out the full podcast here.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Miami WR Leonard Hankerson

02.22.11 at 3:00 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 2011 NFL draft.

Leonard Hankerson

Position: Wide receiver

School: Miami

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 205 pounds

Achievements: Broke Michael Irvin‘s Miami single-season record with 13 touchdown receptions in 2010.

What he brings: Hankerson has good size and great hands. He is one of the best receivers in the draft when it comes to going up and getting jump balls. That could make him an immediate asset to a Patriots offense dominated by smaller, shifty receivers. Hankerson isn’t seen as a first-round pick because he doesn’t have great top-end speed. He runs good routes, though, and he does a good job creating separation from defenders.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 33 or 60

Notes: Hankerson led the Hurricanes last season with 72 catches, 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns, all of which were career highs. He had just 17 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns during his first two seasons at Miami, but broke out with 45 receptions, 801 yards and six touchdowns as a junior.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Colorado OT Nate Solder

02.22.11 at 11:00 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 2011 NFL draft.

Nate Solder

Position: Offensive tackle

School: Colorado

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 314 pounds

Achievements: Consensus First Team All-American (2010)

What he brings: Solder has been praised by scouts and analysts alike for his great footwork, agility and strength. He is a highly regarded run blocker who gets to the second level quickly and doesn’t give up until the whistle blows. He still needs work as a pass blocker, as he is prone to getting beat by speedy pass rushers, and he does not project as an immediate starter. However, his talent, size and work ethic are enough to land him in the middle of the first round in most mock drafts.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17

Notes: Solder became the first ever offensive tackle at Colorado to earn consensus All-America honors. He has no injury history and has displayed remarkable durability, as he was on the field for all but two offensive snaps over his final three years at Colorado.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Missouri DE/OLB Aldon Smith

02.21.11 at 6:36 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 2011 NFL draft.

Aldon Smith

Position: Defensive end/outside linebacker

School: Missouri

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 260 pounds

Achievements: First Team All-Big 12 (2010)

What he brings: Smith surprised some by leaving school early for the draft. Many analysts think he could’ve used another year in school to bulk up, develop more moves on the pass rush and enter next year’s draft as a top-10 talent. Despite that, most of them are still projecting him to go in the middle of the first round because of his upside. Smith registered 19 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks last season and is lauded for his great burst off the line of scrimmage and ability to get to the quarterback quickly.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17, No. 28

Notes: Smith has been labeled a ‘tweener because he isn’t quite strong enough yet to line up as a down lineman in the NFL, but he doesn’t have any experience as a stand-up outside linebacker. Although it certainly seems like he has the tools to be an effective pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme like the Patriots’, the fact that he’s never had to drop back in coverage certainly raises some questions about whether or not he could be an every-down linebacker.

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Ellis Hobbs expected to retire

02.21.11 at 3:51 pm ET
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According to a report from Fox Sports, former Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs III is expected to retire due to neck injuries. Just 27 years of age, Hobbs suffered a neck injury as a member of the Eagles while returning a kick against the Giants on Nov. 21. He did noy play again and was placed on injured reserve.

The Patriots selected Hobbs in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft out of Iowa State. He played four seasons for the Patriots and set the NFL record for longest kickoff return on Sept. 9 2007 against the Jets. Hobbs was traded to the Eagles during the 2009 NFL draft for a pair of fifth-round picks and played two seasons in Philadelphia.

Hobbs was placed on injured reserve with separate neck injuries in each of his two seasons with the Eagles. The second such hit, a helmet-to-helmet hit from the Giants’ Dave Tollefson on the play below, proved to be the final play of his career.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Alabama DL Marcell Dareus

02.21.11 at 3:26 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 2011 NFL draft.

Marcell Dareus

Position: Defensive lineman

School: Alabama

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 306 pounds

Achievements: BCS Championship MVP (2010)

What he brings: Considered by many to be the best five-technique prospect in the draft, Dareus has the experience of playing the position in Nick Saban‘€™s 3-4. A player’€™s association with a ‘€œBelichick school’€ should never be overlooked, as the Pats took three players from Florida and added Alabama’€™s Brandon Deaderick in last year’€™s draft. Dareus had 11 sacks over his sophomore and junior seasons and his pass-rushing skills project to the next level.

Where the Patriots could get him: Top 10 (trade up)

Notes: Dareus was suspended for the first two games of his junior season for accepting benefits from an agent, as he was tied in with the mess surrounding North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin that also included fellow top prospect Robert Quinn. Some see him as a potential top five pick, but given the Broncos‘€™ switch to the 4-3, the Bills (No. 3 overall) and Cardinals (No. 5) are the only teams picking in the top five that run the 3-4. That doesn’€™t mean there aren’€™t plenty of teams that would be willing to move up to get their hands on him.

Dareus has overcome a lot in his life, as his father died when he was six and his mother, who was confined to a wheel-chair in recent years, died last May. He has six siblings, and his mother was not his legal guardian in the several years leading up to her death.

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Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has hip surgery

02.21.11 at 1:22 am ET
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Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez recently underwent surgery on his hip, according to this story in the Hartford Courant. On Sunday, Hernandez showed up at a skills camp organized by his brother D.J., a high school football coach in Southington, Conn. on crutches, and apparently told campers the crutches were because of hip surgery. (This story has a picture of Hernandez at the camp while on crutches. For what it’s worth, he’s smiling, so it doesn’t appear to be too serious.) The Florida product, who had 45 catches for 563 yards and six touchdowns his rookie season with New England, was on the injury report with a right hip problem several times throughout the season, but still finished the year as one of the leading receivers on the team.

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