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Five good fits for Patriots in first round of NFL draft

04.24.13 at 11:10 am ET
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Earlier on Wednesday, we took a look at five players the Patriots should hope fall to them in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday. Continuing our mini-series, here are five players who would appear to be good fits for the Pats based on where they are picking.

It should be noted that this draft isn’t particularly strong up top, so a lot of the guys that the Pats might want to fall to them might have been available at No. 29 in previous years. Once the the offensive linemen are off the board, there will be a lot of parity in prospects from the mid-first round to the early second.

These players are in no particular order.

Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

Hunter is a true outside guy (6-foot-4, 196 pounds) who has all the attributes needed to be a No. 1 receiver. If drafted by the Pats, he’€™d be the best receiver prospect of the Bill Belichick era.

Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

If the Patriots want to come out of the first round with a big and physical corner like the ones in Seattle, Rhodes is the guy. There aren’€™t many 6-foot-1½, 210-pound corners who can run a 4.41 second 40-yard dash.

Matt Elam, S, Florida

He has NFL bloodlines, as he is the brother of former Jets, Browns, Cowboys and Chiefs safety Abram Elam. The instinctive safety is considered a playmaker in the defensive backfield, which should come as little surprise considering he models his game after Ed Reed.

Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

He hasn’€™t been the most popular name in the pre-draft process, but when there’€™s a run on corners, expect the 5-foot-10½, 192-pound Taylor to come off the board. Taylor boasts very good speed and knocked the 3-cone drill (which the Patriots value highly) out of the park with a 6.82-second performance.

Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

The 6-foot-3, 299-pounder gets after the quarterback very well, but there are questions about both his work ethic and his ability to pick up concepts. Short is viewed as a risk/reward player, but we’€™re living in a world in which Ziggy Ansah might be a top-10 pick.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, Five Players Series, Justin Hunter, Xavier Rhodes

2013 NFL Power Rankings: Pre-draft edition

04.24.13 at 10:34 am ET
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It’s that rare time of year when the 32 NFL teams are graded by what they’ve done off the field just as much as what they’ve done on it. The last time we watched football, the Ravens were crowned Super Bowl champs. Since then, the champs have lost six starters on defense and their best pass-catching weapon. The Ray Lewis-less Ravens are at No. 7.

Once the joke of the NFL, the NFC West looks to be the preeminent division in the league. The Niners take the cake at No. 1, and the upgraded Seahawks, third in our rankings, will be a formidable opponent for the defending NFC champs.

The Patriots enter the draft in need of another receiver and a pass-rusher. The departure of Wes Welker has Tom Brady and company down to No. 4.

1. 49ers (11-4-1) — I’d like to hear an argument against the Niners being ranked the No. 1 team. They have a ferocious defense and an offense improved by the reliable Anquan Boldin. Right now San Francisco looks like the team to beat in 2013. (Pick 31 in Round 1 of the draft)

2. Broncos (13-3) — Barring injury to Peyton Manning, the Broncos have the AFC West wrapped up. The addition of Welker will make Denver’s offense even more unstoppable. Is there a better receiving tandem in the league than Demaryius Thomas and Welker? (28)

3. Seahawks (11-5) — After the year Seattle had followed by the offseason improvement, I’d expect nothing less than an NFC championship bid. Like many of the top teams in the NFL, Seattle is strong at defense. The D got even stronger with the addition of Cliff Avril. The Seahawks also strengthened one of their biggest weaknesses by adding Percy Harvin at receiver.

4. Patriots (12-4) — Danny Amendola replacing Welker is not an upgrade. The former Rams receiver may be younger and faster, but Welker offered consistency. He stayed on the field and worked well with Brady and the offense. There will be an adjustment period. The Patriots will go into the season with three talented receiving weapons (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Amendola), but all three are injury-prone. (29)

5. Packers (11-5) — Injuries plagued the offensive line last season. More depth on the line is important, especially with the Packers in a division where they have to playing against pass-rushers like Ndamukong Suh, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers. (26)

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Read More: Anquan Boldin, Mark Sanchez, NFL Power Rankings, Peyton Manning

Five players Patriots should hope fall to them

04.24.13 at 8:51 am ET
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Think of this as our way of trying to preemptively save face. We put in months of work saying who makes sense for the Patriots, who to expect them to draft, etc., only to be way off by the time Bill Belichick makes that first selection.

So, as a means of trying to cover more ground and at least be able to say we kind of said the Pats might draft the guy they end up taking, we’€™re putting together three lists for the first round: five guys the Pats should hope fall to them, five good matches and five players for whom they could potentially reach. We’€™ll start it off with five players they should hope fall to them.

Guys left off this list include those sure to go in the top 15 (Dee Milliner, Star Lotulelei, Ziggy Ansah, etc.) as well as good players who don’€™t project well to New England. For example, Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson may very well be a star in the NFL, but he needs to be developed more than the other top receivers in this draft. The Pats haven’€™t been able to develop a top receiver since Deion Branch, so they’€™re better off sticking to more NFL-ready players.

These players are in no particular order.

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

The Pats would seem to be set for now with Devin McCourty and Adrian Wilson, but the jury still is out on Tavon Wilson, and Vaccaro has both the smarts and the cover skills to make him a serious difference-maker.

D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston

If selected where he’€™s now expected (early to mid-first round), Hayden might go down as one of the biggest risers in the history of the draft. He was a potential late-round pick after a near-death experience in practice ended his second year of FBS play. Hayden is an instinctive corner with plus ball skills and more than holds his own against the run.

Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

With the exception of Armond Armstead (who definitely is something of a wild card), the Pats aren’€™t getting younger or better on their interior defensive line. Vince Wilfork isn’€™t going to be around forever, and Williams has drawn comparisons to Geno Atkins.

Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

Instinctive and fast with good size (the 5-foot-11½, 190-pound Trufant ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the combine), he is the younger brother of 10-year NFL veteran Marcus Trufant.

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

This pick would create a bit of a redundancy on the roster given that the Pats signed Danny Amendola, but there’€™s always room for a talent like Austin. The 5-foot-8½, 174-pounder projects to be an elite slot receiver given his speed and precision in route-running.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, D.J. Hayden, Kenny Vaccaro,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Boise State CB Jamar Taylor

04.24.13 at 7:12 am ET
By   |   Comments will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.


Position: Cornerback

School: Boise State

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 192 pounds

Achievements: 2012 All-Mountain West first team (media, coaches)

What he brings: Taylor started every game in his senior year, bringing physical play, athleticism and impressive speed to Boise State’s defense. He’s shown the ability to play both man and zone coverage, excelling at the former, and he reads plays well, recognizing routes and anticipating passes. Observers have noted his fluid hips and ability to pursue receivers in motion. As an aggressive defender, he occasionally can be faked out and take an extra second to recover. He missed four full games and most of another in 2011 with a stress fracture in his leg, although after a full 2012 season in which he stayed healthy, that isn’t much of a concern. He hasn’t played press very often, and some scouts have speculated that he could struggle in that area.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 2

Notes: In 2012 at Boise State, Taylor recorded 51 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, and 2.5 sacks. He also had nine pass breakups, four interceptions and three forced fumbles. He was a team captain in his senior year. He’s been praised for his work ethic, and while some aspects of his game need work, his instincts are good enough to make him one of the more highly sought-after cornerbacks in the draft.

Related articles: Idaho Statesman: Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor’s talent, work ethic could land him in NFL

Idaho Statesman: Boise State’s Jamar Taylor making a good impression

Idaho Press-Tribune: Former BSU cornerback Taylor focused on workouts, not draft hype

Video: Here’s a look at Taylor in action from a couple of games in 2012.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, 2013 Potential Patriots, Jamar Taylor,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton

04.23.13 at 7:12 am ET
By   |   Comments will continue to provide daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.


Position: Wide receiver

School: Oregon State

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 189 pounds

Achievements: 2012 All-Pac-12 first team (coaches), 2011 All-Pac-12 honorable mention

What he brings: While not a prototypical 6-foot-plus receiver, Wheaton makes up for it with his quickness and agility. Many scouts have been impressed with Wheaton’s knack for consistently gaining a first step on his defenders. Even on poor throws from the quarterback, Wheaton has shown that he can adjust quickly or make the difficult over-the-shoulder catch on deep routes. Wheaton, also a terrific track athlete at Oregon State, has been compared to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 2

Notes: Before the 2012 season, Wheaton was chosen as one of Oregon State’s four co-captains. By the end of his senior season, Wheaton finished as the school’s all-time leader in receptions with 227. In his final season, he passed the likes of James Rodgers, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. In a September 2012 win over Arizona, Wheaton hauled in 10 receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns. … His brother Marquese was an All-Conference USA cornerback for Southern Mississippi in 2011. Marquese signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent last summer but was cut during training camp.

Related articles: Beavers look to replace Markus Wheaton Comparing Markus Wheaton and Quinton Patton

Video: Here’s a look at Wheaton in action vs. BYU in 2012.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, 2013 Potential Patriots, Markus Wheaton,

Nick Caserio: Draft is only one part of an ongoing team-building process

04.23.13 at 12:07 am ET
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FOXBORO — Despite the fact that the initial wave of free agency is complete and the draft will soon be done, the team-building process doesn’€™t stop when the calendar flips from April to May.

In fact, once Mr. Irrelevant hears his name called on Saturday of draft weekend, the process is really just getting started. The 24 to 48 hours after the draft is always a crazy stretch, as each team around the league scrambles to find the best available talent in the form of undrafted and rookie free agents. Historically, the Patriots have always managed to find at least one player who ends up being a serious contributor down the road.

‘€œRookie free agents always play a big role in the draft,’€ Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said Monday. ‘€œIf you just look at our track record through the years: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Dane Fletcher, Justin Francis, Marcus Forston, Brandon Bolden, those guys last year. They’€™re always part of the equation.’€

On the current roster, there are 29 players who were undrafted, and while not all of them initially signed with New England, many of them figure to play some sort of role with the 2013 Patriots, including Fletcher and Bolden, as well as long snapper Danny Aiken; wide receiver Danny Amendola; cornerback Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole; tight end Jake Ballard; offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Nick McDonald and Ryan Wendell, and defensive lineman Kyle Love. They all went undrafted, but still found a spot on an NFL roster.

Ultimately, the signing and development of those players are a large part of the team-building process, and this year should be no exception, particularly because the Patriots have only five draft picks. It’€™s the lowest amount New England has had since Bill Belichick took over before the 2000 season.

‘€œJust from a sheer numbers standpoint, the roster is right around — let’€™s call it 70 players, give or take. So we’€™re going to be adding 20 more players to the team before we go to training camp,’€ Caserio said.

‘€œThat could come from draft picks, it could come from undrafted free agents. Whether or not they play a larger role this year, possibly. There are still street free agents that are available. You’€™re always looking at a multitude of ways to put your team together. We’€™ll take 90 to training camp and then we’€™ll go from there.’€

Ultimately, the draft is another step in the overall assemblage of the roster, which will also inevitably include more free agent activity between now and the start of the season.

‘€œI think the draft is part of the process. Really, the team-building exercise, it kind of never stops. It’€™s ongoing, specific to one segment of the year,’€ Caserio said. ‘€œThe team-building process is non-stop. It’€™s ongoing. Once we get post-draft, there might even be a period during training camp … like Rob Ninkovich, just to pick a name. I think we signed him the first week of August in 2009 in training camp. Rob has ended up being one of the better players we’€™ve had in our program. It’€™s constant and ongoing.

‘€œIt never stops. In the end, the most important thing is try to do whatever we can to help our team win games. Whatever shape that takes, then that’€™s what we’€™ll do.’€

Here are some other highlights of Caserio’€™s Monday afternoon Q&A with the media:
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio,

Nick Caserio talks about removal of Darrelle Revis from Jets secondary

04.22.13 at 9:27 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The trade of Darrelle Revis from the Jets to Tampa Bay will have an impact throughout football, but most notably in the AFC East, where the Bills, Dolphins and Patriots now won’t have to face the All-Pro corner twice a year.

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio talked about the removal of Revis from the New York secondary on Monday afternoon and what it means in New England.

“You’re cognizant of it,” Caserio said when asked about the ramifications of Revis going from New York to Tampa. “I think you have some degree of understanding, but I think the focus of it right now is really more on your team and our team and just the draft preparation of what we’re going to do.

“Darrelle is a great player. There’s no question about it. I think the Jets will do what they can. They’ll put a good team out there, whoever we end up playing, whoever is on the field, they’ll be good players, and we’ll have to make sure that we’re prepared for that. We’re going to have to face him, it looks like, some time this season when we play Tampa Bay. He won’t be too far from us.”

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Nick Caserio,
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