Watch List: 7 players for Patriots fans to keep an eye on at combine
|02.11.14 at 11:48 am ET|
With the combine just around the corner — and keeping in mind the Patriots’ needs this offseason, as well as their overall draft location — here are seven players we’ll be watching when we get to Indy in just under two weeks.
Tight end Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: Amaro is a pass-catching tight end who has already been linked to the Patriots in the first wave of mock drafts. As a junior in 2013, the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder broke the NCAA all-time record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end with 1,352. Expected to be a first rounder, and someone who could help replace some of the impact in the passing game that was lost between the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Tight end Eric Ebron, North Carolina: Another pass-catching tight end (sensing a trend here?) this 6-foot-4, 245-pounder has some positional flexibility, and his game is probably closer to Jimmy Graham than Rob Gronkowski. He finished the 2013 season with 62 catches for 973 yards and three touchdowns — much of his production came when he was split wide. Expected to be a first rounder.
Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: A bigger, bulkier body who made his bones at Iowa — playing for former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz — the 6-foot-6, 262-pounder projects as a second-day pick. He had 30 catches for 299 yards and six touchdowns in 2013 with the Hawkeyes, and is known just as much for his blocking skills as his work in the passing game.
Offensive lineman Zack Martin, Notre Dame: A 6-foot-4, 308-pounder, he played tackle as a collegian, but lined up at both guard and tackle during Senior Bowl week, and apparently wowed everyone in attendance. The occasionally nasty Martin — who has drawn plenty of comparisons to Logan Mankins in technique, playing style and overall attitude — could eventually find his way into the first round.
Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota: The 6-foot-6, 318-pounder has tremendous positional versatility — he’s played nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end — and has done very well wherever he’s ended up playing. Hageman had 34 tackles last season, including 11 for losses, as well as one interception, and eight pass deflections. Like Martin, Hageman could find his way into the first round by the time May rolls around.
Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska: Call it the Richard Sherman effect: If teams are going to be looking for the next great long-limbed corner in an attempt to copy the Seahawks’ blueprint for success, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jean-Baptiste could be the guy. The Nebraska product had four picks as a senior, but could ultimately find himself at safety in the NFL because of his size. Right now, many have him as a second-day pick.
Defensive lineman Louis Nix III, Notre Dame: The 6-foot-2, 342-pound Nix has played multiple spots on the Notre Dame defensive front, and that level of versatility and size has certainly drawn the attention of the Patriots, who would love to find the heir apparent to Vince Wilfork sooner rather than later. It appears that he’s a late first-round possibility at this point.