Draft sleepers for Patriots fans to focus on
|05.05.14 at 12:58 pm ET|
It’s important to remember that the draft is more than just elite-level prospects — the team-building process stretches beyond the first round. Sometimes, it’s the later picks that end up being just as important as the first-rounders. To that end, these five players are not considered prospects who will hear their name called Thursday night, but because of a variety of reasons, they’re likely on New England’s radar as draft weekend approaches.
Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, Michigan – The Patriots made the pilgrimage out to Ann Arbor in March to work out the undersized (5-foot-8, 187-pound) Gallon, who put up impressive numbers over the last two years with the Wolverines, including 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. (He had 184 yards against Notre Dame and 369 yards on 14 receptions against Indiana.) He also posted good numbers as a return man, compiling 589 yards on 27 kick returns in 2010, and 192 yards on 31 punt returns in 2011. There are some questions as to whether or not he’ll hold up because of his size, but could project nicely as a slot receiver at the next level if he proves to be durable, and the fact that LeGarrette Blount has departed as a free agent means the Patriots could be in the market for a returner.
Safety Brock Vereen, Minnesota – The brother of Patriots running back Shane Vereen, Brock won’t likely be stepping into Steve Gregory‘s old strong safety role, but the 6-foot, 199-pounder could provide secondary depth and special teams value for New England. Last season with the Golden Gophers he posted 56 tackles, one interception, six passes broken up, one forced fumble and 2.5 tackles for loss. As a result, he was named a first team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, and was an honorable mention pick by the media. A potential Day 3 selection.
Wide receiver Kevin Norwood, Alabama – Norwood has a few things going for him. One, he played for Bill Belichick‘s pal Nick Saban as a collegian. Two, he posted an impressive 3-cone time at the combine (6.68, which was tied for 10th overall among all competitors). And three, he’s known as a steady presence in the passing game who can be counted on to make some tough catches. His draft stock is on the rise, and as a result, he’s gone from a Day 3 prospect to someone who could be a Day 2 possibility. Norwood has good size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) and good numbers last year in a run-first offense (he had 38 catches for 568 yards and seven touchdowns last year). He’s not going to catch a million balls as a rookie, but certainly could provide depth for New England at the receiver position.
Safety Daniel Sorensen, BYU: The 6-foot-1, 205-pound strong safety had the best 3-cone of anyone at this year’s combine (6.47), the fifth-fastest of any position player since 2006. He won’t fill the Patriots’ immediate need for a starting strong safety, but could provide depth in the secondary, as well as special teams value. Sorensen is an under-the-radar guy, but has a big supporter in ESPN’s Mel Kiper. “Sorensen is a nice pick,” Kiper said. “I think as a Day 3 player, he’s going to make a team and he’s going to help you. He could be a starter. He’s a very underrated player. I liked what I saw from him during his career.”
Running back Storm Johnson, Central Florida – Running back is not an overwhelming area of need for the Patriots, and with the exception of Laurence Maroney in 2006, an area where they’ve never used a first-round pick. But it’s important to remember that Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden all are heading into the final years of their rookie deals, they lost Blount in free agency, and there are a handful of late-round possibilities. The 6-foot, 209-pound Johnson isn’t one of the elite backs, but still put up very good numbers at UCF — last year, he had 1,139 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, to go along with 30 receptions for 260 yards and three receiving touchdowns.