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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 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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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Alabama DL Marcell Dareus 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

Marcell Dareus had six sacks as a sophomore. (AP)

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 “Belichick 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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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams 02.17.11 at 4:38 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.

Ryan Williams had 1655 yards on the ground as a freshman. (AP)

Ryan Williams

Position: Running back

School: Virginia Tech

Height: 5-foot-10

Weight: 202 pounds

Achievements: Sporting News third-team All-American (2009)

What he brings: A big talent who probably could have used more time in college to boost his résumé, Williams decided to declare for the draft after his sophomore season. He runs hard and would provide that happy medium between finesse and power that the Patriots seem to lack. Some see him as a potential first-round pick, but his lack of production in 2010 make such a scenario unlikely.

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

Notes: Williams missed four straight games in his sophomore season due to a hamstring injury, and when he returned, his carries went down. After getting 20 carries in the first two games of the season, he failed to get more than 15 in a game following his injury.

As will be the case with any running back prospect expected to go in the top two rounds, the big question is whether it is truly worth it. Laurence Maroney nightmares aside, investing a high pick in a running back is very hit-or-miss, and the team may be better off going for somebody in the middle rounds to complement BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.

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NFL Draft’s potential Patriots: Miami CB Brandon Harris 02.16.11 at 10:52 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.

If the Patriots are willing to go with a cornerback in the first two rounds, Brandon Harris (right) could be a target. (AP)

Brandon Harris

Position: Cornerback

School: Miami

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 195 pounds

Achievements: Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist (2009, 2010), All-ACC second team (2010), All ACC first team (2009), Third team AP All-American (2009), All-ACC Academic (2008)

What he brings: Harris possesses a very good size-speed combination and broke up 25 passes over his sophomore and junior seasons. His success as a sophomore made quarterbacks less willing to throw his way in 2010, but if he were to join a stable of cornerbacks that already features proven players like Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden, pro signal callers won’t have as much of a choice. He has plenty of experience to back up his physical measurements, as he played in every game of his college career, starting all but seven as a freshman.

Where the Patriots could get him: No. 17, 28 or 33

Notes: While it would be surprising to see the Patriots use an early pick on a cornerback for a third straight year, it wouldn’t necessarily be the wrong move. Darius Butler took a step back in his second professional season and Bodden is coming off a shoulder injury.

If the Patriots were to select Harris in the first round, he would be the second Miami defensive back they have selected in the first round since 2007 (Brandon Meriweather) and the third Miami defensive player they’ve taken in the first since 2004 (Vince Wilfork). The 2010 draft was an odd one in that no Hurricanes were selected until late in the third round, when the Saints grabbed tight end Jimmy Graham with the 95 overall pick.

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Temple DT Muhammad Wilkerson 02.14.11 at 7:36 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.

Muhammad Wilkerson had 10 sacks as a junior. (AP)

Muhammad Wilkerson

Position: Defensive Tackle

School: Temple

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 305 pounds

Achievements: First team All-MAC (2009)

What he brings: With ideal size and ability as both a pass-rusher and run-stopper, Wilkerson is an ideal five-technique prospect. He played 11 games as a junior, racking up 68 tackles, 10 sacks, and a forced fumble in his final year as an Owl. The New Jersey native had steady enough production in his sophomore and junior campaigns that his stock probably wouldn’t get past being a late first-rounder at best, and given the Patriots’ plethora of picks in the first two rounds, they could stand to use Carolina’s pick on him to solidify a position that was in flux a season ago.

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

Notes: Defensive line was a need that went unaddressed in the first six rounds of the last year draft, and though Gerard Warren did a nice job with Ty Warren out for the season, the former Warren is a free agent and the team needs another solid five-technique even with Ty Warren back. The team couldn’t exactly be blamed for ignoring the five-technique prospects early on in the 2010 draft, as the class was so thin at the position that they likely would have had to reach to snag a 3-4 end. Jared Odrick, the five-technique prospect out of Penn whom the Pats passed on to take Devin McCourty, played in just one game last season. He sustained an injury in Week 1 against the Bills and ended up breaking his foot while working his way back in practice and ended up missing the rest of the season. The Patriots haven’t taken a 3-4 defensive end in the first two rounds since Marquise Hill in 2004.

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