Offensive players to know from the NFL Combine

Offensive players to know from the NFL Combine
February 25, 2013, 10:00 am
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On Friday we gave you the names of defensive players you should know from the NFL Combine. Today, we take a look at some of the offensive standouts and whether or not they might fit in New England.

QUARTERBACKS
The Patriots are more than set at the top of their depth chart through 2014 with Tom Brady signed through then, but has Ryan Mallett signaled he is Brady’s heir apparent in his first two seasons in the league? Mallett is also signed through 2014. In less than 12 months, the Patriots will have to be well on their road to addressing the future of the sport’s most important position. And there’s another quarterback to keep in mind as well. Mike Kafka, signed by the Patriots on January 4. Tough, accurate, incredibly smart, he was the odd-man out in the Eagles QB jumble in 2012 after breaking his hand in the preseason but I believe he’ll be a big factor in the quarterback decisions in the coming months. All that said, if a project with intangibles avails himself toward the end of the draft, the Patriots may take a flier.
 
2013 Class Quality
D
 
Names At The Top
Geno Smith, West Virginia
Matt Barkley, USC
EJ Manuel, Florida State
Mike Glennon, NC State
 
Patriot Types
The vogue storyline involving quarterbacks is that read-option quarterbacks with mobility are the wave of the future and the next step in offensive evolution. Yet the Patriots may run the most evolved and successful offense in football history and they aren’t on the read-option train. Do they remain true to their style or do they find a guy with wheels who can make defenses respect a dual-threat? Kafka is the most mobile quarterback on the roster. Two guys who have leadership, accuracy and a reputation of making their teams play better than the individual parts would seem to augue are Zac Dysert from Miami (Ohio) and Ryan Nassib from Syracuse.

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RUNNING BACK
Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are the future of the position. Both have to get better in pass protection and blitz pickup. Both need better ball security. Neither is the ideal short-yardage battering ram ideal on the goal line but Ridley in particular is more than adequate in close. Danny Woodhead is a free agent and – when the game plan falls to his strengths – he’s a consistent, above-average performer. Might be a classic case of being more valuable in New England than he might be elsewhere. If Woodhead flies the coop before the draft, a third-down specialist may be a target. Or Jeff Demps, signed last year after the Olympics, could emerge.
 
2013 Class Quality
B-
 
Names At The Top
Eddie Lacy, Alabama. 6-0, 200
Montee Ball, Wisconsin. 5-11, 215
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina. 5-10, 205
Andre Ellington, Clemson. 5-10, 195
Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State. 6-2, 235
 
Patriot Types
An extreme value guy could be Marcus Lattimore from South Carolina who’s blown both knees in the past two years but was a top-of-his-class prospect before that. Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, 5-9, 190, would be an electrifying addition. Demps is already that guy to a degree, though.

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WIDE RECEIVER
The Patriots are in a bit of a state here. Wes Welker’s a free agent and an aging one at that. Julian Edelman is also a free agent and, I’m hearing, asking for money that doesn’t jive with his durability. Brandon Lloyd was productive in 2012 but his 2013 cap hit and enigmatic personality are making the Patriots think hard about his future. The Patriots’ failures to develop wideouts on their own are beginning to catch up with them. New England hasn’t broken form and gone for a first-round wideout since Bill Belichick’s been with the Patriots. This could be the year.  
 
2013 Class Quality
C
 
Names At The Top
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee, 6-3, 205
Keenan Allen, California, 6-3, 210
Terrance Williams, Baylor, 6-2, 205
Tavon Auston, West Virginia, 5-9, 171
De’Andre Hopkins, Clemson, 6-1, 205
 
Patriot Types
What the Patriots have lacked at wideout is a combination of size, toughness and downfield speed. Between their targets, most have some of the above, none have it all. Patterson, Allen, Williams and Hopkins seem the best candidates in early returns to satisfy the Patriots' seemingly impossible-to-fill requirements.

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TIGHT END
The Patriots need another tight end like I need to see another Harlem Shake video. Gronk. Hernandez. Jake Ballard. Daniel Fells. Hooman. All set.
 
2013 Class Quality
B+
 
Names At The Top
Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame, 6-6, 251
Zach Ertz, Stanford, 6-6, 252
Gavin Escobar, San Diego State, 6-6, 252
Jordan Reed, Florida, 6-3, 243
Levine Toilolo, Stanford, 6-8, 255
 
Patriot Types
Toilolo would be an intriguing guy but at his size, he’d probably have negligible special teams value aside from field goal block. So fat chance there. Kyle Juszczyk from Harvard could be a special teams try-hard they’d like.

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TACKLE
The Patriots are locked down at left tackle with Nate Solder. At right tackle, the likelihood is that Sebastian Vollmer will be back, but with free agency looming for him, until he re-signs or is franchised (a remote possibility), he can’t be considered a given for 2013. Marcus Cannon and Markus Zusevics are the backups at right and left tackle respectively. The Patriots are in pretty good stead at the position.
 
2013 Class Quality
A
 
Names At The Top
Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M, 6-8, 305
Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, 6-8, 305
DJ Fluker, Alabama, 6-5, 339
Lane Johnson, Oklahoma, 6-6, 303.
Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 6-5, 304.
 
Patriot Types
The Patriots generally go for workmanlike players with versatility who’ve played in big conferences. And they start to do so in the fourth round and later. Braden Brown from BYU is a converted tight end who is long and athletic. Also, Boston College’s Emmett Cleary is versatile enough to play either side and has great size, smarts and intangibles.

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GUARD
The Patriots are set at left guard with Logan Mankins and at right guard with Dan Connolly. Donald Thomas, who’s a valuable and versatile backup, is a free agent. The Patriots could seek a replacement for him or try to get him back in the fold. He’s a pretty good player. The other backup at the position is Nick McDonald. The Patriots are generally very good at re-arming their guard positions and all the offensive line spots for that matter.
 
2013 Class Quality
A
 
Names At The Top
Chance Warmack, Alabama, 6-3, 320
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina, 6-3, 300
Brian Winters, Kent State, 6-5, 310
Alvin Bailey, Arkansas, 6-5, 312
Hugh Thornton, Illinois, 6-5, 310
 
Patriot Types
Thornton’s got some off-field baggage but he’s a mauler who plays with a nasty temper. He’s a third or fourth-round type. Look for the Patriots to find some guy with versatility and a high football IQ late in the draft to flip all around the offensive line.

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CENTER
Ryan Wendell made a discreet impact in the middle of the Patriots offensive line in 2012. Because he was so capable, the loss of Brian Waters had negligible impact as Dan Connolly slid from center to right guard to replace Waters. Nick McDonald backs up Wendell.
 
2013 Class Quality
C
 
Names At The Top
Travis Frederick, Wisconsin, 6-5, 302
Barrett Jones, Alabama, 6-5, 302
Khaled Holmes, USC, 6-4, 305
Brian Schewenke, Cal, 6-4, 305
 
Patriot Types
Center just doesn’t feel like a draftable position for the Patriots right now with five picks and much more significant, hard-to-fill holes elsewhere.