Patriots draft giant OT Solder with 17th pick

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Patriots draft giant OT Solder with 17th pick

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

The Patriots took a massive bookend tackle on Thursday night. Nate Solder, a 6-8,319-poundbehemoth out of Colorado, was selected with the 17th overall pick. With Matt Light a free agent, it would seem Solder becomes the immediate heir apparent to one of the starting offensive tackle spots. Sebastian Vollmer, who also goes 6-8, has played right tackle for the past few seasons but could kick over to Light's left tackle spot. Or Solder could be installed right away at left tackle. A converted tight end, Solder will fall under the guidance of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
With a few surprise picks in the top 15, the Patriots wound up with their pick of players at a variety of positions. They passed on Cal defensive end Cam Jordan, Nebraska corner Prince Amukamara, Alabama running back Mark Ingram and Rams DT Corey Liuget. The Patriots took most of their allotted 10 minutes before turning in the card on Solder. They were working on a deal to move down and add picks but weren't able to get a satisfactory one done and made their selection. Here's the breakdown I did on Solder back on April 11: Nate Solder, 6-8, 319OT, Colorado

The Skinny: Massive football player who entered Colorado as a tight end prospect but was transitioned into a left tackle during his redshirt sophomore season. Started at left tackle the next 38 games consecutively. Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki notes that, on 1,400 career pass plays, he allowed five sacks and 21 pressures. The Patriots have visited extensively with Solder, a player described as being very professional, dedicated and coachable. One of the reasons they may have spent significant time with him, though, was to figure if that long frame can put more weight on without sacrificing too much athleticism and to find out if his relatively meager 21 bench press reps were indicative of a guy who will struggle with bull rushes.

Gotta Have Him: Smart, diligent, a "Patriots type" player. With Matt Light a free agent and on in years, the new guy - whether it be right tackle Sebastian Vollmer or a draftee - needs to be groomed. Solder has been ticketed to the Eagles with the 23rd overall pick. He's going to get better as he goes and - under the watch of line coach Dante Scarnecchia, he could be a long-time fixture at left tackle.

Don't Need Him: Not sure if he has the versatility the Patriots covet in their prospects. While a guy like Baylor's Danny Watkins can play guard or tackle on either side, Solder seems a guy who will just be a tackle. And when you have a guy who's that long, it's sometimes difficult for them to keep players from getting under them and driving them back.

Forecast: He's got a lot of things the Patriots will like. And playing for Colorado he was against solid competition that gives the team a good read on his performance level. The height issue didn't scare them off Sebastian Vollmer. Still, if there were one lineman in the early part of this draft that seems to play to their strengths, it seems to be Watkins.
Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”