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

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Jimmy Garoppolo can't help but hear trade rumors that involve his name. He heard all about them during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now his mom's keeping him up to date. 

"My mom loves telling me the news updates," Garoppolo told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "so she’s all over that stuff, but it’s been working really well . . . 

"I’m telling you, she could be your assistant. She’s all over the place. Her and my dad on Twitter and stuff like that. I don’t even think they know how to tweet, but they always have something going on . . .

"They know what to hit me with and what to keep quiet. They know me so well that they know what I’d like to hear and what I don’t need to hear. There’s a couple slip-ups here and there, I’m not going to lie to you, but they’re just so excited about it. It’s an exciting time, and they’re loving it."

Garoppolo tried his best to deflect questions about his future as he prepared for Super Bowl LI, but he could only insulate himself so much from those conversations. After six quarters of well-played football, he's chummed the waters for quarterback-starved franchises. As the draft nears, offers are expected to hit the Gillette Stadium offices, and it will be up to Bill Belichick and his staff to determine whether they should part ways with Tom Brady's backup. 

Schefter asked Garoppolo about one team in particular that could be interested: the Chicago Bears. Their general manager Ryan Pace is an Eastern Illinois alum, like Garoppolo, and Garoppolo is a Chicago-area kid. 

"I get asked about [that possibility] all the time from my friends and family back in Chicago," Garoppolo said. "They’re good reporters, my family. But I keep telling them I really don’t know how it would feel until . . . if it was to happen, I wouldn’t know how I’d feel until it did, you know? So it’s kind of one of those things, it’s hard to say right now."

Garoppolo added: "For the most part I am just trying to stay level-headed, trying not to think about it, over think it too much because at the end of the day I am still under contract. It is not my decision if I get traded or if I don’t, so I am just trying to take it all in stride. At the end of the day, you just have to enjoy it. The NFL, it is a hard place to be, hard place to succeed and when you get an opportunity you have to go and take advantage of it."

The idea of getting an opportunity, though, is an enticing one. Before the 2016 season, Garoppolo was very open about how he looked forward to his opportunity to start with Brady suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And with Schefter, he acknowledged that there are times when it's hard not to be impatient when you're the guy behind the guy.

"There’s times," Garoppolo said. "Obviously the kickoff happens and you are ready to roll. The juices get flowing again. You get the adrenaline, the butterflies. It’s football, you have to love the atmosphere . . . 

"We all play the game. We all want to be out there on the field and get an opportunity to play. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there is probably the best way to put it. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We want to be out there, I want to be out there competing and playing with my teammates.”