By Tom E. Curran
Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran plans a series oflooks at potential Patriots draftees. Today's player: Danny Watkins.
Danny Watkins, 6-3, 310
OG, OL, C, Baylor
The Skinny:One of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, the 26-year-old (he'll turn 27 during his rookie year) didn't play football until junior college when he was enrolled in firefighting school at Butte (Calif.) College. Went on to start 25 games after he got to Baylor and impressed as a strong, nasty, humble, mature mauler. Stephen Neal's gone? Really, who better to pick up where he left off? And the nice thing? He's played two years at left tackle but can also play either guard spot or center.
Gotta Have Him:Draft analyst Wes Bunting at the National Football Posthas had Watkins ticketed for the Patriots with the 28th pick for much of predraft season (he's got quarterback Jake Locker ?!? there now)."With this guy, from Day One, you have a good starting player on your offensive line," said Bunting of Watkins. "I would give him plus-grades in both run-blocking and pass protection. He can bend, he can create leverage for himself and he's got a strong lower half when asked to anchor or drive people off the football. When I watched him on tape, he was one of, if not the, best college left tackles I saw all year. I really like Watkins." Most impressive is the factthat while he's spent all that time at left tackle,he'sreally well suited to play guard. And with Neal leaving, there'a a hole there. Additionally, if the Patriots want Nick Kaczur to playright guard and want to replace Matt Light at left tackle with current RT SebastianVollmer, Watkins can head out to RT. Ver. Sa. Tie-yull.
Don't Need Him:I'm not sure I can cobble together a bunch of suitable reasons why Watkins wouldn't work. Maybe the age thing if you figure he'll be 32 when his rookie contract expires. But even that isn't bad for a club, since it guards them from having to pay fat to a 26-year-old whose contract just expired and his best years are ahead of him.
Forecast: If the Patriots keep all three of their early picks - 17, 28 and 33 - you'd have to anticipate them taking a lineman. And there is no more versatile guy - at least in the eyes of analysts - than Watkins. He seems a terrific fit at 28 and could well be gone to a team like Pittsburgh if the Pats try to wait until 33.
Patriots Draftability: 10