By Tom E. Curran
Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran plans a series oflooks at potential Patriots draftees. Today's player:Gabe Carimi
Gabe Carimi, 6-7, 314OT,Wisconsin
The Skinny:After an injury-plagued junior season, the cocksure Carimi came back in 2010 and won the Outland Trophy, an award given annually to the best interior lineman (defense or offense) in the country. Carimi was part of a bludgeoning rushing attack for the Badgers. He demonstrated excellent smarts and toughness and a willingness to play through the inevitable dings an offensive lineman will deal with. With the Patriots needing to soon hire the successor to Matt Light at left tackle - or do some shuffling to get Sebastian Vollmer over there from right tackle- they will need a new guy. With BC's Anthony Castonzo and USC's Tyron Smith seemingly stacking up as the most attractive LTs in the draft, that will leave Carimi on the board for New England later in the first round.
Gotta Have Him:Smart, very confident and the kind of player you can probably expect a long and stable career from. Carimi takes football seriously and cares about the craft. He said at the NFL Combine that he's the best left tackle prospect in the draft. Bless his bearded heart for thinking so. He's also played very well against talented competition in the Big Ten.
Don't Need Him:The Patriots' offensive linemen have a unique vibe as a unit. They are very self-effacing, almost shy. Carimi came off as a blowhard at the Combine. An interesting blowhard, a funny blowhard, but a blowhard. Offensive lines are unique battalions and you don't want to upset the group with a dingbat. On-field, it will be a bit of a challenge to figure where best to play Carimi. He thinks he's a left tackle but, as our buddy Wes Bunting at National Football Post points out, he's so much better suited for the right side.
Forecast: Says Bunting, "People think he's a right tackle only. Ideally, he's a right tackle but he can play on the left. He's got strong hands, understands angles and - while he'snot the best of athletes - he's talented. He's a Pro Bowl caliber player on the right side. He's probably adequate on the left. For a team like the Patriots, I'd let him get after it in the run game." The Patriots need to determine whether Carimi is versatile enough for them and whether his personality and skill set fits their team Bunting isn't sure Carimi's boastfulness will be an issue past the draft. "Right now, he is Gabe Carimi the prospect. He seems a good enough guy that he'll be able to read the atmosphere of a team and won't be a diva. He's trying to sell himself right now. In a goodlocker roomlike New England, Baltimore or Pittsburgh, he should be fine."
Patriots Draftability: 7