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Draft sleepers for Patriots fans to focus on

05.05.14 at 12:58 pm ET
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It’s important to remember that the draft is more than just elite-level prospects — the team-building process stretches beyond the first round. Sometimes, it’s the later picks that end up being just as important as the first-rounders. To that end, these five players are not considered prospects who will hear their name called Thursday night, but because of a variety of reasons, they’re likely on New England’s radar as draft weekend approaches.

Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, Michigan – The Patriots made the pilgrimage out to Ann Arbor in March to work out the undersized (5-foot-8, 187-pound) Gallon, who put up impressive numbers over the last two years with the Wolverines, including 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. (He had 184 yards against Notre Dame and 369 yards on 14 receptions against Indiana.) He also posted good numbers as a return man, compiling 589 yards on 27 kick returns in 2010, and 192 yards on 31 punt returns in 2011. There are some questions as to whether or not he’ll hold up because of his size, but could project nicely as a slot receiver at the next level if he proves to be durable, and the fact that LeGarrette Blount has departed as a free agent means the Patriots could be in the market for a returner.

Safety Brock Vereen, Minnesota – The brother of Patriots running back Shane Vereen, Brock won’t likely be stepping into Steve Gregory‘s old strong safety role, but the 6-foot, 199-pounder could provide secondary depth and special teams value for New England. Last season with the Golden Gophers he posted 56 tackles, one interception, six passes broken up, one forced fumble and 2.5 tackles for loss. As a result, he was named a first team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, and was an honorable mention pick by the media. A potential Day 3 selection.

Wide receiver Kevin Norwood, Alabama – Norwood has a few things going for him. One, he played for Bill Belichick‘s pal Nick Saban as a collegian. Two, he posted an impressive 3-cone time at the combine (6.68, which was tied for 10th overall among all competitors). And three, he’s known as a steady presence in the passing game who can be counted on to make some tough catches. His draft stock is on the rise, and as a result, he’s gone from a Day 3 prospect to someone who could be a Day 2 possibility. Norwood has good size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) and good numbers last year in a run-first offense (he had 38 catches for 568 yards and seven touchdowns last year). He’s not going to catch a million balls as a rookie, but certainly could provide depth for New England at the receiver position.

Safety Daniel Sorensen, BYU: The 6-foot-1, 205-pound strong safety had the best 3-cone of anyone at this year’s combine (6.47), the fifth-fastest of any position player since 2006. He won’t fill the Patriots’ immediate need for a starting strong safety, but could provide depth in the secondary, as well as special teams value. Sorensen is an under-the-radar guy, but has a big supporter in ESPN’s Mel Kiper. “Sorensen is a nice pick,” Kiper said. “I think as a Day 3 player, he’s going to make a team and he’s going to help you. He could be a starter. He’s a very underrated player. I liked what I saw from him during his career.”

Running back Storm Johnson, Central Florida – Running back is not an overwhelming area of need for the Patriots, and with the exception of Laurence Maroney in 2006, an area where they’ve never used a first-round pick. But it’s important to remember that Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden all are heading into the final years of their rookie deals, they lost Blount in free agency, and there are a handful of late-round possibilities. The 6-foot, 209-pound Johnson isn’t one of the elite backs, but still put up very good numbers at UCF — last year, he had 1,139 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, to go along with 30 receptions for 260 yards and three receiving touchdowns.

Read More: Brock Vereen, Daniel Sorensen, Jeremy Gallon, Kevin Norwood

Wes Welker really enjoyed himself at Kentucky Derby

05.05.14 at 12:32 pm ET
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It looks like Wes Welker had a lot of fun at the Kentucky Derby over the weekend — the former Patriots receiver was spotted handing out $100 bills after he cashed in.

 

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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Virginia OT Morgan Moses

05.05.14 at 12:22 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

MORGAN MOSES

Position: Offensive tackle

School: Virginia

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 314 pounds

Achievements: 2013 third-team All-ACC, 2013 All-ACC second team (coaches), 2012 All-ACC honorable mention (coaches), 2010 Phil Steele’€™s postseason fourth-team freshman All-American, 2010 honorable mention freshman All-American (CollegeFootballNews.com), Z Society Dudley Award (presented to first-year player who shows excellence in the classroom, field and community)

What he brings: Moses has ideal size and, according to scouts, he has the ability to win with his hands and make use of his size. Knocks on him include that he is heavy on his feet and sometimes struggles to stop or start.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-3

Notes: Moses was a Parade All-American and attended prep school at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. He started out his college career as a right tackle, appearing in 11 games and starting in six of the season’s last seven. Moses sprained his left ankle during the fall of 2011 but still started in all 13 games of the season. He also sprained his ankle in a game against North Carolina during the 2012 season. Moses made the move to left tackle during his senior season. During his four years at Virginia, Moses started in 43 games and gave up only two sacks on 506 pass attempts. … Moses did not lift during the NFL combine because of an injury to his left shoulder.

Related articles:

Cavalier Insider: From Meadowbrook to Manhattan: Morgan Moses’ journey to the NFL draft

ESPN.com: Morgan Moses sees draft stoke rise

Video: Here is a video highlighting Moses’ career at Virginia.

Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Potential Patriots, Morgan Moses,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington

05.05.14 at 9:11 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

BRUCE ELLINGTON

Position: Wide receiver

School: South Carolina

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 197 pounds

Achievements: 2013, 2012, 2011 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll, 2011 Freshman All-SEC honors

What he brings: Ellington is a bit of a mystery. In his three seasons with the Gamecocks, he showed his quick speed and agility, including reliable hands and playmaking ability. However, South Carolina’€™s offense didn’t require him to know the full route tree, and allowed the receiver to roam a little bit. Ellington often showed up as an unwilling blocker for his fellow receivers and running backs. Scouts are concerned about his lack of height.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-3

Notes: In 2013 Ellington recorded 49 catches for 775 yards and eight touchdowns. He finished his career at South Carolina with 106 catches for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns. … At the NFL combine the 22-year-old recorded a 4.45 40-yard dash, benched 225 pounds 15 times and ran the 3-cone drill in 6.69 seconds. … Ellington played basketball at South Carolina in 2010 before joining the football team in 2011 and playing both sports. … Ellington’s cousin, Andre Ellington, is a running back for the Cardinals who was drafted in the sixth round last year out of Clemson.

Related articles:

SB Nation: Bruce Ellington: Upside, upside, upside

SB Nation: Bruce Ellington in the NFL draft: What they’re saying

Video: Here are highlights of Ellington at South Carolina.

Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Potential Patriots, Bruce Ellington,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Duke CB Ross Cockrell

05.04.14 at 5:33 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

ROSS COCKRELL

Position: Cornerback

School: Duke

Height: 6-foot-0

Weight: 191 pounds

Achievements: 2013, 2012 first-team All-ACC (media, coaches), three-time Academic All-ACC, 2012 All-American honorable mention (Sports Illustrated), 2012 Willis Aldridge Award as Duke’€™s most outstanding defensive back, 2010 freshman third-team All-American (Phil Steele)

What he brings: According to scouts, Cockrell has solid awareness on the field and plays with discipline. They also say, though, that he has a small frame and some tightness in his hips.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-5

Notes: Cockrell graduated with a degree in political science in May 2013 but returned for the 2013 season while he pursued a graduate degree in the subject. He finished his career at Duke with the fourth-most passes defended, sixth-most passes broken up and 10th-most interceptions (tied). … During the 2012 season, Cockrell acted as a team captain and had a school-record 75-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown. … Cockrell made his Duke debut in 2010 after redshirting during the 2009 season. Cockrell, who’€™s father played football at Columbia, started in all 12 games during that first season and finished the year with 60 tackles — the sixth most on the team. He also led Duke with three interceptions and was second on the team with seven passes broken up.

Related articles:

FOXSports.com: Former Duke CB Ross Cockrell eager for NFL scouting combine

The Herald-Sun: CB Ross Cockrell holds nothing back at Duke pro day

Video: Here is a video that highlights Cockrell’s career with Duke.

Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Potential Patriots, Ross Cockrell,

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland

05.04.14 at 9:06 am ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

BASHAUD BREELAND

Position: Cornerback

School: Clemson

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 197 pounds

Achievements: 2013 second-team All-ACC

What he brings: Breeland is a young, athletic corner who still needs to develop multiple parts of his game. While he looks the part, he only has sufficient speed. Analysts say his lack of top-end speed, failure to prevent receivers from getting behind him and overaggressive hands make him susceptible to big plays. The Clemson corner needs to improve his run tackling, too. Breeland is better in the shorter part of the field and doesn’t make too many mental errors in coverage. Breeland has all the tools to be a top cornerback in the league, he just has to put it all together.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: In 2013 Breeland recorded four interceptions, 17 pass breakups and 74 tackles. The 22-year-old finished his career with six interceptions, three sacks and 136 tackles. … At the NFL combine he ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, benched 225 pounds 11 times and ran the 3-cone drill in 7.04 seconds.

Related articles:

The Post and Courier: Clemson’s Bashaud Breeland battling to join elite group of NFL cornerback prospects

Orange and White: Bashaud Breeland heads back into training in preparation for NFL draft

Video: Here are Breeland’€™s highlights against Syracuse in 2013.

Read More: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Potential Patriots, Bashaud Breeland,

Sunday NFL Notes: With draft weekend looming, one final chance to mock

05.04.14 at 6:00 am ET
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In lieu of this week’€™s Sunday NFL Notebook — and with the draft finally looming on Thursday — here’€™s our fourth and final mock draft.

1. Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DL, South Carolina – There’€™s a terrific chance that the Texans end up trading down — there’€™s more and more talk that they swing a deal with the Falcons at No. 6 — but if they stick at No. 1, Clowney is the smart choice. They should also be able to chase after a quarterback at the end of the first round (if they want to try to swing a trade), or with the first pick of the second round.

2. Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn St. Louis could also end up trading down, as Handsome Les Snead has hinted throughout the pre-draft process. But if the Rams stick at No. 2, Robinson should be the play.

3. Jaguars: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – Watkins started as one of the best of a really good group of receivers, but has really emerged throughout the pre-draft process as a potentially special player.

4. Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – Cleveland has finally acknowledged its interest in Manziel, and while he’€™s been up-and-down boards (and mocks) throughout the pre-draft process the marriage of the Browns and Johnny Football instantly make them one of the most compelling teams in the league.

5. Raiders: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo – Like Watkins, Mack has really emerged as a potential game-changer throughout the pre-draft process, going from being one of the best players at his position to someone who has catapulted into the top five.

6. Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M – It’€™s a good year to be in the market for a really good tackle, and Matthews is one of the best in this draft. (That being said, it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if Atlanta pushed all of its chips to the middle of the table and went after Clowney.)

7. Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – Tampa could try to land one of the elite tackles, but the lure of Evans at No. 7 proves to be too great. Teaming him with Vincent Jackson gives a jolt to the Tampa passing game.

8. Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida – With the two potentially transformative defensive players off the board in Clowney and Mack, the belief is that Minnesota goes after a quarterback, and Bortles figures to be the best fit with Norv Turner‘s€™ offensive system. Bortles won’€™t have to be the starter from Day 1 — the Vikings figure to have a temporary placeholder in Matt Cassel — but Bortles will be the future.

9. Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina – Really, the choice here for the Bills comes down to the flashy offensive pickup or the sturdy tackle in someone like Taylor Lewan. Ebron is a dynamic offensive presence, one who could give Buffalo an interesting pair of tight ends (Ebron and Scott Chandler).

10. Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State The Lions need help in the secondary, and so they could go after a few different bodies at this point. But our pick is Gilbert, who has impressed throughout the pre-draft process.
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