SPORTS

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS FIFTH SIXTH AND 7-ROUND AFTER START OF FREE AGENCY

 

Round 5 (183rd Overall)

Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida

Given the depth at the position in this year’s draft, it would make sense for the Patriots to continue picking up defensive backs on Day 3. This is believed to be one of the best cornerback classes we’ve seen in some time, and New England may be able to snag a couple of future starters late.

Central Florida’s Shaquill Griffin possesses good size (6’0″, 194 lbs) for the cornerback position, but he came into the combine with questions about his ability to cover faster receivers, as NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein  recently pointed out.

“Long speed is very average and will allow some vertical separation against speedsters,” he wrote. “Had difficulties staying with Michigan wide receiver Amara Darboh in Week 3 of this season. His instincts and anticipation are just average.”

Well, Griffin actually performed pretty well at the combine, running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. This should ease questions about Griffin’s straight-line speed and allow teams to focus on his proven production.

Last season, he amassed 50 tackles, 15 passes defended and four interceptions.

Griffin should be able to come in and perform on special teams while developing as a rotational defender.

Round 6 (200th Overall)

Jeremiah Ledbetter, DT, Arkansas

Once a team gets into the final couple rounds of the draft, it’s typically looking for depth players and rotational assets. Former Arkansas defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter could potentially be both in New England.

Ledbetter isn’t a space-eating defensive tackle, but he does have adequate size for the position (6’3″, 280 lbs). He has also shown adequate quickness, running a 4.84-second 40 at the combine. Ledbetter would likely be primarily an end in New England’s defense. Fortunately, this is where he feels right at home.

“Most teams see me as a right defensive end,” Ledbetter explained, per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. “I feel like I can come in with quickness there. My first year at Arkansas, I played defensive end. Second year, I played defensive tackle and halfway through the season, they switched me back to defensive end. I can play both. I think I’m a versatile guy.”

Ledbetter doesn’t appear to be more than a meat-and-potatoes rotational lineman, but this doesn’t mean he can have some valuable production in the role. Last season at Arkansas, he produced 49 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks.

Round 7 (239th Overall)

 

Jerome Lane, WR, Akron

Former Akron wideout Jerome Lane is the epitome of a developmental NFL prospect. He has good size for the receiver position (6’2″, 226 lbs) but he doesn’t possess a lot of top-end speed. He ran just a 4.6-second 40 at the combine.

However, this doesn’t mean the Patriots cannot find a use for the small-school standout. He’s shown the ability to use his size to his advantage (he logged 1,018 yards and six touchdowns) and he should bring special teams value.

If the Patriots are convinced he can add more bulk to his frame, they may even have more roles in mind for Lane.

“His hands are adequate and he has very good size and strength, so it might make sense to beef Lane up and give him a shot at a move tight end spot if he fails to make it as a receiver,” NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah wrote of Lane in his draft profile.

We know the Patriots rarely force players into a specific box. If Lane can keep his speed and bulk up to, say, 240 pounds, he could become a dangerous offensive tool at a position other than receiver.