Although we're just three games into the 2010 NFL season, it's never too early to begin looking at the 2011 NFL Draft. Every week or two, we're going to take a look at three or four different prospects. Hopefully, we should have looked at around 30-40 prospects by the time the Patriots season is over. While we aren't going to get too in-depth at this point, we'll start off with a few players who are sure to go in the top 10 or 15 picks, and one who I have my eye on in the late first/early second round range:
Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina | Projection: Top 5
Although the early signs from Jermaine Cunningham have been positive, there's no question that outside linebacker will still be a top need heading into the 2011 Draft. At 6'5", 268 lbs, Robert Quinn has the typical size, strength and speed that Bill Belichick looks for in his 3-4 outside linbackers. Due to NCAA violations, Quinn has yet to play in 2010, but we've seen enough of him to know that he will be an elite NFL pass rusher, that is strong enough to be a force against the run as well. Here are Quinn highlights for those not familiar with his game. The problem with getting Quinn is, of course, that he's a projected top five or ten draft pick. While the Patriots will likely have a top ten pick because they own the Raiders' selection, there's no telling whether or not Quinn will be available.
Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama | Projection: Top 15
Another big need heading into 2011 for the Patriots will likely be the defensive end position. Marcell Dareus, at 6'4, 310 pounds, could likely fill this need for the Patriots. Dareus has already played in the 3-4, has the typical size and strength needed, and has showcased some athleticism, coming up with six sacks in 2009. He would likely be available with the Oakland pick, and could probably play any position on the Patriots' defensive line.
Two more prospects after the jump!
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama | Projection: Top 10
While Mark Ingram might not win the Heisman for the second straight year, there's no question that he's going to be a top NFL prospect come next April. At 5'10", 215 lbs, Ingram has a nice, compact frame, and a strong lower body. While he isn't an absolutely elite athlete, he is smart, patient, consistent, quick, with great vision, and the drive to fight for every yard. He rarely fumbles, and while he doesn't have Chris Johnson speed, he's still a great athlete. In short, he's the top player at one of the Patriots' top positions of need: running back.
Stefen Wisniewski, OL, Penn State | Projection: Mid-Late 1st
The nephew of the former Raider great, Stefen Wisniewski has all of the qualities that the Patriots look for in their interior offensive linemen. He has decent size (6'3", 300 lbs), but is quick off the line as well as mobile, solid at pulling and getting to the second level, is a natural knee bender, is smart, and has a great work ethic. While he isn't the strongest player, he seems to have a lot of the traits that the Patriots look for in their centers and guards. If the Patriots could nab him with the later of their first round picks, I think Wisniewski could step in and start immediately.