As you have probably heard by now, the Patriots recently held a pre-draft visit with Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy Winner, has recently seen his draft stock slip due to some concerns with his knee, although he claims that the knee has been cleared medically.
Ingram is the type of back that can do it all. He stands at just over 5'9" and 215 lbs. He recently ran a 4.53 40 yard dash at his pro day. He displays excellent vision, balance, and awareness. He isn't the most athletic, but he has good burst, can get outside, and break tackles. He's an improving blocker and reliable receiver. He is likely the most balanced back in the draft and if healthy, could almost certainly provide an upgrade to BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the team's #1 back. Not to mention, the Patriots (in addition to bringing him in for a pre-draft visit) apparently love the guy. Peter King recently reported:
Someone who knows Bill Belichick well told me the other day his MO for this draft will be like it's been for many others: Approach a pick like he wants to trade it, wait until there's a minute left on the clock, and if he doesn't have a good offer, turn in a name to pick. This person said he thinks this could be the case at number 28, with Mark Ingram on the board. He'll have Ingram in his back pocket -- the Patriots love him -- and if they don't get a good offer from a team moving up (probably moving up for a quarterback), Belichick could say, "Turn in the card for Ingram.''
Looking into that report from King, it does not look as if the Patriots would select Ingram at 17. But what about at 28? Or 33? At what point do the Patriots draft Ingram (if available)?
Recently, there has been a growing sentiment that there are a lot of quality tackle/guard prospects available later in the draft. Meaning, if the Patriots took a defensive front seven player with the 17th pick, they could go best player available at 28 or 33, and select an interior offensive lineman at 33/60/74/92.
No, running back is not a need for the Patriots in the first round of the draft for the Patriots. However, it is a position that could potentially be upgraded (for the future) if the right prospect is available. In my opinion, at the 28th or 33rd pick, Mark Ingram could be that upgrade.