The next Benny? He definitely has the hair for it. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Our breakdown of the Patriots' backfield continues today with Brandon Bolden. Bolden is an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss that was initially projected to go in the later rounds of the 2012 Draft, but instead signed with the Pats back in May. He's a big dude at 5'11" and 222 pounds and averaged 4.8 yards per carry in college. He also looks like a pretty nice guy, based on the size of his smile in the accompanying picture.
I'm not the biggest college football fan, and so I've seen nothing from Bolden other than some highlight reels, but I was impressed with what I saw. That said, pretty much everything that follows is cribbed from his various scouting reports and some additional research I did. And while I do consider Bolden a long shot to make the active roster, it's important to keep in mind that the most productive Patriots running back since Corey Dillon was also an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi that nobody had ever heard of (miss you, Benny), so nobody can write Bolden off just yet.
Strengths: Excellent size, weight, and strength. Decisive and hits the hole with a solid combination of explosiveness and patience. Gets low and has a good second gear. Reliable in ball security and can outrun defenders on the perimeter.
Weaknesses: Below average speed - ran a 4.66 40 and a 4.49 shuttle at the Combine. Suspect pass blocking. Not a strong tackle breaker. Not known for his pass catching and is fairly one dimensional. Immature with character issues. Not overly elusive.
How will the Patriots use him? If Bolden wants to make it in the NFL, he needs to look up Benjarvus Green-Ellis's number and give him a call, as he'll likely follow the exact same career path. Bolden seems to have all the physical tools to make it as an NFL running back, but he's going to need to develop as a professional and spend some time on the practice squad while he waits for his turn to be called up. He has potential, and several scouts are dubbing him NFL-ready, but to my knowledge he didn't blow anyone away during OTAs and spent much of the time nursing an undisclosed injury. I'm sure we'll see him on the field once the preseason starts, but Bolden has a ways to go before he becomes a positive contributor to this team.
How will his season play out? Signed to practice squad, active for maybe 1 or 2 games to spell an injury. Given a legitimate chance to compete for a roster spot in 2013.