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Meeting the Rutgers Draft Class

We know Belichick is going to draft them - why not get to know them?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL Draft kicking off this Thursday, I figure it's time we got to know the current Rutgers draft class. After all, odds are we're going to see at least one draft-eligible Rutgers player on the Patriots over the coming weeks, so the sooner we can start familiarizing ourselves with the names, the less we'll be scratching our heads this weekend. All in all, there aren't too many elite prospects coming out of Rutgers this year, but that certainly hasn't stopped the Patriots in the past. Plus, there actually are some value guys that can be had later on in the weekend (or in the 2nd round) that I think would fit well in New England's system.

Brandon Coleman, WR

Strengths: Tremendous size (6'6", 225) and explosive first step. Incredibly agile and quick, especially within the first five yards. Deceptively fast with surprisingly solid, but not elite, straight line speed, and knows how to use his body to shield defenders and catch the ball at its highest point. Elected team captain and is known as a "character guy."

Weaknesses: Not as tough as a player of his size should be, and struggles on routes where he has to break and cut back towards the ball. Can be knocked off balance and disrupted due to a high center of gravity. Production dropped off his junior year after a 10 touchdown 2012.

Patriots spin: Mock drafts have Coleman going as high as the late first round (which is a reach) and as low as the early fourth, and the odds of New England targeting a receiver early on are low. If Coleman does in fact fall to the end of the third/beginning of the fourth, the Patriots could look his way; however, the wide receiver position is one of the hardest to predict in terms of transitioning into the NFL, and there are a lot of prospects this year that I think are a better fit for the New England system. That said, you can't knock Coleman's size and production, and Devin McCourty is on record endorsing him; New England definitely takes things like that into account.

Antwan Lowery, OG

Strengths: Strong with long arms, knows how to establish and maintain leverage. Experience at defensive tackle provides both versatility and knowledge of how to stave off a pass rush. Strong work ethic, well-liked by coaches and players, willing to embrace multiple roles on the team. First team All-Big East in 2012, solid run blocker.

Weaknesses: raw and unproven as an offensive lineman, beaten out for starting role on multiple occasions. Mediocre speed and agility, has trouble pulling on screen plays (a Patriots staple).  Heavy-footed and linear in his playing style.

Patriots spin: Lowery is a classic case of a player with potential that is likely to be available very late in the draft that could do well as a developmental prospect. Lowery would likely be able to contribute on special teams right away, but really isn't a viable option along the offensive line just yet. There's also a chance he goes undrafted altogether, which could make him a great flier that could pay dividends after a few years in the Patriots system. At the moment, however, New England likely has their sights set elsewhere and will kick Lowery's tires a little later on.

Jamil Merrell, DE/OLB

Strengths: shows good awareness and knows how to pursue from back-side pressure. Solid anticipatory snap count instincts with an ability to locate the ball quickly. Strong tackler with good base strength, team leader and vocal on-field presence. Mentally and physically tough, is able to play through injuries.

Weaknesses: better as a run defender than a pass rusher, but lacks the kind of bulk necessary to clog the gap. Slow shuttle run time suggests tight hips and an inability to change direction quickly. Lacks initial burst and takes a while to accelerate.

Patriots spin: Merrill is best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker, as his high motor and strong first step is best utilized away from the line and where he is most likely to see mismatches. At this point, I'm honestly not sure whether New England will be operating out of a 3-4 or a 4-3, and even so they don't utilize a tremendous amount of zone blitzing, which is where Merrill seems to excel. Another late round prospect, Merrill would likely be better suited in a different scheme (perhaps Baltimore) and his particular skillset isn't exactly what Belichick looks for in his linebackers.

Jamal Merrell, OLB

Strengths: Good range with solid athletic ability. Good tackler and finisher who can keep up with receivers downfield. Knows his zone assignments and can move well laterally. Has value on special teams with seven career blocked kicks.

Weaknesses: Very thin for his position and size (6'5", 230) with sub-par upper body strength. Could use a year of strength training with priority spent on developing explosive movements, as he has trouble eluding blockers and can get caught behind the play.

Patriots spin: Jamil Merrell's twin brother has gone either undrafted or in the 7th round of most mocks, and because of that he's likely who the Patriots will take in the 2nd round. He's an athletic guy with ideal length and range who can contribute on special teams while he grows into his frame a little more, but likely isn't on anyone's immediate radar.

Jeremy Deering, FS

Strengths: Tremendous, versatile athlete who has played multiple positions at Rutgers, including running back, receiver, and QB. Kick return ace who averaged 31.4 yards per attempt . Total team player willing to do anything and everything he can to help his team win.

Weaknesses: Never stuck at one position long enough to excel at it. Inexperienced at safety and relies more on his freak athleticism than anything else.

Patriots spin: Of all the draft-eligible Rutgers players on the board this year, Deering is the one I'd feel most comfortable betting that New England drafts significantly higher than anyone else had him going. If there are two things that Bill Belichick loves, it's Rutgers players and positional versatility, and Deering fits both bills. He's unlikely to contribute right away (although I do like him as a kick returner) and is probably more Duron Harmon than Devin McCourty, but I am excited at the prospect of Bill Belichick finding ways to maximize Deering's talents and use him as a two-way player. If Deering goes to New England in the third round, I won't be surprised.

The rest:

Paul Carrezola, TE. Fifth year senior who spend most of his career as a lead blocker, but transitioned more into a traditional TE role later on. Can play fullback or tight end.

Dallas Hendrikson, C. Had a solid 2012 after an ACL cost him all of 2011, but he's a bit flatfooted and can get overpowered after the snap. His limited lateral movement makes him a pure center with a lot of holes in his game.

Isaac Holmes, DT. Holmes showed promise early in his college career, but faded down the stretch. He's quick and athletic, but a bit injury prone and never really made a strong impact.

Marcus Thompson, DE fast and athletic defensive endwho made the most of the snaps he was given last season. Although he wasn't invited to the combine, he impressed at his pro day and has garnered some interest from NFL teams, including the Dolphins and Jets.