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Day 2 Fits for the Patriots

Players the Patriots could target in Round 2.

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Bill Belichick is giddy over potential Day 2 prospects he might land.
Bill Belichick is giddy over potential Day 2 prospects he might land.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Day 1 is the most exciting day of the draft for most fans, but it's the second day of the draft will Bill Belichick does his best work. If the Patriots' 1st round board dries up, it's likely they will opt to trade for an extra Day 2 pick or two. It could mean a lot to the team since the spots they need to fill up in 2015 mainly don't require the use of a first round pick other than cornerback or defensive line. Now for some prospects that could be on the radar on Day 2.

Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon State

Nelson is my fourth best fit at the CB position for the Patriots following the Jones-Johnson-Rowe tandem I listed as First Round Targets. If the Patriots miss out on all three, Nelson is a very good consolation prize. While Nelson lacks the height those three have, he makes up for it with ball skills and a never say die attitude. When playing against Nelson, receivers have to earn their catches because Nelson will fight tooth and nail to pry the ball free at the catch point if he can't get to it himself. I watched Nelson get the better end of Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong when Oregon State ended Arizona State's title hopes in November. Another thing to add is that Nelson is a very active and willing tackler. College Football Focus (CFF) ranked him with 0 missed tackles. In addition, Nelson was targeted 94 times while allowing only 51.1% of them to be completed and a passer rating of 64.4 against him. He also has the measurables to go with the game, he ran 4.49 (1.57 and 2.57 splits), 4.07 5-10-5 shuttle, and a 6.88 3-cone. I currently have him as a high 3rd rd pick, but I would still be fine with the Patriots taking him at 64. Nelson would be an immediate plug and play guy since his game is already developed enough.

Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State

If the Patriots are unsure about Dominique Easley's health going forward, they can draft a player with a similar skill set in Xavier Cooper. Cooper is a penetrating 3-tech who's near impossible to block at times because he's too quick for interior offensive lineman. Cooper's functional strength at the point of attack can be improved, he struggles to bring down ball carriers and shed blockers. The Patriots can ease Cooper in by bringing him in nickel situations early on and then slowly work him into part of the main rotation. The tandem of Easley and Cooper at the 3-tech would give offensive linemen headaches. If you to read a more in-depth profile of Xavier Cooper, Rich Hill has it covered. The Patriots would likely have to either trade down from 32 or trade up from 64 to land Cooper, who I have going in the 35-45 range. If the Patriots don't trade down, I could see him go at 32 if Carl Davis is off the board.

Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

Diggs was marred by injuries in college, but would be an excellent value pick for the Patriots in the third round. Diggs is a threat when the ball is in his hands and can attack defenses in multiple ways. Diggs can play outside, in the slot, or in the backfield, the type of versatility that will keep AFC East defensive coordinators up at night. Diggs also offers value on special teams as a returner. The issue with Diggs is his game hasn't developed enough to be a consistent option, which makes him a very boom/bust prospect. When you get to the end of the third round, it's fine to take those type of chances because it's not a big deal if the guy never pans out. However, if he does pan out the Patriots have a big time player and the best #3 WR in the NFL. Line him up with Gronkowski, Edelman, LaFell, and whatever the Patriots will use as their 5th receiver and teams will have extreme difficulties slowing down the Patriots offense.

Ali Marpet, G, Hobart and William Smith College

Marpet may come from a Division III program, but he's arguably one of the most athletic linemen in the entire draft. Marpet tested very well in the 3-cone, shuttle, and 40 splits, and has a high ceiling for a guard. The concern is that he faced extremely low level competition, but at the same time he was also the most dominant player in his conference. He has excellent football IQ and is always looking for someone to block. His athleticism should make him a perfect fit at the left guard position. There will be a lot of growing pains with Marpet as he adjusts to the NFL game, but once he's figured it out could be a cornerstone at guard. If he's sitting there at 64, I have to imagine the Patriots are considering taking him there.

Bernardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

McKinney has 4-3/3-4 versatility, which the Patriots absolutely like. My concern is that McKinney is a two-down player that would not factor into either coverage or pass rushing. That's fine in Year 1, but if the Patriots plan on extending both Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, they might wait until later in the draft to pick a linebacker. McKinney does bring an element of force in the run game from the ILB position and would be a natural replacement for Mayo in 2016. Then in nickel situations the Patriots can take him off the field or move him into the defensive end mix. I'm not sure if how well he'd do on special teams, but his speed and explosion numbers might be useful on the field goal unit. McKinney is not a player I'd trade up from 64 to get, but if he's there at 64 or the Patriots trade down from 32, that could change things.

TJ Yeldon, RB, Alabama

It's Buyer Beware on Alabama RBs, but that seems to only happen with the ones taken in the first round. Yeldon brings a complete skill set to the RB position, although he'd be primarily an early down option for the Patriots. Yeldon is a big and physical runner inside and outside the tackles, a solid receiver, has has experience in pass protection. Yeldon is not a player worth overdrafting due to a deep RB class and the Patriots' RB by committee style that has worked for them. If the team pairs up Yeldon with a change of pace guy who can do damage as a receiver and outside the tackles, that would easily replace the Vereen-Ridley combo. I have Yeldon as a 3rd rd prospect.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

Speaking of change of pace backs, here's an excellent fit from that position. Abdullah is ridiculously shifty at the RB position and is near impossible to tackle in the open field. Abdullah is decent in between the tackles, but most of his damage is outside the tackle box. He also brings the receiving element, where he can be an impact player purely as a receiver like Shane Vereen. There are concerns about his size and ability to pass protect as a result of that size, but I believe the Patriots can fix that easily. If the Patriots are comfortable with James White and Travaris Cadet, although I don't see how either would prevent NE from drafting a receiving back if the opportunity presented itself, then they probably avoid this area. Abdullah would be a target at 64, but not likely at 96.

All of these guys have games that are ready for the Pros, but some may take longer to get adjusted to the speed of an NFL game. The Patriots have one of the more complex offenses and defenses in the league, although I believe Marpet, Yeldon, Nelson, and Cooper could start as early as Week 1 if needed. If the Patriots collect extra Day 2 picks via trades, the Patriots could walk away with some major draft bargains this year.