The Patriots have a clear need to draft and develop a tackle for the long term future. In the present, the Patriots can play Nate Solder at LT and Sebastian Vollmer at RT. Given the injury odds, there's a good chance that the Patriots could be without either player for an extended duration in 2016, so finding players behind them is important. The Patriots are in a position where they have to draft a tackle because only Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming are under contract past 2016. We know that Fleming is not the answer at tackle and hasn't been more than a 6th blocker on jumbo run calls.
I already previewed Texas Tech OT La'Raven Clark as a prospect to watch because of his NBA-esque length on the edge. Another candidate to take a hard look at is Joe Haeg from North Dakota State. Even though that isn't a FBS school, North Dakota State has become the big powerhouse of the FCS and sending players to the NFL recently. The highest profile name out of that school is QB Carson Wentz, who is getting Top 10 buzz in a QB class that lacks a bonafide franchise QB. The player protecting his blindside? That was Joe Haeg.ther prospects include Stanford's Kyle Murphy, Baylor's Spencer Drango, Indiana's Jason Spriggs, and Georgia's John Theus. I'm purposely excluding Vadal Alexander because I believe he will be a first round draft pick barring an injury in the pre-draft process. Spriggs and Theus are players that fulfill the size requirement, but I need to do more research on both of them.
Haeg is a player that fits my size requirements for a tackle. Those requirements are being at least 6'5", 33 1/2" arms, and 80" wingspan. He weighed in at the Senior Bowl at 6'6" 307 with 33 1/2" arms and 80 1/8" wingspan. Even though he doesn't come from a top-tier FBS program, I will take a more in-depth look at his tape when I get the chance. The Patriots have met with Haeg already, but at the Senior Bowl the coaches pretty much meet everyone, so that doesn't correlate to whether the Patriots will draft him or not. The Senior Bowl is a good idea to see how well he could transition to NFL caliber players and a strong week plus a big Combine could catapult him into the 2nd round like it did for Ali Marpet, who came from a Division-III program.
Jason Spriggs could be an interesting mid-round pick up if the Patriots don’t use their top pick at tackle. According to PFF, Spriggs finished 20th in Run Blocking Efficiency and 5th in Pass Blocking Efficiency among all tackles. I can understand the reluctance to cite PFF numbers, but in college the schemes are more simplistic and you’re evaluating traits in addition to results. Spriggs needs to add bulk to his 6’6" 301 frame, but with 34" arms and a wingspan better than 81", I like the physical traits he has. The Patriots typically favor highly athletic lineman and whoever is the new OL coach will run the blocking scheme that Bill Belichick wants. Spriggs is a better fit for a Zone than Power because he’s not the mauling type when it comes to run blocking. Spriggs should rise a bit in the draft process, I think he goes in the 3rd round at the latest and most likely near the Patriots 2nd round pick.
Theus didn’t get a lot of publicity despite playing in the SEC, so I’m not too high on him right now. That can change when I get a better look. Theus weighed in at 6’7" 317 with an arm length of 34 1/8" and a wingspan of 81 5/8". Theus is probably not ready to play in Year 1 as he works on his body and technique. Those present a lot of problems as he can get too high and bull-rushed easily. There’s a lot of upside though if the other options at tackle don’t fall to them in the 2nd round. How he progresses over the course of Senior Bowl week could determine his draft stock through the rest of the process.
For all three of these players, they will likely have to transition to playing right tackle. On paper that does not sound too difficult since you need similar athleticism to play both sides, but the footwork is flipped so there is a learning curve. Ideally whoever the Patriots wind up picking can play both sides because Nate Solder only has one more year of team control over Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon.