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2016 NFL Draft: Curious Observations Regarding Patriots Known Private Visits

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We have been keeping track of the New England Patriots known meetings with 2016 NFL Draft prospects, and our contact counter has roughly 70 names. We have added roughly 20 names this weekend.

While we've examined and analyzed the prospects on the list, and constructed our own mock draft of the possible players, it's important to highlight a few key draft notes.

1. The Patriots have zero picks between the 96th overall pick in the 3rd round and the 196th overall pick in the 6th round. I can guarantee that Bill Belichick is going to acquire draft picks to fill in that 100-slot gap.

Don't be surprised if the Patriots trade down from 60th or 61st to pick up an early 3rd round pick and a 4th or 5th round pick. Also don't be surprised if they trade down from 91st to pick up an early 4th rounder and an extra 5th round pick.

2. The Patriots believe they need another quality defensive tackle on the roster, as evidenced by their attempt to retain Akiem Hicks and then their "late pitch to retain defensive tackle Sealver Siliga", per ESPN's Mike Reiss. The team has used their top draft pick on a defensive tackle in the past two drafts and could do the same for a third straight year.

Some players won't drop to New England, like LaTech's Vernon Butler, Florida's Jonathan Bullard, or Penn State's Austin Johnson, but this is a deep draft. The aforementioned three players would be first round talents in any other draft, but there are five other defensive tackles ahead of them in the rankings.

The Patriots have also looked at Mississippi State's Chris Jones, Texas' Hassan Ridgeway, and Michigan's Willie Henry, all of whom would receive an early 2nd round grade in any other class (for those wondering, Henry is a player climbing up the boards due to his tremendous first step).

This isn't mentioning players like UCLA's Kenny Clark, Ohio State's Adolphus Washington, South Carolina State's Javon Hargrave, Nebraska's Maliek Collins, Notre Dame's Sheldon Day, or Temple's Matt Ioannidis. These are other round 2 caliber players that I haven't been able to connect back to the Patriots.

Essentially, the Patriots could find themselves staring at a defensive tackle with first round talent at the bottom of the second round. Don't be shocked if defensive tackle is the first pick, yet again.

3. Offensive tackle is definitely a need for the Patriots and they've shaken the tree with every single 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round prospect. New England currently has Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, and LaAdrian Waddle as the top four tackles on the roster, but the team is expected to select a tackle to groom as a possible replacement for Vollmer.

It's important to note that the Patriots haven't looked at the six highest graded tackles, all of whom will likely be off the board. Auburn's Shon Coleman and Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark are regarded as second round talents and have met with the Patriots. It seems likely that the Patriots will be comfortable waiting until the third round to make a choice due to a whole group of players in a similar category of talent.

Three players that haven't confirmed a visit, but are likely, are LSU's Vadal Alexander (2nd round), Georgia's John Theus (3rd round), and Missouri's Connor McGovern (3rd round). The Patriots sent offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to LSU to work out Alexander's teammate and fellow tackle Jerald Hawkins. Bill Belichick went down to Georgia and a Patriots scout was working out Theus during the bench press.

McGovern has refrained from mentioning any visits, but he and Missouri center Evan Boehm were both worked out by Scarnecchia, and the two have shared "three private workouts with teams", per the Columbia Tribune. So feel free to connect the dots.

4. You can probably put "3rd or 4th round defensive back" in permanent marker for your mock drafts. Players like Mississippi State's Will Redmond and Baylor's Xavien Howard have a chance to go at the end of the 2nd round, but the Patriots are more interested in prospects at the 3rd-4th round range.

Alabama's Cyrus Jones and Minnesota's Eric Murray are the favorites, but don't count out Georgia Tech's D.J. White or North Carolina Central's Ryan Smith. This draft isn't strong in the 2nd tier of cornerbacks, so the caliber corner in the late 2nd will probably be fairly similar to those in the early 4th.

5. Assuming the Patriots trade down to pick up a 4th and a 5th, don't be shocked if the team uses one of them on a running back. I'm still firmly in the camp that believes LeGarrette Blount will return and be fine, allowing the Patriots to address the position next season, but there could be a flier worth taking at the position.

Someone like Florida's Kelvin Taylor, California's Dan Lasco, San Jose State's Tyler Ervin, or TCU's Aaron Green could be an interesting camp body with an upshot at making the roster. Remember that a 5th round pick isn't a guarantee to make the team.

6. Wide receiver is probably one of the biggest needs for the Patriots, but there's been radio silence on draft meetings. Of the top prospects, the Patriots have reportedly met Ohio State's Michael Thomas, Rutgers' Leonte Carroo, South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper, and Tulsa's Keyarris Garrett.

There are plenty of other qualified wide receivers that could be available in rounds 2 or 3 and there hasn't been a confirmed meeting. Yes, the Patriots have been "interested" in Ohio State's Braxton Miller, but "interest" doesn't really move the needle.

Players like Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, Colorado State's Rashard Higgins, California's Kenny Lawler, UCLA's Jordan Payton, Michigan State's Aaron Burbridge, or Georgia's Malcolm Mitchell could all be fits that come from productive offenses. But there's very little smoke.

Instead, we've seen reports that Nick Caserio is working out all of the Cincinnati wide receivers (from Tony Pauline), or all of the other California wide receivers, or the non-Josh Doctson receivers at TCU, or the depth receivers at UCLA.

Are the Patriots not interested in a wide receiver in this class? That would be a shock. Or are they just much better at keeping their true intentions hidden?

Let the goons that cover the Patriots spout nonsense about defensive tackles, offensive tackles, and cornerbacks, but actually focus on the wide receiver position, right Bill?

All signs point to a 2nd round defensive tackle, trading down and picking up picks in the gap from 96th to 196th overall, a 3rd round offensive tackle and cornerback, and then a late-mid round running back. We'll have to wait and see.