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Why Did the Patriots Draft N.C. State Offensive Lineman Joe Thuney?

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Who is Thuney and what does he play?

The New England Patriots selected North Carolina State offensive tackle Joe Thuney (pronounced "Too-ney") at 78th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. An obvious question is why?

Thuney spent 2014 as one of the nations top offensive guards, before playing offensive tackle this past year- and ranking as one of the nations top tackles. Scouts have concerns about his arm length and whether or not he'd be better suited to play guard in the NFL. There's the problem.

The Patriots are full up at offensive guard. They gave veteran Josh Kline an extension last season. They drafted Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason in the 4th round last year. They added former top 10 pick Jonathan Cooper via a trade with the Cardinals. There's no way the Patriots would carry five guards on the roster.

Perhaps Thuney's versatility to play both tackle and guard is the key to him making the roster. A player like Jackson- who struggled as a rookie- can only play guard, and head coach Bill Belichick wouldn't hesitate to cut him (and probably add him to the practice squad) if a better option came along.

Maybe that better option is Thuney.

Thuney can start at both guard and tackle. He could allow the Patriots to carry just nine offensive linemen, instead of ten. He could allow the Patriots to move on from Marcus Cannon's behemoth contract and provide a future starter behind the aging Sebastian Vollmer. LaAdrian Waddle received a two-year deal with the Patriots, but he has to prove his value to the team- Thuney could add additional insurance.

The Patriots need to protect quarterback Tom Brady and the starters at tackle failed to do so last year. Solder was hurt, Vollmer struggled on the left side, and Cannon battled turf toe and terrible play. The Patriots needed to infuse some youth into the position because Cannon and Vollmer are what they are at this point in their careers. Maybe they're done.

Thuney was the best pass blocking tackle in college football last season, per Pro Football Focus, and would be a welcome addition to the pocket.

The catch is that Thuney views himself as more of an offensive guard, claiming that he doesn't "have the typical length of an NFL tackle."

If Thuney thinks he's going to be an interior linemen, then where does that leave the Patriots? Why would they take another interior lineman? Where does he fit in?

Maybe the Patriots view Thuney to be a Logan Mankins type that can help clear out the interior. Perhaps the Patriots thought that the interior line play was so bad in 2015 (and it was) that they needed to add as much talent as possible.

Thuney might bring more questions to the Patriots lineups than he answers, but there's no question about his talent. He's a great offensive lineman wherever the Patriots put him on the field.