New England Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss is a cornerstone for his insight and access. He recently shared his thoughts on the Patriots entire rookie class and I highly recommend checking it out.
He had a few notes that stood out to me.
Second round cornerback Cyrus Jones will “compete” for starting snaps in the slot. Fourth round wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell had one of the best catches of minicamp. Sixth round linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill looks to be an impact player on special teams with defensive upside.
But the big note that stuck out to me was on third round offensive lineman Joe Thuney.
"Thuney was at left guard with the top unit at the start of spring practices,” Reiss notes, "which had me thinking, ‘Could this be another Logan Mankins situation, in which he’s plugged in from day one, and the spot isn’t a concern for the foreseeable future?' While the Patriots didn't appear to have a major need at guard, Thuney might represent the team's safest pick overall.”
No pressure or anything, but if Thuney could be half of Mankins then he would be a fantastic draft pick and contributing member of the offensive line.
My follow up question would be about where Thuney fits in the offensive line.
I would expect Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer to be the starting offensive tackles, which leaves the three middle roles open. David Andrews and Bryan Stork are competing at center, so Thuney’s competition comes at guard.
Does he displace veteran Josh Kline? Where do second year players like Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason fit in? What about acquired veteran Jonathan Cooper?
If Thuney is the starting left guard, I would expect Mason, who was the team’s best offensive lineman in the playoffs, to hold down his natural college position at right guard.
I proposed on our most recent Pats Pulpit Podcast that the Patriots might want to look into Kline, who was the team’s best offensive lineman in 2015 prior to his shoulder injury, as a possible option at center.
If the competition between Andrews, who is a strong pass blocker and a weak run blocker, and Stork, who is a strong run blocker and a weak pass blocker, doesn’t lead to a convincing starter, then perhaps Kline, who is pretty good at both and has taken snaps at center in practice, could be the solution.
If Kline could have a Dan Connolly- or Ryan Wendell-type career and perform at center, then the Patriots might have a potentially solid line of Solder, Thuney, Kline, Mason, and Vollmer for the upcoming season.