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2021 Patriots draft profile: Ben Mason could be the next James Develin

Related: Patriots draft profile: Demetric Felton has the versatility Bill Belichick targets on Day Three

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Some positions just don’t tend to get paid a lot of attention on draft day. The selection of specialists, fullbacks, and core special teams players is typically saved for the seventh round, if not skipped over completely and taken care of through undrafted free agency. Someone just forgot to tell Bill Belichick that.

Belichick has selected plenty of players at those positions in Rounds Four, Five, and Six. Some (Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Nate Ebner, Matthew Slater, Patrick Pass, and Stephen Gostkowski) have worked tremendously, some others (Justin Rohrwasser) have not. So with all of the success stories and knowing Belichick will be looking to hit on another, who could be the New England Patriots’ next Day Three reach?

They are all set at punter, employing the best one in football. It seems unlikely they reach for another kicker after the debacle that was the Justin Rohrwasser selection, and although Belichick loves himself some core special teamers, he just gave considerable money to the second best one on his roster. That leaves us with the fullbacks, a position that has been severely underutilized by the rest of the NFL over the last decade. The team recently re-signed exclusive-rights free agent Jakob Johnson and will see Danny Vitale return from his opt-out.

With a competition on the horizon, perhaps they look to add a New England native into the fold as well?

Name: Ben Mason

Position: Fullback

School: Michigan (Senior)

Opening day age: 22

Career stats: 45 games; 40 touches, 119 yards, 10 touchdowns.

Size: 6’3”, 246 lbs

Expected round: Day 3 (6th/7th)

Strengths: Mason is a physical, hat-on-a-hat, throwback-type player. His combination of technique and strength at the point of attack makes him one of the most intriguing fullbacks to come out of the NFL Draft in a long time. When blocking, Mason shows strength, athleticism, tremendous footwork, and most importantly, tenacity. He has all of the tools that you would look for out of a traditional blocking fullback.

Where Mason differentiates himself is as a ball carrier. His efficiency in short yardage situations is off the charts, scoring a touchdown on 25 percent of his career touches. He’s shown the ability to be a good route runner and has reliable hands in the passing game, not something that is a major need but a positive nonetheless.

Prior to 2019, the Michigan offense ran less of an up-tempo, zone-read-based rushing attack, with those concepts sprinkled in, similar to the Patriots. Mason established himself as a weapon in every phase — blocking, rushing the ball, and catching it out of the backfield, you name it. His ability to play road grader as well as receiver is unmatched in this draft class.

Weaknesses: Mason isn’t a dynamic ball carrier, he’s a road grader. His rushing style is conducive to the “FB Dive” play that we have all run in Madden.

As a blocker he’s got the tendency to lean, especially in space. Something that will most certainly be corrected at the next level.

What would be his role? The Fullback role in New England goes much deeper than its name value. Looking back at James Develin’s career, you saw a guy who played not just on early downs, but was mixed into the passing game as well, in addition to his multiple responsibilities on special teams. Mason would be tasked in taking over a similar role to that of Develin in his time as a Patriot.

Does he have positional versatility? Mason did a little bit of everything for the Wolverines in his four seasons in Ann Arbor; his first two years came as a traditional fullback, then in 2019 he made the transition to defensive line. All that came before flipping back to the offensive side of the ball and playing a couple of games at tight end. He’s a dream player for Bill Belichick.

Who’s his competition? You normally don’t roll into camp with three fullbacks on your roster, but Bill Belichick isn’t a normal guy. In this scenario, the Patriots would roster Mason, Jakob Johnson, and Danny Vitale at the beginning of the summer. Johnson would have a slight edge in any competition, being the incumbent fullback on the team, but I would expect Vitale and Mason to both make a strong push for a spot.

What is his special teams value? Mason was a core special teamer at Michigan, playing on punt protection, kickoff, kickoff return, and field goal units. His hat-on-hat mentality that I mentioned earlier plays a huge role in his success, as you can see here:

Why the Patriots? The Patriots don’t NEED an upgrade at the fullback position, but they do NEED a plan. Jakob Johnson is on a one-year, restricted free agent deal. This means he can be cut with no ramifications towards the cap. Though he has shown great strides in two seasons, there are still mental lapses and physicality questions that come up when you watch him play.

Drafting Ben Mason would help you get younger, cheaper, more years under control, more physical, and more dynamic at the fullback position. It’s a no brainer.

Why not the Patriots? There is a big factor that would make one pause on making a move at fullback; is Bill Belichick done with his Jakob Johnson experiment? He’s on record as saying Johnson was never a player that he wanted on the roster; two seasons later he’s the starting fullback. If Belichick isn’t done with his project, then Mason isn’t an option.

Verdict: Ultimately Bill Belichick is in the business of making his football team better, and Ben Mason would be an immediate upgrade at the fullback spot and improve the Patriots’ offense. The biggest question comes to whether or not he will be available in a spot that the team is comfortable taking him.