Theo Riddick, RB/WR, Notre Dame (West)
With Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Danny Woodhead all slated for unrestricted free agency, the New England Patriots are facing a potential need for slot receivers and receivers who can come out of the backfield should they be unable to resign one or more of those players. Notre Dame’s Theo Riddick is a mid-round prospect who could be a very good fit to help fill that void.
Riddick is a dynamic playmaker with great open-field quickness and good speed. As a running back, he will not run through defenders, but he can make defenders miss with his moves. His biggest strength, however, is his ability as a receiver both out of the backfield and lining up in the slot, making a comparable player to current Patriots back Shane Vereen but also a good fit to replace Woodhead should they lose him this offseason.
Like Woodhead and Welker, Riddick is a smooth route-runner, and in combination with his speed and quickness, that makes him a dangerous receiver wherever he lines up. The Patriots likely won’t make a trade just to get Riddick, but if they get a shot at him in the middle rounds, he would be add yet another weapon to the Patriots offense.
Jasper Collins, WR, Mount Union (West)
Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts are both very good starting NFL wide receivers, and the next NFL wide receiver to make it out of Mount Union could be Jasper Collins. A great route-runner who has very good hands and does not shy away from contact, Collins is a legitimate NFL prospect who projects well as a third or fourth receiver from the slot at the next level.
Should the Patriots lose Welker and/or Edelman, Collins could be a steal in the late rounds of the draft as a potential replacement in the slot. Neither Welker nor Edelman was a high draft pick — and Collins won’t be as a Division III prospect without special measurables — but he has the skill set to make the big jump to the next level and succeed.
Collins should be off the board before the Patriots’ seventh-round pick, but the Patriots should definitely keep an eye on him as a potential option should they acquire more Day 3 picks.
A.J. Klein, OLB, Iowa State (West)
Iowa State’s A.J. Klein would be another terrific choice in the middle rounds of the draft to provide depth at linebacker. Klein is a great fit to be a fourth linebacker on the Patriots or another 4-3 defense where he can be a three-position backup.
Klein has the size and ability to play any linebacker spot, although he is best suited to line up on the outside. He is not a big playmaker or explosive pass-rusher, but he is a well-rounded linebacker who tackles consistently and has good instincts.
Like Hodges, Klein would be a reach in the third round and will be gone well before Round 7, but if the Patriots end up in position to draft him earlier on Day 3, he would be a great fit and fill a need for linebacker depth.
Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State (West)
If the Patriots were to use a third-round pick on a Shrine Game player, the best choice would be Kansas State cornerback Nigel Malone. Malone is a skilled cover corner with great ball skills and good athleticism, and he could provide depth and challenge for a top three cornerback spot on the Patriots roster.
Malone’s measurables will drop him, as he is undersized and does not have great speed by NFL standards, but he is good in both short and deep coverage, and he is a decent tackler. He will likely fall into the fourth or fifth round of the draft, but could draw third-round consideration from teams in need of a cornerbacks with a strong showing in St. Petersburg.
Sheldon Price, CB, UCLA (West)
There are many cornerbacks in this game who are competing for spots in the final two rounds in the draft. Any of them could pique the Patriots’ interest as a potential seventh-round pick, or earlier depending on what they acquire through trades, but among them, one player who they would really be smart to keep an eye on is UCLA’s Sheldon Price.
Price has the potential to rise up into the early part of Day 3, but if he is available in the late rounds, he could end up being a steal. He is a consistent cover corner who has not targeted often in his senior season at UCLA, and he made a good amount of plays when he was. He does not have great size or speed, but he is a physical cornerback with good ball skills and fluid hips.
Aaron Hester, who started opposite Price as a UCLA cornerback, is another potential option for cornerback depth that the Patriots could look at as an option for their seventh-round pick. Hester is a big, physical cornerback who was more inconsistent in coverage than Price, but is a good playmaker on the ball.
Duke Williams, SS, Nevada (West)
Another Day 3 pick who would make sense for depth at safety is Nevada’s Duke Williams. With Patrick Chung likely to leave as an unrestricted free agent, the Patriots should be in the market for another strong safety to provide depth, and Williams would be a good choice if the Patriots get in a position to draft him.
Williams is a hard-hitting safety and sound tackler, a good athlete who covers well and a rangy playmaker. He is very good at reading and reacting to plays in run support, but is also a very solid deep cover safety.
Williams will likely go somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds, but if the Patriots end up with a pick in that range and are looking to use that pick on secondary depth, Williams should be on their radar.