NEPD Editor: James Christensen
According to multiple reports, Bill Belichick has been on the Illinois campus meeting with and working out potential 2013 NFL Draft Picks.
Who might he be targeting?
The top name on our board at Illinois is “bandit” linebacker / defensive end Michael Buchanan. He had some incredible tape in 2011, most notably against Northwestern. His play seemed to suffer a bit in 2012 under the new coaching regime, but he still has the athletic skills to make an impact on the edge.
Here is our full scouting report on Buchanan from early this year. I currently see him as a 2nd-4th round pick.
Defensive tackle Akeem Spence is another player that the Patriots might be looking at this April. Due to his height (6’1″), Spence doesn’t really project as a 5-technique defensive end for the Patriots, and would be limited to the inside. He excels at shooting gaps from the 1 and 3-techniques and makes a lot of tackles in the run game. His 3.5 career sacks aren’t anything to write home about, however.
With Armond Armstead and Tommy Kelly already filling a similar role, I’m not sure Spence would offer the Patriots much in his first year – especially as a 3rd-5th round pick.
Lastly, cornerback Terry Hawthorne, center Graham Pocic and guard Hugh Thornton are all late round options that the Patriots could be interested in. The Patriots have surprised us with picks from Illinois before – Tavon Wilson and Eugene Wilson come to mind – so it is best not to sleep on any of these prospects.
Out of the three, Hawthorne has the most upside as an NFL player. He came in to 2012 as a highly touted prospect, but his injury plagued season did little to help his draft stock. He has some size (6’0″ / 195) and speed (4.44), but his technique and injury issues should be a major red flag for the Patriots.
Here is a full list of Patriots Draft Contacts for 2013.