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2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Notre Dame Defensive Lineman Stephon Tuitt

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Stephon Tuitt’s size, speed and consequent versatility made him one of the most impactful defensive linemen in college football. He is seen as a first- or second-round NFL draft choice because of it. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this sixth installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt.

Size. Strength. Speed. Versatility.

As a defensive lineman and tight end at Monroe Area High School in Monroe, Ga., Stephon Tuitt brought all four traits to the table. And after the football program went 0-20 during his sophomore and junior campaigns, his traits helped lead a turnaround.

Tuitt and the Hurricanes went 11-2 in 2010, forging it into the third round of the Georgia Class AAA state playoffs. In the process, Tuitt forged into the recruiting picture.

He found himself ranked the 38th overall prospect in the nation by Sports Illustrated and 22nd by Rivals.com. He found himself competing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, as well as the Team USA vs. The World All-Star Game in Austin.

Shortly thereafter, he found himself in South Bend, Ind., as member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. (more…)


NFL Scouting Combine vs. Patriots Draft Picks: A Four-Year Study

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Illinois’ Michael Buchanan hit New England’s criteria at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. And he fit the draft board as a seventh-round flier that April. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The NFL Scouting Combine is what it is.

It is a way to meet prospects off the field and evaluate how their game film translates on the field. It is not a be-all, end-all in determining a draft hopeful’s future, but it is a way to compare and contrast physical and athletic measurements in a neutral environment.

And when teams apply their respective criteria to the subjects at hand, trends are the byproduct, as Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have evidenced over the last several years.

The Patriots personnel department has drafted 36 players since 2010. The collection consists of two quarterbacks, two running backs, three tight ends, four wide receivers, three offensive tackles, one center, three defensive ends, two defensive tackles, six linebackers, five cornerbacks, three safeties and a punter.

Six of whom had to wait until their pro days, while 30 of whom were invited to Indianapolis.

But courtesy of the NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com archives, here’s a closer look into their vital numbers by position. Because while we do not know what the future will bring this May, history is often a trajectory of the future. (more…)


2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Minnesota Defensive Tackle Ra’Shede Hageman

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Ra’Shede Hageman’s story has ventured far beyond football. But on the field, the Minnesota defensive tackle has emerged as one of the top prospects in the 2014 NFL draft class. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this fifth installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman.

What Ra’Shede Hageman has overcome in his 23 years far exceeds any cut or trap block.

The battles he’s overcome far exceed the game of football, as author and SBNation.com contributor John Rosengren illustrated in a moving piece this November.

Born Ra’Shede Knox on Aug. 8, 1990, his biological mother was an addict; his biological father passed on before he got to know him. He and his younger brother were placed in foster care four years later, while his older brother followed a different path. And after living in handfuls of homes, it wasn’t until 1998 that Ra’Shede finally found a permanent one with attorneys Eric Hageman and Jill Coyle.

Adoption wasn’t the end of his adversity, though. It wasn’t the end of his struggle to fit in. It was, however, a new starting point. Many hurdles have tested Hageman since then, but the past has failed to define him; it has only defined his strength.

And for the 6’6”, 311-pound defensive tackle, that strength has turned into force on the football field. (more…)


2014 Patriots Seven-Round Mock Draft – February Edition

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

A long, physical and fluid cornerback prospect, Utah’s Keith McGill should garner New England’s interest leading up to draft day. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The NFL draft is a fluid process.

Between now and May, the NFL Scouting Combine, college pro days, interviews, private workouts and unrestricted free agency will alter the landscape. Within that landscape, a prospect’s perceived value will swing, as will the perceived needs and interests of their suitors.

Now there are no absolutes in the midst of February, March or April. There are no guarantees that a player will be a top-15 selection. There are no guarantees that an organization will address the draft board by roster priority, either.

All we can do is form an educated projection as to how the picture will be painted.

Projecting, however, is especially difficult when it comes to the New England Patriots war room.

Head coach Bill Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio, and the rest of the Patriots front office have their own interpretation of value. At its very essence, though, it is about waging the worth of a player in contrast with where that player could be selected. It’s about reading the previous picks and gauging what type of player will be available when.

And that is what we’ll attempt to accomplish in this Patriots seven-round mock draft exercise. (more…)


2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Notre Dame Offensive Tackle Zack Martin

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Zack Martin was a mainstay on the Notre Dame offensive line. And while his future position is uncertain, there’s reason to believe the 52-game starter will fulfill similar purpose in the NFL. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this fourth installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin.

A mainstay.

That’s what Zack Martin became for the Notre Dame football program, shortly after enrolling as a 6’4”, 280-pound Under Armour All-American in 2009. The Indianapolis native did not play a down as a freshman that fall, but he played nearly every down over the next four.

Martin was one of 11 Notre Dame players to start all 13 contests in 2010, notching 11 at left tackle and two at right tackle to tally 831 snaps. In culmination of his efforts, Martin was named Guardian of the Year, bestowed upon the Fighting Irish’s top offensive lineman.

He picked up where he left off in 2011. Martin started all 13 games while Notre Dame’s front conceded just 17 sacks and amassed 4.8 yards per carry. He garnered top-lineman recognition for the second-straight season in result.

Martin made it three-straight as a redshirt junior in 2012. The developed, 6’4”, 305-pound blocker earned second-team All-American acknowledgement from the Walter Camp Football Association, as Notre Dame finished the regular season 12-0 that December. And he earned his 13th start of the season a month later.

No. 70 was there when Alabama conquered Notre Dame, 42-14, in the BCS title game that January.

No. 70 was there after.

(more…)


2014 NFL Draft: Addressing Value, Depth, and the Patriots’ Needs

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

After trading back twice in Round 1 of the 2010 NFL draft – at the cost of Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant – Bill Belichick found value in Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

Enigmatic. Stubborn. Unpredictable.

Those three words are often linked to the draft approach of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. But those three words aren’t Belichick’s intentions.

Finding value is.

Value is a loaded term. It’s not necessarily based on positional interest or the best-player-available adage; it’s what a team is willing to wage to acquire a player, relative to where a player could be selected.

Time has shown that it’s entirely interpretive. Yet time has also shown that it’s something Belichick invests tremendous stock in, as former Cleveland Browns general manager and NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi explained two years ago.

“Bill is very analytical. Bill is all about not falling in love with a player. Bill is looking at value,” said Lombardi, who served as Browns director of player personnel under Belichick from 1992 to 1995. “He wants the correct definition of the player and the correct value of the player. When he determines that, then he understands where he can move around in the draft.”

Belichick’s determinations have led the Patriots to Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty, Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder, Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones and Southern Mississippi linebacker Jamie Collins. His determinations have also led to surprises like Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, Illinois safety Tavon Wilson, Ohio State special-teamer Nate Ebner and Rutgers safety Duron Harmon.

To Belichick, all of whom were in the right place at the right time. It remains to be seen who will be in the right place at the right time this May.

(more…)


2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: UCLA Offensive Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Xavier Su’a-Filo’s journey has ventured beyond football. But on the field, the UCLA Bruin has become one of the top offensive linemen in the country. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this third installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind UCLA offensive guard Xavier Su’a-Filo.

Xavier Su’a-Filo is carved from a different mold.

That mold turned the 6’3”, 285-pound offensive lineman into a three-year starter at Timpview High School in Provo, Utah, where the Thunderbirds won a state-record 36 consecutive games behind Su’a-Filo’s road-paving blocks.

Recognition followed.

He was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the state by Rivals.com. He was branded a top-35 prospect by ESPNU. He was named a first-team All-American by EA Sports. He was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America game.

Su’a-Filo was a four-star recruit, but he was also an Eagle Scout and a member of the LDS Church. And after enrolling at UCLA and starting a school-record 13 games as a freshman left tackle in 2009, after being named a Phil Steele second-team Freshman All-American and a Pac-12 All-Freshman selection, he decided that football could wait.

So he left to serve a two-year Mormon mission. It was a mission that would lead him across the country to Florida and Alabama. It wasn’t until winter of 2012 that the 6’3”, 305-pounder returned to school in Los Angeles.

No. 56 picked up where he left off. (more…)




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