The Patriots have the draft flexibility to prepare for life after Mankins, and they could find his successor in Baylor guard Danny Watkins.
The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder started all 25 games of his Baylor career at left tackle. He was credited with 237 knockdowns in those games, according to his Baylor bio.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Watkins plays with a mean streak, like Mankins, and he is developing quickly despite a very limited background in football. Watkins is also said to be a great person, and he’d fit well with the Patriots’ persona. If the Patriots aren’t planning to meet Mankins’ contract demands, they’ve got to plan for the future at guard. Watkins isn’t considered a tackle prospect, but with his experience at the position, he could potentially help the Patriots at that spot in a pinch.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Watkins will turn 27 in November, which is an extraordinarily old age for a rookie. After working as a firefighter in British Columbia, he enrolled in Butte Community College in California, and that’s where he started playing organized football. So, there’s not a whole lot to go on with Watkins, and that could be a scary proposition considering his age. Plus, aside from Mankins, Bill Belichick has proven he isn’t keen on drafting guards—at all. Dan Connolly, Stephen Neal and Ryan Wendell, the three guards behind Mankins on last season’s depth chart, were all undrafted.
Potential Impact in 2011
It really depends on Mankins. If Mankins returns, Watkins would battle with Connolly for the job at right guard. But if Mankins is out of the picture — either on a permanent basis or for half the season again — Connolly would likely start at left guard with Watkins on the right side.
What The Locals Are Saying
Watkins revealed why he finally started playing football.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Watkins?
They would almost certainly get a chance to draft him at No. 28, and they could possibly get him at No. 33. He’ll more than likely be the second guard off the board behind Florida’s Mike Pouncey.
Every day through April 28, NESN.com will spotlight one player the Patriots could draft with one of their first three picks.
Friday, April 1: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
Saturday, April 2: North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn
Sunday, April 3: Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward
Monday, April 4: Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
Tuesday, April 5: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
Wednesday, April 6: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
Thursday, April 7: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
Friday, April 8: Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey
Saturday, April 9: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
Sunday: April 10: Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker Justin Houston
Monday, April 11: Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers
Tuesday, April 12: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
Wednesday, April 13: UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers
Thursday, April 14: USC tackle Tyron Smith
Friday, April 15: Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor
Saturday, April 16: Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod
Sunday, April 17: Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith
Monday, April 18: Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure
Tuesday, April 19: Villanova offensive lineman Benjamin Ijalana
Wednesday, April 20: Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson
Thursday, April 21: Purdue defensive end/outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan
Friday, April 22: Pittsburgh wide receiver Jon Baldwin
Saturday, April 23: Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder
Monday, April 25: Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget
Photo via Flickr/Atlanta_Falcons