The Patriots developed a surprising one-two punch in the backfield last season with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, and that combination was perfect for New England's offense. Green-Ellis was always reliable, and Woodhead was a threat as a third-down back, fitting the mold for the Patriots' scheme.
But the Pats might have their eyes on Mark Ingram, the draft's top-rated running back who played three seasons for Nick Saban, a close friend of Bill Belichick. Since Belichick prefers to stockpile as many useful running backs as possible, it’s very likely he'd be interested in adding Ingram to the mix.
The 5-foot-9, 215-pounder rushed for 3,261 yards and 42 touchdowns in three seasons at Alabama. During his Heisman season in 2009, he had 1,658 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Ingram runs with a closer's mentality, and he finished off games at Alabama like a quarterback, taking over the huddle, commanding the ball and making clutch plays when everyone knew the game was on him and no one else. He's a bruising runner with good vision, and he has been compared to Emmitt Smith.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Ingram doesn't have explosive speed, and there are growing concerns about his knees. He is a similar runner to BenJarvus Green-Ellis – which, in reality, is a good thing — but if the Patriots add a running back in the draft, they might prefer a different brand.
Potential Impact in 2011
If Ingram's knees are OK, he'll compete with Green-Ellis for starting carries, and as everyone knows, Belichick will give the ball to the back with the hot hand. If the Patriots went with a three-back committee, it probably wouldn't be unreasonable to expect 700 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns from Ingram.
What The Locals Are Saying
Here is some great insight on Ingram's relationship with his father, a former Giants receiver who has spent time in prison.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Ingram?
Many believe the Dolphins will take him at No. 15, but there are reports that suggest otherwise and the feeling out of Miami is they would prefer an offensive lineman, quarterback or defensive lineman. The knee concerns won't help Ingram’s case there, either, and it seems extremely likely the Patriots would be able to take him at No. 17. And if he gets past there, it’s even possible he could slip to No. 28.
Ingram undoubtedly has the best resume in this draft class, but there are a group of backs that teams like who will go in the second and third rounds. Since Ingram might not be worlds better than that next tier, teams won’t be as anxious to go after him in the first round.
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
Thursday, April 7: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo