Patriots Potential Draft Picks: Bishop Sankey, Marion Grice Fit At Running Back

Bishop SankeyThe New England Patriots sometimes stray from their biggest needs at the top of the NFL draft.

Running back doesn’t look like a top need for the Patriots, but with Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden entering contract seasons, New England might get a jump on filling a future need in the backfield. The Patriots also lacked a backup third-down option in 2013, with Bolden being forced to fill that role when Vereen went down with a broken wrist.

The 2014 NFL draft doesn’t have any obvious first-round running back prospects, but the class is deep with players who could fill a role for the Patriots. Check out which running backs are the best fit for the Patriots throughout the draft.

Bishop Sankey, Washington
5-foot-10, 209 pounds
Projected round: Second

Why he fits: Sankey likely will be drafted higher than the Patriots are willing to select a running back, but he’s one of the best pass-catchers in the draft. Sankey also proved he can hold up as an every-down back. He had 644 carries with the Huskies and never missed a game, despite being slightly undersized.

Sankey’s balance and burst out of the backfield are two of his biggest strengths. He’s a smart back who can get skinny and find holes in the defense, but he hasn’t shown the ability to power through them.

Sankey had 327 carries for 1,870 yards and 20 touchdowns with 28 catches for 304 yards with a touchdown in 2013.

40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds|10-yard split: 1.59 seconds|three-cone drill: 6.75 seconds|20-yard shuttle: 4.00 seconds|vertical jump: 35.5 inches|broad jump: 10-foot-6

Watch his tape:

Charles Sims, West Virginia
6-foot, 214 pounds
Projected Round: Third

Why he fits: Sims would fit as another receiving option out of the backfield on third down. He didn’t record ideal agility times at the combine, but he’s probably the best pass-catcher in the draft.

Sims transferred from Houston to the Mountaineers to increase his draft stock. He had 208 carries for 1,095 yards and 11 touchdowns as well as 45 catches for 401 yards with three touchdowns in 2013.

40-yard dash: 4.48|10-yard split: 1.56|three-cone drill: 7.16|20-yard shuttle: 4.30|vertical jump: 37.5|broad jump: 10-foot-6

Watch his tape:

Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
6-foot, 220 pounds
Projected Round: Fourth/fifth

Why he fits: Gaffney had ideal agility numbers at the combine for a bigger running back — which the Patriots love — but his ability doesn’t always show on tape. Gaffney is a hard runner who can break off long runs when he finds daylight, though.

Gaffney has a tendency to stay high when he’s running, which makes him easier to bring down. He caught 15 passes for 86 yards with a touchdown in 2013. He took the 2012 season off to play minor league baseball, then came back with a 330-carry, 1,709-yard, 21-touchdown season.

40-yard dash: 4.49|10-yard split: 1.53|three-cone drill: 6.78|20-yard shuttle: 4.18|vertical jump: 36.5|broad jump: 9-foot-8

Watch his tape:

Storm Johnson, Central Florida
6-foot, 209 pounds
Projected Round: Fifth-Sixth

Why he fits: Johnson runs harder than Sankey despite being similar in size. He’s not nearly as shifty or quick, though.

Johnson took part in a private workout with the Patriots on Tuesday, the Orlando Sentinel reported. His workout included a film session with coaches. He transferred from Miami after the 2010 season because of a crowded backfield and had 213 carries for 1,139 yards, plus 30 catches and 260 yards through the air,  in 2013. He had 17 total touchdowns.

40-yard dash: 4.54|10-yard split: 1.63|vertical jump: 35.5|broad jump: 10-foot-1

Watch his tape:

Marion Grice, Arizona State
6-foot, 208 pounds
Projected Round: Sixth-Seventh

Why he fits: Grice is another one of the best pass-catching running backs in the draft. He transferred from Blinn College in 2012.

He met with the Patriots last Monday, foxsportsarizona.com’s Tyler Lockman reported. Grice still is recovering from a broken fibula and will hold a pro day April 8.

He had 191 carries for 996 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground in 2013 with 50 catches and 438 yards with six touchdowns through the air while playing through injuries.

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