Over the last few days, NESN.com has been profiling potential players the New England Patriots could draft this April. Michigan's Brandon Graham and other names like Florida cornerback Joe Haden and Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain have been discussed.
In Thursday's chat for ESPN.com, Mike Reiss added a few names to keep an eye on.
To start, the mock draft of Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki has Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate going to the Patriots with the 22nd pick of the first round. Nawrocki's reasoning is that the Patriots offense suffered from the loss of No. 3 wide receiver Jabar Gaffney after the 2008 season, exposing a serious need.
Now, with star wideout Wes Welker likely out for the first half of 2010, No. 1 wide receiver Randy Moss possibly entering his final year as a Patriot and youngster Julian Edelman still developing, it's possible the Patriots could look for a new weapon for quarterback Tom Brady to throw to over the next few seasons.
Tate comes from a system captained by former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, so he would likely slide into New England's offensive scheme with minimal issues.
Tate, 21, was named to The Associated Press' College Football All-America Team as well as being awarded the 2009 Wide Receiver Trophy at the College Football Performance Awards.
Like teammate Jimmy Clausen, Tate is foregoing his senior season at Notre Dame to enter the NFL draft. In 2009, the receiver hauled in 93 receptions for 1,496 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Fighting Irish. He also rushed for 189 yards.
While Tate could prove to be a playmaker almost immediately on Sundays, it's more likely that the Patriots will choose to address their defense, which has been increasingly exposed over the last few years. While Haden or McClain represent "dream scenarios" for the Patriots in Reiss' mind, he names offensive guard Maurkice Pouncey of Florida as a more realistic target.
The 312-pound Pouncey would slide into an offensive line that is aging (Matt Light) and could lose players to free agency (Stephen Neal). Pouncey, who is also foregoing his senior year, was a 2009 All-American and can also play center.
In the second round, Reiss suggests that the Patriots would opt for "playmakers," likely a wide receiver. He notes that ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper linked LSU's Brandon LaFell to New England in the second round.
LaFell is rated the top senior wide receiver by NFL scouting services, leaving LSU with a total of 2,517 yards and 25 touchdowns.