FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots are equipped with three second-round picks and a third-rounder, which means they’ll be able to add some serious talent when the draft resumes Friday at 6 p.m. New England holds the Nos. 44, 47, 53 and 90 selections.
Here are the 10 best players who are left on the draft board and whether or not they could fit with the Patriots.
1. Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen
It’s simply astounding Clausen is still on the board, particularly considering one team mortgaged a second-, third- and fourth-round draft pick to trade up for Tim Tebow. There’s a good chance a quarterback-hungry team trades up for Friday’s opening pick to take Clausen. The Patriots, however, would have no interest in him.
2. Texas defensive end/outside linebacker Sergio Kindle
Ah, the guy who the whole world thought the Patriots would target in the first round. The press box was buzzing when the Pats passed on Kindle in favor of Devin McCourty. Clearly, Belichick isn’t as high on Kindle as the rest of us, but if Belichick does hope to land the former Longhorn, he’ll probably need to trade up to get him.
3. Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap
He was marred by an embarrassing DUI arrest in December, and that smoked Dunlap’s draft stock. He’s an extremely talented — yet, not always motivated — defensive end who could fit a big need in New England.
4. Clemson outside linebacker/defensive end Ricky Sapp
Obviously, each team that picked in the opening round wasn’t sold that Sapp’s knee was up to standard. He figures to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL, and if the Patriots want him, it would be a real gamble to see if he’ll slide to Friday’s 12th overall pick.
5. Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes
Another promising Gator, Spikes was always around the ball in college, despite being slowed by some injuries in 2009. Spikes ran a slow 40, which crushed his draft stock, but he would be a good fit in the middle of the Patriots’ defense.
6. UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price
He was a borderline first-rounder and figures to be off the board early Friday. It’s unlikely the Patriots would have much interest in Price, considering their depth at defensive tackle.
7. USC defensive end Everson Griffin
The former Trojan figured to go as high as the middle of the first round, but fluctuating opinions make his stock hard to read. He’s either a guy with plenty of potential or someone who will flame out after a few years. The Pats have a need at defensive end, so he could be an option.
8. Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski
After missing out on Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham, the Patriots have to turn their focus to the draft’s next best tight end. New England has a gaping hole at that position, with Alge Crumpler as the only tight end on the active roster. If the Patriots want Gronkowski, they’re almost certainly going to have to move ahead of the Ravens, who are one pick ahead of them in the second round.
9. Illinois wide receiver Arrelious Benn
Just because the Patriots passed on Dez Bryant doesn’t mean they’re not looking to add a wideout. There’s a pretty good crop of receivers who will go in the second and third rounds, and Benn is probably the best one remaining.
10. Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell
Plenty of rumors indicated Campbell’s stock was falling, but it was surprising to see him tumble out of the first round. He’ll probably be off the board within one of the first four picks Friday, but the Patriots don’t need a tackle.
Bonus: Mississippi running back/wide receiver Dexter McCluster
The scat back could go in the middle of the second round, or he could drop into the third round. He’s tiny and doesn’t really have a set position, but McCluster is simply electric. He’s tough enough to take some handoffs, but his best use on offense could be as a slot receiver. He’ll also be a dynamic kick returner in the NFL. Put the ball in McCluster’s hands, and let the man work. Every team in the league could use a guy like him, and the Patriots are no exception.