Patriots right guard Stephen Neal provided a slight scare this offseason when he mentioned he was considering retirement. After Neal signed his two-year contract extension, the Patriots were saved from scrambling for an immediate replacement, but it should accelerate their scouting for a long-term answer. While it might not be the flashiest pick, the Pats might be looking toward Florida offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey at No. 22.
The 6-foot-5, 304-pounder won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center during his junior year in 2009. Pouncey started all 28 of the Gators’ games at center as a sophomore and a junior, and he made 11 starts at right guard as a freshman.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Pouncey’s versatility would be a great asset along the Patriots’ offensive line, as he should be able to play center and both guard positions. With the current uncertainty of left guard Logan Mankins’ contract situation and Neal’s retirement potential after 2010 or 2011, Pouncey would give the Patriots some real flexibility when they handle those respective situations down the road. Neal has also had some injury issues, so Pouncey could fit an immediate need in a worst-case scenario. Pouncey also has some additional value coming from Florida’s shotgun system, and the Patriots are one of the most shotgun-heavy teams in the NFL.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
The team likes Dan Connolly, who can also play on the interior of the line, and there has been some speculation that Nick Kaczur could fill in at right guard if Sebastian Vollmer earns the starting job at right tackle. So, with the amount of depth along the line, the Patriots might be better served to address another position with the 22nd pick.
Potential Impact in 2010
If all went according to plan, Pouncey would never set foot on the field next season for the Patriots. While Pouncey appears to have a heaping pile of potential and will likely have a long, solid career, he would be a reserve as a rookie in Foxboro. Pouncey has the talent to step in and play for the Pats, but they wouldn’t need him in that role in 2010.
What They’re Saying About Pouncey
It’s an old story, but here is a chronicle about Pouncey and his twin brother, Michael.
Likelihood Pouncey Is Available at No. 22
It’s more than likely he’ll be there if the Patriots want him. The Falcons and Bengals appear to be the only two teams that would be in the market for Pouncey at that point in the draft, but they’ve got other issues they’d figure to address first.
NESN.com will spotlight players the Patriots could take with their first-round pick.
April 12: Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham
April 13: Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap
April 14: Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant
April 15: Michigan defensive end/linebacker defensive end Brandon Graham
April 16: Clemson running back C.J. Spiller
April 17: Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle
April 18: Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews
April 19: Clemson outside linebacker Ricky Sapp
April 21: Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick