In a move that would surprise no one, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick showed up to Alabama's pro day Thursday, but Belichick also brought reinforcements, which was intriguing.
Belichick and Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban have been friends in the same football wolf pack for years now, and Alabama has turned out an impressive set of pros in recent years. Therefore, it made sense that the Patriots were well-represented.
Belichick also brought safeties coach Matt Patricia to Alabama, via this photo from Izzy Gould of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Patricia was the defensive play-caller last season and has been groomed to eventually take over as the defensive coordinator. Patricia coached the safeties last season after leading the linebackers for five years.
Alabama has a handful of candidates to go in the first round of next month's draft, including safety Mark Barron, outside linebacker/defensive end Courtney Upshaw, inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Barron fits the Patriots' greatest need, though questions about his double hernia surgery will impact his draft position. If he's considered healthy, Barron should be a top-15 pick. Otherwise, he could tumble to the bottom of the first round.
Upshaw should be a lock to go in the top-20, but he could even be the first pass rusher off the board, which would put him comfortably in the top 10. The Patriots would have to make a serious play to move up for him.
Hightower projects to be a tenacious inside linebacker, but he may not fit what the Patriots need at this point since they've got to very good starters in Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. They could make it work, but such a pick would be unlikely.
Kirkpatrick should be one of the first four cornerbacks off the board, and he'll contend with South Carolina's Stephen Gilmore and North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins to be the second corner taken. If Kirkpatrick slides to the bottom of that totem pole, he'll almost certainly be there for the Patriots.
With that amount of front-end talent in the mix in Tuscaloosa, there's no wonder why the Patriots were so well-represented.