Tank CarradineInjuries can kill draft stock, and that is nearly what happened to Florida State’s Cornellius “Tank” Carradine.

Carradine was having maybe the best season of any player in college football through the first 12 games of the 2012 season, even propelling himself into the top-10 draft discussion. But he tore his ACL in the last game on the Seminoles’ regular season schedule against Florida. The injury forced him to miss workouts at the NFL combine and saw him drop even out of the first round on most teams’ draft boards.

After an impressive workout just a week before draft day, the dominant defensive end is beginning to rise back into the first-round discussion. At best, his stock still lies somewhere near the end of Round 1, where the Patriots may be patiently waiting.

Bill Belichick traded up to get defensive end Chandler Jones in the first round last year and he may be looking to complete the pair with Carradine this time around. The Patriots are always looking way ahead in their team building strategy and their next group of free agents may come into play with this pick.

Rob Ninkovich has developed into a consistent and reliable playmaker off the edge over the past two seasons. But, as good as he’s been, his contract is up after 2013 and the Patriots may not want to give the 29-year-old the pay raise he’s earned over the past few seasons.

The injury will be a concern for the Patriots, as with any team interested in Carradine. Then again, all of that would have been addressed during Tank’s visit to Foxboro earlier in the month.

If nothing else, the visit shows that the Patriots do have a decent amount of interest in Carradine. Now, the question becomes whether his knee can hold up to see him achieve his massive potential.

Editor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots draft prospect every day from March 27 up until the start of the NFL Draft on April 25. Carradine is the 24th player in that series.

Combine Measures:

Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 276 pounds

*40 Time: 4.75 seconds

Bench Press:  28 reps

*Carradine did not run at the NFL combine while recovering from ACL surgery. His time is from a recent pre-draft workout.

Key Stats:

Carradine originally signed on to play at Illinois, but academic issues forced him to play at the junior college level for two years. He feasted on the JUCO ranks, totaling 26 sacks over two seasons. He made an immediate impact upon transferring to Florida State in 2011, even playing strictly as a reserve. He recorded 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a junior. He then followed that up with a monster senior season, starting 12 games and racking up 80 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 11 sacks before his tearing his ACL.

Potential Impact:

He may need some time to readjust, given his injury, but Carradine can be an impact player in his rookie season. He has the speed and strength to get into the backfield consistently and would make a nice third-down rusher on most teams. The Patriots may view Carradine as that additional rusher right now, eliminating their need to sign veteran free agents like Dwight Freeney or John Abraham. It may be a few weeks, but he should be able to contribute consistently midway through the season and into the playoffs.

Likelihood He’s Around at No. 29:

It seems likely. Carradine was on his way to being a top-five selection before tearing his ACL. The injury raised a lot of questions and has teams believing he is more of a project pick. Then again, his recent pre-draft workout wowed teams and may have them second guessing their own opinions more than his health. If he goes in the first round, it will be somewhere in the 20s. The Vikings (23rd and 25th overall), Colts (24th) and Broncos (28th) are all in the market, which could give the Patriots some competition.

Game Tape breakdown:

Strengths: Carradine has an explosive burst off the line and gives tackles fits in pass protection. He has very good handwork and quick feet, which helps him really drive up into blockers. He sets the edge well when defending the run and uses his leverage and strength to clog up holes. He also exhibits great energy on the field and hustles until the whistle blows on every play.

Weaknesses: His strength and leverage against blockers is a strength, but he sometimes gets too caught up in hand-fighting. He struggles to find the ball carrier in the backfield on some running plays. His lack of experience is also a concern as he looks to make his second major competition jump in three seasons.

Scout Carradine for yourself below.

Next Up: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston

Other potential prospects: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State | Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee | Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse  | Alex Okafor, DE, Texas | Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor | Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina | Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia | David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State | Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut Margus Hunt, DT, SMU | Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M | Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU | Barrett Jones, C, Alabama | DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson | Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State | Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech | Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama | Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia | Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers | Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State | Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

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