Mike Mayock: Notre Dame Wideout Will Fuller Among Potential Patriots Draft Picks

Mike Mayock held his marathon pre-NFL Scouting Combine conference call Tuesday, which means NFL draft season is truly upon us.

It took the NFL Media draft analyst nearly two hours to finally get around to talking about potential New England Patriots draft needs. The Patriots were stripped of their first-round draft pick as part of their discipline regarding the Deflategate scandal, so their top pick in the draft comes at 60th overall.

“They probably have to be looking at some offensive linemen,” Mayock said. “Obviously they got beat up this year badly up front. They started or played — they had three rookies play significant time in that interior offensive line, one of whom didn’t even get invited to the combine last year: Shaq Mason. They could be looking at a tackle in that spot. I think they have to be looking at the back end with the way they process through defensive backs. I think the wide receiver position has to be upgraded. Their best receiver is an inside receiver, and I think you’d really like to get a significant threat on the outside.”

The Patriots have Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon on their roster at offensive tackle. Solder likely will be the starting left tackle in 2016, but the Patriots could choose to move on from Vollmer or Cannon because of their contracts and 2015 performances. Vollmer has a $6.2 million salary cap hit in 2016, is injury prone and struggled while moving from right tackle to left tackle in 2015. Cannon has a $4.75 million cap hit in 2016 and had major issues blocking Denver Broncos pass rusher Von Miller in the AFC Championship Game.

“At wideout in the back of the second round, would (Notre Dame’s) Will Fuller be sitting there? Or (would Texas Christian’s) Josh Doctson be there?” Mayock said. “(The Patriots) already have a great slot in (Julian) Edelman, so they’re looking for an outside guy that can be a difference maker in the second or third round — Rashard Higgins from Colorado State in the third round.”

Fuller is 6 feet, 184 pounds and caught 62 passes for 1,258 yards with 14 touchdowns in 2015. He had 144 receptions for 2,512 yards and 30 scores in three seasons with the Fighting Irish.

Doctson is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and caught 214 passes for 3,177 yards with 34 touchdowns in four seasons split between TCU and Wyoming.

“Then when you start talking about defensive backs, corners in the late two, late three range, I keep talking about this (William) Jackson from Houston,” Mayock said. “I really like William Jackson. He can play off, he can play press. I think his value is going to escalate as we get closer to the draft. He’s a long press corner who can play off. I think the Patriots always value guys who are versatile.

“Xavien Howard from Baylor is another long corner with really good tape and really bad tape, a gifted kid, may be a late third-round pick. Jalen Mills from LSU has versatility both inside and outside, corner and safety. I think all of those guys are interesting in the conversation regarding the Patriots.”

Jackson and Howard, both of whom are 6-foot-1, are taller than typical Patriots draft picks at cornerback, but New England currently does lack elite length at the position.

Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via November 28, 2015; Stanford, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Will Fuller (7) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Stanford Cardinal during the first half at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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