It certainly wasn’t Tom Brady’s fault that the New England Patriots’ offense sputtered to end the 2015 season.
The Patriots’ rushing attack was anemic after Dion Lewis suffered a torn ACL midway through the season. Because of that, running back should be one of the first needs New England addresses in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The NFL Scouting Combine ended Monday, so we now have a better sense of which prospects the Patriots could select based on the team’s draft trends and the players’ measurables. The Patriots value agility and explosion over pure speed at running back, so here are the potential fits.
RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
5-foot-10, 215 pounds
Projected round: 2 to 3
Dixon certainly didn’t light up the track with his 4.58-second 40-yard dash, but his 6.97-second three-cone drill, 37.5-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump likely impressed the Patriots. Dixon’s 1.56-second 10-yard split showed he has more than enough speed out of the gate, too.
Dixon had 802 career carries at Louisiana Tech for 4,483 yards and 87 total touchdowns. He also showed off his hands with 87 receptions.
RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama
6-foot-1, 210 pounds
Projected round: 3 to 4
Drake has similar measurables to previous Patriots “sub back” draft picks. The pass-catching running back ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash and had a 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump and 4.21-second short shuttle, which showed off his lateral quickness.
Drake wasn’t a starter for the Crimson Tide, but he still amassed 279 touches for 2,065 yards with 22 touchdowns in four seasons.
RB C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame
6 feet, 220 pounds
Projected round: 3 to 4
Prosise didn’t run the three-cone or short shuttle at the combine, but he fits the Patriots’ typical measurables with his size, length, speed and explosion. Prosise recorded a 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump and a 35.5-inch vertical leap. We’ll see how he performs in the agility drills at his pro day.
RB Dan Vitale, Northwestern
6-foot-1, 239 pounds
Projected round: 6
Vitale isn’t a typical running back, but coach Bill Belichick could find somewhere for him to play in the Patriots’ offense. Vitale ran a 7.12-second three-cone and 4.12-second short shuttle, leaped 38.5 inches in the vertical and had a 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump.
Vitale had just six career carries at Northwestern, but he caught 135 passes for 1,427 yards as a fullback/H-back.
RB Brandon Wilds, South Carolina
6-foot-1, 220 pounds
Projected round: Undrafted
Wilds didn’t put up flashy stats with the Gamecocks, but he fits the Patriots’ prototypical measurements at running back. He ran a 7.08-second three-cone and 4.33-second short shuttle, leaped 36.5 inches in the vertical and recorded a 9-foot, 10-inch broad jump.
Wilds had 438 career touches in four seasons at South Carolina for 2,384 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Check out how every running back at the combine fared against the Patriots’ typical standards.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images
Nov 7, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back C.J. Prosise (20) runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Notre Dame won 42-30. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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