The New England Patriots had 37 different offensive line combinations last season. That should be enough to let you know what they need in the upcoming draft. Yes, they had a crucial cog Nate Solder go out in Week 5 against the Cowboys, and seemed to bear injury after injury to the line ever since the Giants game. But even so, the players were not able to step up consistently, or at all in the cases in the 2nd matchup versus the Dolphins and Jets, and obviously the Broncos. New England did not re-sign offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and instead sought the service of former offensive line coach and fan favorite Dante Scarnecchia, who is viewed as a lineman guru around New England. But even under Scar the line has seen its fair share of problems. It’ll take more than some coaching to ensure a repeat performance doesn’t happen, and these will be problems looking to be resolved in the 2016 draft.
Unfortunately, the Patriots have no 1st round draft pick thanks to Roger Goodell, but I won’t get into that whole mess. With all of the above said, OT Jason Spriggs would be a nice addition to the Patriots family at pick 60. Coming in at 6’7” 301lbs, Spriggs offers elite quickness and lateral movement, something Marcus Cannon was desperately lacking against Von Miller. Spriggs has great footwork with a 4.44 20yard shuttle time and plays with his hands rather than his arms to lock defenders up. His pass protection exceeds his run blocking, but that could be just what the doctor ordered for a team whose 38-year-old quarterback who threw less than 30 passes twice all season. If that trend continues and they don’t get their run game in shape, pass blocking may be the focal point. Not a bad way to keep the old man carrying the team healthy, too. Aside from a vicious helmet to helmet blow he suffered in 2014, Spriggs has exhibited great durability and should be a rock for the team.
With Brandon LaFell released after a disappointing season coming off a superb one and Danny Amendola’s 2016 cap hit being $6.8million, wide receiver is a position of interest. That figure for Amendola is too high and cutting him would save $4.1million, but they’d still owe him $2.7million in dead money. He generously restructured last season, so who knows how likely he will be to do so again. Regardless, help is needed with younger prospects Brian Tyms and Brandon Gibson being released as well. That being said, if Jalin Marshall, out of THE Ohio State University, is still around at pick 92 Bill Belichick may take a stab and draft the 5’11” 205lbs playmaker. Marshall’s versatility will be what catches Belichick’s eye, as he’s always loved players who can do a little bit of everything, such as Troy Brown, Mike Vrabel, Kevin Faulk and the like.
Now I don’t suspect New England will run any wildcat plays for Marshall like he’d seen as a Buckeye (and why would you when you have #12 back there?), but his ability to line up in the backfield and motion out to get the defense off balance and get a favorable matchup would be something they haven’t had since Aaron Hernandez. I’m not one of those people who say the Patriots need a deep threat. They’ve been doing just fine with quicker guys over fast guys, winning a Super Bowl with that formula just 13 months ago. Having a beast like Rob Gronkowski at TE helps too, obviously.
That being said, Marshall can fulfill a similar role to LaFell in playing outside the numbers and trying to win some 1on1 matchups out there with in-cuts and hooks, be a deep threat on play action, but can also play in the slot as well. His route running could use some work, but if he gets the ball in space he’s tough to take down. And if Amendola does get cut, Marshall has proven to be a more than capable punt returner to replace Danny.