The Patriots have loaded up on offensive skill-position players this offseason, but it appears as though they still have one glaring void on that side of the football.
Though they signed free-agent running back Donald Brown earlier this month, they still could use a player to fill the "big back" role that previously belonged to LeGarrette Blount. Perhaps second-year running back Joey Iosefa could take over as the team's between-the-tackles grinder, but the Patriots could look to add to this spot.
If they wanted to turn to free agency, Blount is still available. If they wanted to turn to the draft, there are a handful of backs with good size who will be eligible.
On Thursday, the Patriots sent running backs coach Ivan Fears to Notre Dame's pro day to get a closer look at running back CJ Prosise. While Procise may not be the physical hammer that Blount was, at 6-feet and 220 pounds, he has enough size to be considered an every-down back.
Recruited to play safety in South Bend, Prosise moved to receiver during his freshman season and then shifted into the backfield. Last season he recorded a whopping 6.6 yards per carry average, rushing for 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns on 156 carries. Prosise is considered raw in pass protection, and he fumbled five times last season -- a pair of issues that may hurt his standing in the eyes of those populating the Patriots front offices. Still, the fact that Fears went to see Prosise for himself is an indication that coach Bill Belichick and his staff are interested.
Should Prosise join the Patriots running back group, he'd be in the mix for playing time with Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden, Iosefa and Brown. Lewis, who proved he was capable as an all-purpose back in 2015, is rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in Week 9 of last season. Taking Procise in the draft would give the Patriots another back with receiving ability and the potential to play on all three downs.
Patriots national scout DuJuan Daniels was also spotted at Notre Dame's pro day where pupils of coach Brian Kelly -- a friend of Belichick -- hoped to impress. Here are a few of the prospects Daniels and Fears likely saw up close.
Ronnie Stanley, OT: At 6-foot-6, 312 pounds, Stanley has the size and the foot quickness to enter into the NFL and play immediately. He's expected to go somewhere in the first half of the first round and could be taken as a top-10 choice.
Jaylon Smith, LB: Had it not been for a devastating late-season knee injury, Smith might have been one of the first players off the board in the first round. Many now project him to slip out of the first 31 picks and into Day 2 of the draft.
Will Fuller, WR: With a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at this year's combine, Fuller is one of the best athetes at his position in this draft class. A true down-the-field threat, more than a quarter of his catches last season went for 25 yards or more.
Nick Martin, C: The 6-foot-4, 300-pound physical interior offensive lineman is considered a heady player and a good leader. His brother Zack came into the league two years ago and has been a staple on one of the NFL's best offensive lines in Dallas.
Sheldon Day, DT: A little undersized by some standards, the 6-foot-1, 293-pound three-year starter played various spots along the defensive line for the Fighting Irish. A high-motor type, Day made 15.5 tackles for a loss last season and registered 13 quarterback hurries.
KeiVarae Russell, CB: Made 60 tackles, two interceptions and four pass breakups last season after serving a suspension in 2014 due to "academic dishonesty." The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder played both outside and in the slot for Kelly, giving him attractive versatility, but he could slip down draft boards due to a broken tibia suffered at the end of 2015.