Patriots

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Three kickers worthy of being selected

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Three kickers worthy of being selected

Kicker isn't one of the popular positions entering the NFL Draft, but these players fill an important role at the pro level.

An accurate kicker can make a huge difference in pressure-packed moments, and New England Patriots fans know that all too well.

The Patriots' first three Super Bowl titles all were won by three points earned on fourth-quarter field goals by Adam Vinatieri.

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Stephen Gostkowski was drafted by the Patriots in 2006 to replace Vinatieri and became the team's all-time leading scorer. He also won three Super Bowl championships with the Patriots, and his kick late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIII sealed the win. 

Gostkowski was released by the Patriots last month, so New England is among the teams that could consider selecting a kicker in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Let's take a look at three kickers worthy of being drafted from this year's class.

1. Rodrigo Blankenship

College: Georgia
Class: Redshirt Senior
2019 Stats: 27-for-33 on field goals, 46-for-46 on extra points

If you watched college football over the last four years, you probably saw Blankenship play. He spent four seasons kicking for Georgia and performed in a lot of pressure-packed moments, whether they were pivotal SEC matchups or the College Football Playoff. Let's not forget the 51-yard field goal he made against Alabama in overtime of the CFP national title game in 2017 that nearly won Georgia a championship.

Blankenship hit 80 of his 97 field goal attempts (82.4 percent) for the Bulldogs. He connected on six of his nine attempts from 50 yards or longer, and he never missed a field goal from 29 yards or closer. Blankenship was perfect on extra points in his career, too. As a senior, he won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker and earned an All-SEC first team selection. Blankenship's accuracy and experience kicking in big games are two huge factors in grading him the best kicker of the 2020 draft class.

Projected Round: Sixth 

2. Tyler Bass

College: Georgia Southern
Class: Redshirt Senior
2019 Stats: 20-for-28 on field goals, 36-for-36 on extra points

Bass has a powerful leg, and Georgia Southern let him use it. He attempted 36 field goals from 40 yards or longer over the last three years, and he made 27 of them (75 percent). Bass excelled on kickoffs too, achieving a touchback on 198 of 268 kicks in his career, including 55 touchbacks on 72 kickoffs last season. He also made all three of his field goal attempts in Georgia Southern's 23-16 loss to Liberty in the 2020 Cure Bowl. Bass' versatility in that he can be accurate on field goals and consistently earn touchbacks on kickoffs make him a solid prospect.

Projected Round: Seventh

3. Dominik Eberle

College: Utah State
Class: Senior
2019 Stats: 21-for-24 on field goals, 45-for-45 on extra points

Eberle is a very accurate kicker who had little trouble connecting on long field goals. He's got a huge leg -- connecting on four of seven field goals from 50-plus yards over the last three seasons, as well as a 14-for-17 mark on field goals of 40-plus yards over the last two seasons. Eberle's best performance came as a senior. He missed just three field goals and hit on eight of 10 attempts from 40 or more yards. His play earned him a spot on the 2019 All-Mountain West first team. Eberle is a good bet to have a long, productive career at the pro level given his accuracy for Utah State.

Projected Round: Seventh

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of the NFL Draft. This Wednesday at 5 p.m., stream the NBC Sports On the Clock: NFL Mock Draft special on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBoston.com.

Patriots 53-man roster projection entering training camp

Patriots 53-man roster projection entering training camp

The Patriots have already hit the field in Foxboro, but we'll have to wait until Monday to see them put the pads on for the first time.

It will be a training camp unlike any other; New England was supposed to open the preseason Thursday night against the Lions — and their 2020 season-opener against the Dolphins is just a month away.

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But Bill Belichick will have a lot of decisions to make over the next few weeks. Will Cam Newton seize the starting QB job as expected — and will the team carry both Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer as well? How can the team make up for a league-high eight opt-outs including defensive stalwarts Dont'a Hightower and Patrick Chung along with starting right tackle Marcus Cannon? How many of the team's 10 draft picks from this spring will make the team?

Those questions will be answered over the coming weeks, but before practices begin in earnest, let's take an early look at how the team's roster will shake out.

Click here for the Patriots' 53-man roster projection entering training camp.

 

Lamar Miller, agent Drew Rosenhaus confirm RB's signing with Patriots

Lamar Miller, agent Drew Rosenhaus confirm RB's signing with Patriots

Lamar Miller officially is a member of the New England Patriots, it appears.

The Patriots still haven't announced Miller's signing after a report Monday that the free-agent running back had agreed to a one-year contract with the team.

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But Miller's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, confirmed his client put pen to paper Wednesday to join the Patriots.

Miller also confirmed the news by sharing Rosenhaus' announcement on his Instagram story.

 

Miller has topped 1,000 rushing yards in two of his eight NFL seasons and made the Pro Bowl with the Houston Texans in 2018. He missed the entire 2019 season due to a torn ACL, however, and his days as a workhorse running back might be behind him at age 29.

Still, the Patriots could use Miller's services with reports that Sony Michel may not be ready for Week 1 as he recovers from ankle surgery. Miller could fill Michel's role as an early-down rusher to complement James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris.

Miller wasn't spotted at Patriots training camp Wednesday, but expect him to show up at Gillette Stadium soon now that his deal is official.