Before the Super Bowl, Dante Scarnecchia spoke to a small group of reporters and laid out exactly what the Patriots look for in their offensive linemen.
"We covet three things when we look for offensive linemen," Scarnecchia said. "They have to be smart, they have to be tough, and they have to be athletic enough."
PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS - Previously in the series:
- QBs: Rosen, Lauletta check plenty of boxes
- TEs: Time to pick up some Gronk insurance
- WRs: Adding more options to a crowded field
While there's certainly more to it than that, those are the basics. Check those off the list, and you'll have a chance. Someone like Cole Croston -- an undrafted rookie out of Iowa -- was able to spend the entirety of the 2017 season on the active roster with the Patriots because he met New England's criteria.
The Patriots have a clear need for depth at offensive tackle after Nate Solder signed with the Giants, but are there players who can come in to be an immediate stopgap on the edge? If so, who are they? And if not, which developmental prospects could be fits?
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Here are some names to keep in mind on draft weekend. These "prototypes" have what the Patriots typically look for in terms of size and athleticism up front:
PROTOTYPES IN RANGE
MIKE McGLINCHEY, NOTRE DAME, 6-8, 309
I've been told by evaluators that when it comes to this class of tackles, McGlinchey might be the only one who is truly ready for regular work in the NFL. That doesn't mean others can't develop into starters -- and do so quickly. But it sounds like McGlinchey is already there, particularly in the running game. He has the requisite size that the Patriots look for. Though he's not one of the top athletes in the class (his 28.5-inch vertical is a little under what the Patriots often like), he seems athletic enough (his broad jump, for instance, was 105 inches, which meets New England's criteria). That he comes from a pro-style blocking scheme could also make him a quick fit. Scarnecchia attended McGlinchey's pro day.
KOLTON MILLER, UCLA, 6-9, 305
Length. Athleticism. Experience in a varied offense. Miller seems to have just about everything the Patriots look for. There seem to be some technique issues that Scarnecchia will have to work with to get Miller ready to go, but he's physically impressive. His 40 time (4.95 seconds) is more than quick enough. Same goes for his 31.5-inch vertical and his 121-inch broad jump. The jumps are significant because they show explosiveness, which for linemen -- who have to operate with force in tight spaces and explode out of their stances in pass protection -- is important. Miller told me at the combine he was scheduled to meet with New England.
CONNOR WILLIAMS, TEXAS, 6-5, 296
Williams has been deemed a guard by some because his size isn't necessarily ideal to play on the outside. And if he were drafted by the Patriots to play tackle, he'd be on the smaller side. But at 6-5 he's about the same height as Matt Light, and his arms (33 inches) are just a hair shorter than Sebastian Vollmer's (33 1/4). Athletically, he hits every standard. His 40 (almost five seconds flat) and jumps (34-inch vertical, 112-inch broad jump) were all very good. Belichick has a good relationship with Texas coach Tom Herman, and Williams reportedly paid the Patriots a visit during the pre-draft process.
BRIAN O'NEILL, PITT, 6-7, 297
O'Neill, like Miller, is another athletic prospect who will need some time. The former tight end is a little light compared to players the Patriots have drafted in the past. (Even Tony Garcia, whose knock against him was that he was light, weighed 302 pounds at the combine last year.) But athletically there are some eye-popping traits. He ran a 4.82-second 40-yard dash and had a 7.14-second three-cone drill. His jumps were good but not out-of-this-world (28.5 vertical, 107-inch broad).
BRADEN SMITH, AUBURN, 6-6, 315
How much does arm length matter? If the answer for the Patriots is "a heckuva lot" then Smith may not be deemed a fit. His arms measured 32 1/4 inches, which would be shortest for any tackle they've ever drafted. Otherwise? He's just about what they're looking for. Trusted player in the SEC. Tough. Good height. Good athlete. He ran a 5.22-second 40, benched 35 reps, jumped 33.5 inches and broad-jumped 113 inches.
IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
TYRELL CROSBY, OREGON, 6-5, 309
Crosby measured in at 6-4 and one-half inch, earning him the "6-5" listing by a hair. And his arm-length (32 1/4 inches) are short. But athletically he's solid -- 30-inch vertical, 105-inch broad jump -- and he's considered to have good toughness. Late on Day 2 could be the right time to pounce if he's available.
JAMARCO JONES, OHIO STATE, 6-4, 299
Jones is short but his arm length (35 1/8 inches) might make up for what he lacks in height. Athletically he's not outstanding. His 40-yard dash time is slower than what the Patriots typically like (5.5 seconds), and his jumps were nothing to write home about (24-inch vertical, 102-inch broad jump). But the Ohio State connection, where the coaching staff has obvious connections to New England and the offense is relatively balanced, could help him get drafted in the middle rounds.
OTHERS TO KEEP IN MIND: NC State's Will Richardson (6-6, 306), who fits the physical profile but has a couple of off-the-field issues on his record; Western Michigan's Chukwuma Okorafor (6-6, 320), who had a good 40 time but whose jumps were somewhat lacking relative to what the Patriots often like to see; North Carolina A&T's Brandon Parker (6-8, 305), who faced a lower level of competition in college but impressed at the Senior Bowl; Pitt's Jaryd Jones-Smith (6-6, 317), who is incredibly long and tested well athletically at the combine, but dealt with a devastating leg injury in 2015; Stanford's David Bright (6-5, 299), who was a captain in a balanced offense but is light and may not have the athletic traits the Patriots want; Louisville's Geron Christian (6-5, 298), who has experience at both tackle spots and good athleticism but is light and didn't test at the combine due to a hamstring injury; Appalaichain State's Colby Gossett (6-5, 311), who has good size and could be a Day 3 choice.