As we count down to the 2019 NFL draft, we’ll take the measure of the Patriots by position and offer up six prospects at each spot on the field that should be available early (first round), middle (second day) and late (third day). Time to get into our favorite position — line play — with the dancing bears on the outside.
Since many of these prospects have inside/outside versatility, we'll go over the whole line, which was one of the best units in the league by the end of last season. Obviously, there's a lot of unknown at left tackle with Trent Brown moving on and Isaiah Wynn returning from surgery. Could use some depth at both tackle spots besides Cole Croston. Joe Thuney is coming off a very good campaign, but is in a contract year at left guard. David Andrews and Shaq Mason are entrenched at center and right guard, respectively. Marcus Cannon could be a cap casualty at some point. Interior backups Brian Schwenke, James Ferentz and Ted Karras are all in contract years.
So, to recap, the Patriots could use some help at tackle (perhaps competition for Wynn), and some youth/options for Thuney transition on the interior. Would not be shocked to see the Patriots go for a tackle in the first round again, but there are some intriguing prospects throughout this draft if given time to develop.
POSSIBLE EARLY TARGET
Cody Ford, Oklahoma (6-3½, 330, 5.25)
Teams are split on whether he's a guard or a tackle in the NFL (he played both for the Sooners), but there's little doubt Ford has all the tools to be a standout in the league wherever he plays — and he can play every spot, except center. Very physical, good feet and blocks down the field in the run game exceedingly well. Would be perfect for the Patriots' blocking system. Known as extremely tough and nasty. Would give the Patriots options for Cannon, Thuney and even competition for Wynn. Ford has extremely long arms (34 inches) and big hands. Could very well be a full-time tackle on either side in the pros. Needs to work on not dropping his hands.
POSSIBLE MIDDLE TARGETS
Dalton Risner, Kansas State (6-5, 311, 5.32)