- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Each week leading up to April’s NFL Draft, New England native Steve Muench of ESPN’s Scouts Inc. will identify prospects he feels could be a good fit for the Patriots.
Today, in the wake of Chris Mortensen's ESPN report that the San Diego Chargers are exploring trades for a running back by dangling cornerback Antonio Cromartie, he looks closer at the running back spot:
“C.J. Spiller of Clemson and Jahvid Best from California are the two most dangerous and complete backs in this class. When all things are equal, and each player is healthy, they are very similar. Spiller catches the ball a little better and is a little more explosive, while Best might have a little better vision and reads blocks a little better. Spiller also has the return game going for him.
“For the Patriots, I’d be stunned if Spiller is still on the board when they pick in the first round [22nd]. With Best, his medical report at the combine will be huge because of the concussion he sustained last year.
“You figure what the Patriots do at running back would be tied to if Kevin Faulk is re-signed and if Maroney was part of any trade, because that could change the type of back you are looking for.
“Dexter McCluster of Mississippi could be a great pick and could do some of the things Faulk does. He is undersized and will never be a 20, 25-carry back, but what we saw at the Senior Bowl is that he is quicker than everyone on the field. You can run screens out of the backfield with him, line him up in the slot, have him in the shotgun and hand the ball off where he could get outside. He might not be a powerful guy between the tackles, but he’s fearless. For those who might think Maroney does too much dancing, the way McCluster attacks the line of scrimmage is like night and day.
“If they look more for a power back, Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech and Ryan Mathews of Fresno State are possibilities in the second round. The hesitation I’d have with those guys is that I don’t know what Dwyer can give you on third down, and after watching Mathews, I love the way he runs but his pass blocking was disappointing and he needs work as a receiver out of the backfield. I like Mathews a little better. If the Patriots sign Faulk and part ways with Maroney he would be a good fit.”