FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots selected California running back Shane Vereen with the 56th overall selection. Vereen was obviously one of the highest-rated running backs on the Patriots' board, because he is just the third running back to be selected in the draft (Mark Ingram, 28; Ryan Williams, 38).
Vereen (5-10, 210) was one back who stood out at the Combine as a good fit for the Patriots because of his smarts, good hands, and background in pass protection, which is something the Patriots value (think Kevin Faulk, but a bit bigger). He was also the strongest back at the combine, with 31 reps on the bench, and came across as polished and professional, mature beyond his years.
Vereen joins BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead atop the Patriots' running back depth chart. Those three project as locks to make the roster, and the team will probably have one or two other backs on the final 53-man roster.
When the Patriots traded the 28th overall pick to the Saints (who nabbed Ingram), they had to feel good about the depth of their running back board, in part because of Vereen. This is the pick the Patriots received from the Saints -- along with a 2012 first-rounder -- for No. 28.
So Vereen will be linked to Ingram when assessing the value of the trade in future years.
At this point, the Patriots have yet to select a prospect in the front seven on defense, leaving one of the big questions entering the draft -- the pass rush -- unanswered.