- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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(Each day over the next week, ESPNBoston.com will highlight one position in the NFL draft and highlight a prospect in rounds 2-7 who might fit. With so much attention placed on the first round in mock drafts, “Beyond the first round” focuses on lesser-publicized options beyond the first 32 picks)
Second round: Zach Ertz (Stanford)
While unlikely that the Patriots would invest a top choice at the position after committing long-term contracts to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the 6-foot-5, 249-pound Ertz could be intriguing to someone who values the position as highly as Bill Belichick does. One of the nice parts about evaluating Ertz is that he played in a pro-style offense at Stanford, which makes it somewhat easier to see a potential projection to the Patriots’ attack. He's known more for catching the ball than blocking.
Third round: Levine Toilolo (Stanford)
Just like Ertz, he played in a pro-style offense at Stanford and for a team like the Patriots that isn’t shy about drafting traits, Toilolo has unusual size (6-8, 260) for the position. He is the type of tight end who probably would factor more as an in-line blocker, although he’s also shown the ability to catch the football. He could be a factor in the red zone.
Fourth round: Michael Williams (Alabama)
The type of “Y” tight end who can hold his ground at the line of scrimmage but wouldn't be a pass-catching threat down the field, the 6-foot-5, 259-pound Williams seems to have some similarities to 2011 Patriots fifth-round draft choice Lee Smith (Marshall), who is now with the Bills.
Fifth round: Kyle Juszczyk (Harvard)
Similar to the Patriots drafting kicker Stephen Gostkowski (fourth round), punter Zoltan Mesko (fifth round), special teams captain Matthew Slater (fifth round), safety Nate Ebner (sixth round) and defensive back Malcolm Williams (seventh round) in recent years, the 6-foot-1, 248-pound Juszczyk (pictured at right) would be targeted as a core special teams player who could also carve out a fullback/H-back type role on offense. Scouts relay that he caught the ball well at the Senior Bowl.
Sixth round: Joseph Fauria (UCLA)
The nephew of former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria, he is less of an in-line tight end, and more receiver-like. He has good size (6-7, 259), big hands, and developmental upside.
Seventh round: Ben Cotton (Nebraska)
At 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, he is a developmental prospect who ESPN’s Scouts Inc. notes has “a good blend of height and bulk.” He could be groomed behind the scenes at a position in which the Patriots like to build depth.
(Round projections aided by Pro Football Weekly draft preview and ESPN's Scouts Inc.)