- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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(Each day over the next week, ESPNBoston.com will focus on 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: OG Dallas Thomas (Tennessee)
After not working out at the combine because of a right shoulder injury, Thomas (6-5, 306) was one of the Patriots' 30 prospect visits, which indicates that the club still had some work to do before placing a final grade on him. Similar to 2005 Patriots first-round draft choice Logan Mankins, he played left tackle for most of his college career but projects to guard in the NFL. With a combination of good size and athleticism, he has plug-and-play potential.
Third round: OG Jeff Baca (UCLA)
Having played tackle, guard and center at various points of his college career, Baca (6-3, 302) has the type of position flexibility that could intrigue the Patriots, even though he mostly projects to guard in the NFL. His short-area quickness, which was reflected in his solid 3-cone drill at the combine (7.26), could translate well to some of the pulling that the Patriots ask their guards to do.
Fourth round: OT Emmett Cleary (Boston College)
Having played both tackle spots, Cleary (6-7, 316) offers versatility while projecting mostly to the right side in the NFL. He has NFL-type size and is said to be extremely intelligent, which is a must for those playing along the Patriots' line.
Fifth round: C Braxston Cave (Notre Dame)
Although the Patriots have to be happy with returning starter Ryan Wendell, it's never a bad idea to add depth and the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Cave had the best 20-yard short shuttle (4.71) of any center at the combine. Cave is viewed as a smart player who sets the protection and makes all the line calls, which is a must for any Patriots center.
Sixth round: OT Chris Faulk (LSU)
Entering the draft after his junior season, and coming off a knee injury that limited him to one game in 2012, Faulk would appear to be a developmental type prospect whose best fit is on the right side. He has NFL-type size (6-5, 331) and would likely be viewed with 2014 in mind more than 2013. He was one of the Patriots' 30 in-house prospect visits.
Seventh round: OT-OG Tanner Hawkinson (Kansas)
Playing in Charlie Weis' offense, Hawkinson might be an easier projection to the Patriots' system than others. A former tight end who was moved to the offensive line, he could be viewed as a tackle or a guard, depending on the team. His 20-yard shuttle at the combine (4.51) reflected his athleticism.
(Round projections aided by Pro Football Weekly draft preview and ESPN's Scouts Inc.)
5hBy Ian O'Connor