With the NFL Draft closing in, ESPNBoston.com is narrowing its list of prospects that it projects as the best fits for the Patriots at areas that seem likely the club could target:
Player: Johnathan Hankins
School: Ohio State
Position: Defensive tackle
Listed height/weight:6-foot-3, 320 pounds
Scouts Inc. rank: 9th (scouting profile)
Draft projection: Second round
Why he’s on our list: In a deep draft for big-bodied defensive linemen, Hankins has the build and potential to play the team’s two-gap style. One key question would be if the Patriots believed he had more than just two-down potential as a run stuffer. Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are veteran interior linemen whose contracts expire after the 2014 season, while Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick have deals that end after the 2013 season, so feeding the pipeline in a deep draft could make sense.
Recommended link: Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch writes on “Big Hank” and how he’s a passionate student of the game.
Key stat: Played in 39 games from 2010-2012 and was named Ohio State’s most outstanding defensive lineman in 2011 before a dip in his 2012 season.
Workout stat: Measured 27.2 body fat the combine, leading to some concerns over his conditioning.
Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.: “Hankins is more of a disruptive pass rusher than a productive one. In other words, he can move quarterbacks off the spot and get his 33-inch arms up in passing windows but he’s a relatively one-dimensional power rusher that lacks the closing burst to get to the quarterback with any kind of consistency. His value is in his ability to defend the run. He rarely gives ground 1-on-1 and he’s strong enough to occupy multiple blockers without giving ground when he stays low. He also has the heavy hands and enough foot speed to get off blocks and in on the play. His dip in production in 2012 and an underwhelming performance at the combine has caused him to fall to the mid-to-late second round range. The biggest concern is his weight and conditioning. He tends to wear down and he plays too high when he gets tired. Until or unless he improves his endurance he projects as a two-down run stopper albeit an excellent one.”