The work of draft analysts such as ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, and NFL Network's Mike Mayock, helps beat reporters get a better feel for all prospects.
Mayock held a pre-combine conference call Tuesday and there was a lot to digest.
Specific to the Patriots, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald asked about top prospects at defensive tackle and tight end who might be realistic options for the team at No. 29.
At defensive tackle, Mayock noted that his top prospects (Notre Dame's Louis Nix III and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan) will likely be gone and Florida's Dominique Easley tore his ACL, so that will slide him down in the draft (Mayock now has him rated fifth at the position).
That led Mayock to Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman, his No. 4-rated defensive tackle.
Mayock explained earlier in the call that Hageman could put up big numbers in the combine and be the type of prospect who gets a big bump from the performance. But as Mayock also noted, "he has some off-field questions attached to him."
Why would the 6-foot-6, 311-pound Hageman be a good football fit in New England?
"He's an explosive kid, he could play a couple different spots and Coach Belichick likes those versatile guys," he said. "... He's got a ton of ability and talent."
Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald wasn't mentioned by Mayock, which is likely because Mayock knows Belichick generally prefers bigger defensive linemen. Donald, an interior penetrator, is 6-foot-0 and 285 pounds.
As for the tight ends, Mayock is high on Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, his second-rated player at the position. At one point, Mayock mentioned the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Seferian-Jenkins as a possibility to the Ravens at No. 16.
"For lack of a better term, [he's] built like [Rob] Gronkowski," Mayock said, later noting his catch radius, how he uses his body to shield defenders and twist in the air to make catches.
Mayock did mention that Seferian-Jenkins should be a better blocker than he is.
As for the tight end most connected to the Patriots in initial mock drafts, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, Mayock offered this: "[He's] built more like [Aaron] Hernandez."
Mayock added that's probably the type of tight end the Patriots are looking for, so "if Amaro is sitting there and they like him, he's be logical at 29."