- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Each day over the next 10 days, this space will focus on one position in the NFL draft by highlighting a prospect in Rounds 2-7 who might fit for the Patriots. 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: Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
A "traits" prospect at 6-foot-5 1/4 and 304 pounds who runs well, has big hands (10") and long arms (34 3/4). He enters the draft after his junior season and had a better year in 2012 than 2013. The team selecting him will be banking on harnessing his traits into a more productive and consistent player. Seems to have some scheme flexibility.
Third round: Ed Stinson (Alabama)
The 6-foot-3 1/4, 287-pound Stinson figures to appeal to New England because he's shown a knack for executing some of the two-gap, edge-setting techniques employed by the Patriots. He's more likely to win with power than a speed rush.
Fourth round: Taylor Hart (Oregon)
He has NFL size at 6-foot-6 1/8 and 281 pounds, runs well for his size, and is a power rusher. Some project him more as a 3-4 defensive end, but he also might have some scheme flexibility.
Fifth round: Jeoffrey Pagan (Alabama)
At 6-foot-3 1/2 and 310 pounds, he enters the draft after his junior season, appears to have some scheme versatility with experience playing multiple techniques, and comes out of a pro-style program well respected by Bill Belichick.
Sixth round: Jamil Merrell (Rutgers)
The Rutgers-to-Patriots pipeline has been well-tapped and the 6-foot-4, 252-pound Merrell is one candidate to watch to add to it. His high-motor approach and solid tackling skills figure to be to the Patriots' liking.
Seventh round: Josh Mauro (Stanford)
By the final round of the draft, many teams are focusing on one standout trait and Mauro's build (6-6, 271) and upside could be appealing. He could potentially offer some scheme versatility as well.
(Round projections aided by Scouts Inc., NFL.com and independent analysis.)
2. Tight ends