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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Beyond the 1st round: Running back

By Mike Reiss

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 New England 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. Today, it's running back.

Bishop Sankey
Bishop Sankey rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 20 touchdowns in 2013.
Second round: Bishop Sankey (Washington)
A team captain, the 5-foot-9 1/2, 209-pound Sankey enters the draft after his junior season and looks like one of the most well-rounded prospects at the position. His 26 reps on the bench press highlighted his strength, while his 4.49 time in the 40-yard dash and 6.75 time in the 3-cone drill reflects his speed and quickness. In the Patriots' zone blocking scheme, his skill set looks like a good fit.

Third round: Charles Sims (West Virginia)/Devonta Freeman (Florida State)
We'll split the category because there are multiple solid options at the position in this range. The 6-foot-0, 214-pound Sims is one of the better route-runners and pass-catching backs in the draft, which reminds us a bit of Shane Vereen from 2011. He ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash and has a skill set that seems to fit best in a zone-running scheme like New England's. As for Freeman, he is one of the shortest prospects at 5-foot-8 1/4 but at 206 pounds he runs hard and is considered to have top-end intangibles.

Fourth round: Andre Williams (Boston College)
The 5-foot-11 3/8 and 230 pound Williams is one of the best power runners in the draft and his production speaks for itself as he was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2013. His 129.0 broad jump reflects his explosion and he also has shown the ability to run away from defenders at his size.

Fifth round: Storm Johnson (Central Florida)
If the 6-foot-0, 209-pound Johnson checks out from an off-field perspective (he transferred from Miami in 2011), he appears to have the combination of size, speed and pass-catching ability that could appeal to New England. He enters the draft after his junior season.

Sixth round: Tyler Gaffney (Stanford)
The 5-foot-11 1/2, 220-pound Gaffney is a top-notch athlete (6.78 in the 3-cone drill) who also drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 and played Class-A minor-league ball that year before returning to football in 2013. The Patriots, of course, have had success in the sixth round when selecting players with a baseball background (Tom Brady was drafted in the 18th round by the Montreal Expos in 1995).

Seventh round: Lorenzo Taliaferro (Coastal Carolina)
A bigger power back at 6-foot-0 1/4 and 229 pounds, Taliaferro also clocked 6.88 in the 3-cone drill, one of the best times at the position. He also factors into the special teams mix (similar to Brandon Bolden) and was a team captain.

(Round projections aided by Scouts Inc., NFL.com and independent analysis.)

Previous entries:
1. Defensive tackles
2. Tight ends
3. Defensive end
4. Linebacker/outside linebacker
5. Quarterback
6. Wide receiver
7. Safety