New England Patriots: Weston Richburg

Beyond the 1st round: Center

April, 26, 2014
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 center.

[+] EnlargeWeston Richburg
AP Photo/G.M. AndrewsCenter Weston Richburg of Colorado State competed in the Senior Bowl in January.
Second round: Weston Richburg (Colorado State)
A two-year captain who has played tackle, guard and center, the 6-foot-3 3/8, 298-pound Richburg has 49 career starts on his resume and would appear to fit best in a zone-based scheme like the Patriots'. One question is how he'd match up against bigger defensive tackles.

Third round: Travis Swanson (Arkansas)
Another two-year captain who has extensive experience (50 career starts), the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Swanson combines intelligence, unusual reach, and an edge as his physical measureables are a bit unique for the position.

Fourth round: Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma)
Like the majority of centers who make the cut here, the 6-foot-3 5/8, 304-pound Ikard makes the line calls, which reflects his football intelligence. He is a two-time captain, has experience at guard and center, and his 7.30 time in the 3-cone drill ranked among the best at the position.

Fifth round: Wesley Johnson (Vanderbilt)
With Bill Belichick in town to run the Nashville half-marathon, he worked out Johnson on Friday and had a film session with him Thursday, the Tennessean reported. Johnson (6-foot-5 7/8, 297 pounds) is known for his versatility and intelligence; his 7.40 time in the 3-cone drill was among the best at the position.

Sixth round: James Stone (Tennessee)
At 6-foot-3 5/8, 306 pounds, with 33 7/8-inch arm length and 10 1/8-inch hand size, Stone has some desirable physical measureables. A four-year starter in the SEC, he's faced some of the top competition in the country, with one NFL-based question coming in -- how he would handle bigger defensive tackles.

Seventh round: Jonotthan Harrison (Florida)
One of the Gators' captains in 2013, the 6-foot-3 1/2, 304-pound Harrison has 39 career starts on his resume and his combination of height and arm length figures to appeal to those eyeing a developmental prospect.

(Round projections aided by Scouts Inc., 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
8. Running back
9. Cornerback
10. Guard

More picked-up pieces from Mel Kiper Jr.

April, 7, 2014
Some more picked-up pieces, with a New England Patriots twist, from a recent discussion with ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.:

Run on interior OL should start in second round. Kiper sees plenty of depth at guard while adding “there will probably be five second-round guards, maybe as many as six that go in round 2, early round 3.” As for center, Southern Cal’s Marcus Martin is also projected in that second-round range, while Colorado State’s Weston Richburg and North Carolina’s Russell Bodine are also prospects of note at the position. Looks like a solid year for teams seeking interior offensive line help. From a Patriots' perspective, the athleticism to pull and versatility to play multiple positions (center and guard) are key areas.

Eyes on Boston College’s Andre Williams and overall RB crop. When the scenario was presented of a team looking for a running back in the fourth-round range, Kiper pinpointed Williams as a player to watch. “He doesn't catch the ball well, but he's an outstanding runner. He has a lot of talent and had a tremendous year,” he said, adding his viewpoint that there won’t be a running back taken in the first round this year. Kiper believes “this year, more than any other … you’re going to get some real good ones on Day 3 [rounds 4-7].” With the top three running backs on the Patriots' depth chart entering the final year of their contracts, it wouldn't be a surprise if New England is in this mix.

Super seven at the top. With such mixed opinion on this year’s quarterback class, Kiper identified the following prospects as the tops in the draft -- South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans and Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. “After that, that’s it. Some would argue four or five, but I think you could argue seven, down to Lewan. That's your 'Super Seven.' After that, I don't see anybody that belongs in that group right now. … After that, you’re getting into the range where the eighth guy could be 18th guy on somebody else’s board.” It goes without saying -- the more quarterbacks picked early help the Patriots, who figure to be focusing on other areas.

Kenny Guiton this year’s Matt Cassel? The Patriots had a solid draft hit when they selected Southern Cal backup quarterback Matt Cassel in the seventh round of the 2005 draft. The pick was a bit off the radar because Cassel had hardly played in college. Some are drawing the connection to Cassel/2005 and Ohio State’s Kenny Guiton/2014 as Guiton backed up Braxton Miller but played well when filling in. Guiton (6-3, 208) is viewed as a late-round/priority free agent type and we know the Patriots are looking closely at the quarterback crop this year. Something to consider.