Patriots add depth to offensive, defensive lines
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots bolstered their offensive and defensive lines on the third day of the NFL draft yesterday.
The Patriots, who allowed 40 sacks in 2013 – the most times quarterback Tom Brady’s been sacked in a full season since he arrived in Foxborough – drafted three offensive linemen: Florida State center Bryan Stork, tackle Cameron Fleming of Stanford, and guard Jon Halapio of Florida.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said the Pats didn’t set out to revamp the offensive line but the picks worked out that way.
“That’s just the way it fell,” he said.
The defensive line, beset by injuries to starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly in 2013, added pass-rushing defensive end Zach Moore in the sixth round to go with first-round pick and fellow defensive end Dominique Easley of Florida, the 29th overall pick.
New England also selected running back James White of Wisconsin in the fourth round, cornerback/safety Jemea Thomas of Georgia Tech in the sixth round and wide receiver Jeremy Gallon of Michigan in the seventh round.
The Patriots drafted the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Stork with their first pick (105th overall) in the fourth round.
Stork, who protected Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, was a consensus All-America, the winner of the 2013 Rimington Award as the nation’s top center and was a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy, but missed the physical testing at the combine this spring because of knee and shoulder injuries.
“I’m very excited,” Stork said via a conference call. “It’s definitely a team I always wanted. I like the way they do things.”
He said “I’m fine” when asked about the injuries that caused him to miss the combine testing.
The Patriots recently re-signed starting center Ryan Wendell for two years.
They followed the Stork pick by taking White (5-9, 204) with their second fourth-round pick (130th overall). White had 1,444 yards rushing and seven TDs on the ground for the Badgers last fall, and added 35 catches and two more touchdowns as a receiver.
He finished with 4,015 career yards rushing and, in 754 combined career touches during his Wisconsin career, had only two fumbles.
White, in a conference call, acknowledged he was proud of that statistic. “It (not fumbling) is very important. Ball security is job security,” he said.
Belichick said White’s size and skill set are very comparable to Shane Vereen, who served as the Pats’ primary receiver out of the backfield last season.
Fleming, the third fourth-round pick (140th overall), is a 6-5, 323-pound offensive tackle who started 39 games for the Cardinal over three seasons and was All-Pac-12 second-team in 2013. The Patriots have two solid returning starting tackles in Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.
“I hope to learn from those guys what the NFL is all about,” Fleming said.
In the sixth round, the Pats selected Halapio, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard from Florida, a two-time captain for the Gators who played all of last season with a partially torn pectoral muscle. He was happy about rejoining teammate Easley and said going against Easley in practice “made me a lot better as a football player.”
The 6-6, 285-pound Moore, the first player ever drafted from Concordia-St. Paul, had 33 career sacks and described himself as an “all-around pass rusher. I can get through quickness, power, anything.”
Belichick seemed intrigued by the potential of Moore, while admitting “he needs a lot of work” and that it would take time. “He can be a productive player for us,” he said.
Thomas, 5-10, 195 pounds, who can play corner or safety, had 234 career tackles and nine interceptions in 54 games for the Yellow Jackets.
Gallon is a pint-sized (5-8, 185) receiver who projects to play in the slot.
One area the Patriots did not address in the draft is tight end, where the return date for injured star Rob Gronkowski is unclear.