BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots addressed their need for depth on the offensive line on Saturday, drafting a trio of potential Tom Brady protectors.
New England drafted Florida State center Bryan Stork and Stanford tackle Cameron Fleming in the fourth round, and Florida guard Jon Halapio in the sixth round.
Stork, taken with the 105th overall pick, centered the national champion Seminoles and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center in 2013.
“I’m very excited,” Stork said after the selection. “It’s definitely a team I always wanted and I look forward to being part of the team and helping win games.”
A three-year starter, the 6-4, 315-pound Stork is the prototypical lineman for Bill Belichick. Though a very talented center, he also played at both guard positions during his time at FSU . In true Patriots fashion, he said it doesn’t matter where he plays or ends up on the depth chart, as long as he can help the team win.
“I just want to come in and compete for a job and go to work,” he said. “That’s all I’m worried about. Not going to predict that I start, I just want to play ball.”
Scouts say Stork is a very coachable hard-worker, so he’ll fit right in with the likes of Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell. He’s very familiar with the Patriots’ line, as Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett would show his players footage of how things are done in New England.
“I’m a fan of the Patriots offensive line. I am,” he said. “I watch a lot of ball and Coach Trickett at Florida State showed us a lot of film on them. It’s kind of ironic that I ended up here but I’m very happy and very proud. “
Shoulder and knee injuries kept him from competing at the NFL Draft combine, but Stork said he’s healthy and ready to go.
“I’m a ball player,” he said confidently.
At 323-pounds, Fleming will also give New England another big body on the line, providing injury depth for both Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon. He played well against some very tough Pac-12 competition in his three years at Stanford, and graduated with a degree in aeronautics and astronautics after three years.
Patriots’ defensive coordinator Matt Patricia majored in aeronautical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, so Fleming was asked what the two rocket scientists would talk about if they cross paths.
“We’d probably just nerd out a little bit,” he said. “Talk about whatever new planes – I’m a big plane guy. The astronautics I like a lot but I’m more interested in planes and jet planes and things like. If he’s into that, we can just talk all day.”
Halapio, who New England drafted with the 179th overall pick, brings a lot of toughness with him to the Patriots. He battled several injuries at Florida, including a torn pectoral that he played through in 2013.
“It was very difficult, but I just love football,” the 6-4, 323-pound Halapio said. “When you’re in the football game you’re just filled with adrenaline at the time so you don’t really feel the pain that much. I’m just very excited right now to just come up there and contribute fully healthy.”
A team captain, Halapio started 43 games in his career with the Gators. Now that he’s in the NFL, he knows he’ll have to earn his spot on the roster.
“(I’m going to) just come in there and do what is asked of me from the coaches and contribute,” he said. “Whether it is to be a backup or whatever my role may be, my mindset is to come up there and just start from the bottom and work hard every day and contribute to team success.”
Depth on the offensive line is always important for the Patriots, and with Vollmer coming off an injury and both Connolly and Cannon hitting free agency after the season, they addressed a definite area of need.
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