BOSTON (CBS) — One area the Patriots are expected to focus on in the upcoming NFL Draft is their need for depth at the running back position.
The Patriots currently have Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden and Donald Brown on the depth chart, and LeGarrette Blount is expected to return as well. While their backfield appears to be crowded at the moment, the Patriots could use some insurance in case Lewis (recovering from a torn ACL) or Blount go down with an injury again in 2016.
On Sunday’s NFL Draft Preview Show, 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Bob Socci was joined by CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Rob Rang to discuss a few running backs the Patriots could target at the end of the month, and how they’d fit in New England.
First up was San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, who rushed for 1,601 yards and 13 touchdowns while hauling in 45 receptions for the Spartans last season.
“There are a lot of comparisons to Shane Vereen,” Rang said of Ervin. “They both have explosive speed and soft hands out of the backfield. Vereen and some of the so-called undersized backs, they struggle with durability, but that hasn’t been the case with Irving.
“He is an absolutely explosive player,” Rang continued. “He has such soft hands as a receiver and punt returner, and what I like most is he played his best against the top competition they faced (300 yards vs. Fresno State, 160 yards vs. Auburn) and at the combine and Senior Bowl he was spectacular as well.”
Rang said Ervin “screams New England Patriots because of his versatility,” and he should still be on the board in the fourth or fifth round.
If it’s a bigger back the Patriots are looking for, Rang says there aren’t many in this year’s draft class, but Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry of Alabama would be a good fit.
“He’s a bruiser in between tackles and has a lot better speed than people expect for a back his size,” Rang said of 6-foot-3, 243-pound Henry.
Rang also discussed a few of the big-name quarterbacks in this year’s draft and New England’s need at corner:
Socci also welcomed Mike Loyko of NEPatriotsDraft.com to Sunday’s show to discuss some potential Patriots draft targets, with a few more running backs to add to the mix.
“With their first four picks they’re in a sweet spot of the draft. When you look at the running backs they take, specifically the big backs, they like guys who come from pro-style offenses, 250 pounds or heavier, and pass protection is a big part of it too,” noted Loyko.
He mentioned Arkansas backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins as potential targets, though both had some fumbling issues, as well as Devontae Booker of Utah and Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise, who can also play some wide receiver.
“I would be surprised if they don’t come out of the first three rounds with some type of bigger running back to supplement Blount,” said Loyko.
Loyko also touched on New England’s need at corner, with a few options should they choose to go in that direction:
Socci also welcomed Navy quarterback and draft hopeful Keenan Reynolds, who has already met with many members of the the Patriots’ brain trust ahead of the draft (note: Sunday’s interview was taped prior to news of Reynolds working out with New England). Reynolds talked about his path through the Naval Academy, moving from the quarterback position to a running back/receiver and what he’s working on as he tries to land on an NFL team:
Tune in to The NFL Draft Preview Show with Bob Socci every Sunday leading up to the NFL Draft at 9 a.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub!