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Potential Day Three Draft Targets for Patriots

With day two for the Patriots over, it's now time to take a look at some potential day three targets in the NFL Draft for the team.

The Patriots were anything but quiet in round three of the 2017 NFL Draft as they first traded down from the 72nd pick to the 83rd pick, ultimately drafting defensive end Derek Rivers out of Youngstown State. The Patriots would then trade up from 96th to 85th to select offensive tackle Antonio Garcia out of Troy University. The team added two players to play on the line of scrimmage that fills two needs for the team as well. With all of the moves, the Patriots now have three picks going into day three with picks in the fourth round (131st overall), fifth round (183rd overall) and seventh round (239th overall). With all of that being said, let's get to some potential day three targets for the Patriots.

1) Michigan tight end Jake Butt - Despite the Patriots having two good options at tight end in Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, the team could still use depth behind two of the most injury-prone players in the league. In a deep tight end class, Jake Butt may prove to be a steal. Once considered a first-round prospect, Butt could end up being a steal on day three. Having torn his ACL in his last collegiate game, Butt has seen his draft stock slip quite a bit. But when looking at his body of work, he is still someone that is worth taking a chance on, especially this late in the draft. Butt is a premier receiving talent at the position with his ability to be a threat over the middle of the field and in the red-zone to go along with the fact that he does not drop many passes.

Butt is more on the average side when it comes to athleticism and has to improve quite a bit as a run blocker. He is a reliable playmaker who can get first downs but must prove he can develop more as a run blocker. With that being said, grabbing a talent like Butt in the fourth round is quite a value and the Patriots could definitely be interested in the Michigan co-captain should he fall to them at 131.

2) Houston cornerback Brandon Wilson - Cornerback is still a need for the Patriots as they enter day three. They did sign Stephon Gilmore but Malcolm Butler's future beyond 2017 is very much in doubt. And with some viable options still available on day three, the Patriots could definitely find themselves taking one. Wilson is a player the Patriots have shown interest in as he met with them on his Pro Day (per Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline) and had an official visit with him (per Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson). Funny enough, Wilson not played cornerback but running back as well while at Houston. He tested extremely well at his Pro Day with a 4.36 40 yard dash, 41 inch vertical leap, a broad jump of 11 feet, two inches and 24 reps on the bench press. 

Wilson could be a running back or cornerback at the next level along with being a solid special teams returner. The Patriots certain value versatility and players with good athleticism, so Wilson could make a lot of sense in either round four or five (where he is projected to go).

3) Mississippi State wide receiver Fred Ross - Despite having good depth at wide receiver with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola, the team could be in the market for a wide receiver. Both Edelman and Amendola are entering the last year of their contracts. Ross is a player the Patriots have shown quite a bit of interest in as they met privately with him (per EastTexasMatters' Mike Alzamora) and on a official visit (per Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson). He projects a high-volume slot wide receiver in the NFL after handling that role at Mississippi State, which both Edelman and Amendola play. Ross also played special teams quite a bit while in college, including have 37 punt returns in his last season.

Ross is projected to go in either the fifth or sixth round, so the Patriots could easily grab him with the fifth round selection even if he may land on the practice squad for his rookie season.

4) Cincinnati linebacker Eric Wilson - Wilson was a highly productive linebacker while at Cincinnati with 129 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks in his 2016 season. That would earn his a first-team All-AAC nod. Wilson has a nose for the ball and is always looking to make a play despite being undersized at only 225 lbs. Wilson is a converted safety who offers versatility as potential an outside linebacker, inside linebacker or safety at the next level. He also played over 50% of the team's special teams snaps in 2016 as well, where he excelled. The Patriots seemed to be impressed with him as they conducted a private workout with him (per Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson).

Linebacker is still potentially a need for the team and Wilson could step in and fill Barkevious Mingo's old role potentially (outside linebacker who played primarily special teams) and contribute right away. He isn't expected to be picked until around round five or six, so the team will certainly have a shot at grabbing him.

5) Alabama strong safety Eddie Jackson - We have seen in the past with Bill Belichick's love for Alabama players including Cyrus Jones and Dont'a Hightower. Jackson is a cornerback who converted to playing safety, which can be useful at the next level with experience at both positions in the secondary. The Patriots have to start thinking about their Patrick Chung replacement, who is going to be 30 years old before the start of the season and is going into the last year of his contract. Jackson has shown the ability to play coverage against running backs, tight ends and even wide receivers when needed, much like what Chung does now for the Patriots. Jackson's biggest concern is his injury history as he has suffered a broken leg and torn ACL while at Alabama.

Jackson makes a lot of sense for the team to be their back-up strong safety in 2017 and have a shot to fill Chung's spot in 2018 and beyond. He likely will be picked in the fourth round so the Patriots would likely need to spend their 131st overall pick in order to get him.

6) Eastern Washington linebacker Samson Ebukam - Ebukam makes a lot of sense for the Patriots. In fact, he would feel very much like when they took a chance on Kamu Grugier-Hill in 2016's draft. Ebukam is a talented defender who showed well against the run, dropping back into coverage and also going after the quarterback while playing at Eastern Washington. The Patriots hosted him for a visit (per NFLDraftScout's Rob Rang) after his impressive Pro Day (4.45 40 yard dash and 39 inch vertical leap). Ebukam also has the athleticism and size to be able to play closer to the line of scrimmage as an EDGE rusher if needed as well. 

Ebukam oozes with athleticism as well, which the Patriots could very well take advantage of as valuable depth all along the front seven. He is expected to be taken in the fifth round, so the Patriots could have a couple of opportunities to grab him on day three.

7) Iowa tight end George Kittle - As mentioned with Jake Butt before, the Patriots could be in the market for another tight end behind Gronkowski and Allen. Kittle makes a lot of sense for the Patriots actually. Kittle is a solid receiver, especially in the red-zone along with over the middle of the field. He needs some work on his route running but is very quick for his position (4.52 40 yard dash), which could help him against covering linebackers. His size (6'4", 247 lbs) makes him a little small for the position, especially when it comes to run blocking. He has shown a willingness to run block despite his size limitations, however.

Kittle will likely be gone by the end of the fourth round, so the Patriots would likely need to spend their fourth round pick in order to draft him if they wanted to.

8) Utah offensive guard Isaac Asiata - This is someone I actually had mentioned yesterday as a potential day two target for the team. Asiata has versatility at right tackle and both guard spots. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein even mentioned that Asiata could play center in the NFL if needed as well. With his potential availability to play any position on the offensive line, the Patriots would surely be interested in their ability to place him anywhere. He likely will be gone in the fourth round after not being taken during day two, so the Patriots could be in play for him at 131 potentially.

9) Temple running back Jahad Thomas - While it may seem unlikely that the Patriots would actually need a running back after signing both Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead on top of signing James White to a three-year contract extension, Jahad Thomas could be an option for the Patriots on day three. Thomas has met with the Patriots for a visit and boasts versatility after being used a running back, slot wide receiver and a special teams returner while at Temple. Undersized (5'10", 190 lbs) for the position, Thomas' calling card could be his ability to play special teams and be a solid receiving option. As NFL.com's Lance Zierlein said, "he could be an interesting toy for a creative play-caller", which definitely describes Josh McDaniels.

Thomas may not be selected in the draft, but the Patriots could easily look at him in the late seventh as a possibility to avoid losing him to another team as an unrestricted free agent.

10) Iowa defensive back Desmond King - I'll be the first to admit, King is a personal favorite of mine. The 2015 Jim Thorpe award winner (nation's top defensive back), King has shown the ability to play against the best and succeed. He played as a cornerback at Iowa but some have speculated whether or not he may need to make a move to safety at the next level (which he has said he was open to doing). It is also surprising that King is still available as day three approaches as he was seemingly a lock to go in the second or third round because of athleticism and his ability to be healthy and stay on the field (played on 94% of Iowa's defensive snaps during his time there). 

King's plus athleticism and ability to stay healthy along with his potential position versatility is attributes that would surely interest the Patriots. Because King wasn't expected to last until day three, he is likely to be taken in the top half of the fourth round. So the Patriots would likely need to trade up to grab him, which we saw them do with Antonio Garcia last night.


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