Patriots In The Market For A New Tackle

The Patriots met with another massive lineman who is projected to be a starting tackle at the next level. With questions about Matt Light's health, Nick Kaczur's optimal position and Tom Ashworth's likely departure via free agency, the team needs another big body to man the line. Now that they've met with this player for the second time, the team's draft priorities are coming into focus. New England scouts told that this player can play either tackle position.

At the professional level, the offensive left tackle position may be the toughest position to fill with an overall talented player. In a day and age that displays phenomenal athletes, with amazing size and speed flying after the quarterback, a thoroughbred at this position is deemed critical.

Hands down, D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Virginia) is rated as the top offensive tackle prospect in the draft. Following Ferguson are a few intriguing prospects, some of whom could become solid contributors at the professional level.

Winston Justice from USC, Marcus McNeil of Auburn, and Eric Winston from Miami, Florida all have received significant attention. McNeil in particular was talkative and open in discussing his health, training, and collegiate career.

"There were times I may not have played as well as I could or should have. I believe I have raised my level of play and maturity and I am hungry for the opportunity to play in the NFL," McNeil said. "I am in pretty good shape and working hard, I have had some things happen (Grandmother's death) which played into some of the things being said in Alabama (Senior Bowl), but I am ready."

Scouts from the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, and New England Patriots noted to that McNeil has the physical attributes to play tackle on either side of the offensive line.

In Indianapolis, as many as a dozen teams have spoken with McNeil in some capacity, many of which should be viewed as "unofficial" talks, rather than the customary interviews. has learned McNeil has briefly engaged in talks with the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, and Dallas Cowboys while in Indianapolis.

It is McNeill's second conversation with the Patriots who huddled with the massive lineman in Mobile Al., during the Senior Bowl. New England has a need for linemen with two of their starters scheduled for free agency next week. Projected as a top-5 talent, the Patriots may have to spend their first-round pick on the former Auburn product if they want their lineman of the future.

Scouting Report: (link)

Pos: King sized blocker who offers a terrific combination of power and athleticism. Sets with a wide base, patient in pass protection and displays outstanding punch with the ability to easily knock defenders from their angle of attack. Solid position blocker who engulfs opponents at the point of attack. Possesses long arms and strong hands. Surprisingly effective blocking on the move. Adjusts well in pass protection, picking up stunts or twists thrown by the defense.

Neg: Must make better use of blocking angles and improve his playing balance. Bends at the waist, lacks top footwork sliding out to protect the edge and at times seems unsure himself. Struggled against David Pollack of Georgia last year.

Analysis: A king sized blocker who displays excellent movement skills, McNeill has tremendous upside potential for the next level. Projects well on either the strong side or at left tackle and if he consistently plays on all cylinders, a productive NFL tackle for years to come.

Related: Profile || Senior Bowl: Patriots Target Monster OL || Top Rated Tackles || 2006 NFL Draft Audio: Marcus McNeill || NFL Scouts Get Busy at Senior Bowl || Photos: Players Speak with NFL Scouts

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