Patriots Intrigued with Line Prospect

The Patriots are looking at lineman at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week, and one Big East prospect caught their eye already. Who is he and why is New England looking at lineman with so many other needs?

According to insiders at the combine in Indianapolis, Rutgers offensive guard Cameron Stephenson was on the list of players the Patriots showed a special interest in. It was a bit unusual for the Patriots who are not really in the market for another offensive guard to be interviewing offensive line prospects. Unusual but not unprecedented.

The Patriots drafted a guard - Logan Mankins out of Fresno State - two years ago in the first round. The team needed to shore up a questionable offensive line. Mankins was the team's first pick after winning Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles, and his selection was addressing the vacancy left by departing free agent Joe Andruzzi who opted to sign for a bigger pay day in Cleveland. Considered a reach by a number of draftnicks, Mankins has started every game since the team penned him as Andruzzi's replacement.

Stephenson isn't the prototypical offensive guard. As a matter of fact, he only played offense for two seasons at Rutgers. Before that, California native was a defensive tackle. Even his path to the Rutgers wasn't a typical journey. Stephenson opted to take a year off after high school before attending Harbor junior college. He worked at FedEx as a checker/sorter to raise money for his family before going back to school.

As a starting defensive tackle at Harbor, he earned All-League and All-State honors as a freshman. He red shirted for medical reasons his sophomore year and then decided to make the leap to Rutgers.

While he looked to make the jump to a Division 1 school, Rutgers was the first to offer him a scholarship, so he took it. Being a Los Angeles native Stevenson felt it was unusual turn of events heading to the opposite coast.

Stephenson's football transition is not uncommon. Many athletes find their way in college, changing positions. When he got to Rutgers, he continued his career as a defensive tackle but moved to guard. He had played mostly guard through his football career up to that point, so it was familiar to him.

Cameron Stephenson, Rutgers
OG Cameron Stephenson

Stevenson enjoyed playing offense. He liked blocking for the two backs Raymond Rice and Brian Leonard at Rutgers. "I know if they do well, they'll buy me dinner," he said about the move to guard.

Using connections to people who have been through the process before is one method NFL Draft prospects prepare for the Combine. Stephenson was no different. His cousin - who shared tips on how to prepare for the psyche evaluations -- played for University of Houston and attended Combine last year.

Stevenson's actual measurements were slightly different than list on his Rutgers bio. He measured in at 6-foot-3, 306 pounds, a full two inches shorter than his records.

If New England is looking for another line prospect that has a natural ability to move people out of the way, Stephenson may be the guy. He's not graded as highly as Mankins who was rated as fist day pick - Stevenson currently has a day two grade by - but he has potential to add much-needed depth to the offensive line and that is something the Patriots are certainly looking for in Indianapolis.

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