A continuing series looking at how the Patriots could fill positions through the NFL Draft, April 23 to 25.
When it comes to the offensive line, you can never have enough depth.
That was evident last year. The Patriots had three offensive linemen retire during the offseason (Jared Veldheer, Brian Schwenke and J.J. Dielman). The Pats then traded for three players at the end of training camp (Russell Bodine, Corey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor). It still wasn’t enough.
This offseason, the Patriots have lost two interior backup offensive linemen from last season’s team. Ted Karras, who started at center last year in place of Authentic David Andrews Jersey (blood clots), became a free agent and signed with Miami. He had been the Pats top backup center and guard over the last three seasons. Last year’s top backup center, James Ferentz, is also a free agent.
The Pats currently don’t have a backup center on the roster. Their backup guards — Hjalte Froholdt, Eluemunor and Authentic Najee Toran Jersey — are all untested. That’s a big reason why no one should be surprised if the Patriots draft a guard or center.
The average guard/center drafted by Bill Belichick stands 6-feet-3 and weighs 307 pounds. Athletically, he runs a 5.25 40-yard dash, has a 27-inch vertical leap, makes more than 27 reps on the bench press, broad jumps 102 inches, has a 3-cone time around 7.79 and has a shuttle time around 4.58.
After combing over every player at this year’s NFL Combine, here are five who fit the Patriot mold.
Matt Hennessy, Temple
Hennessy is one of the best athletic fits at either guard/center or tackle. That’s how athletic he is. For interior offensive linemen, he hits six of eight categories — height, weight, 40 time, vertical jump, broad jump and 3-cone. Athletically, his numbers are comparable to former Patriots center Dan Connolly.
At Temple, Hennessy was a standout center and a finalist for the Remington Trophy, which is given to the nation’s top center. He earned All-American honors. He even played some guard. Hennessy is a projected Day 2 draft pick.
John Simpson, Clemson
Simpson ties with Hennessy for the best fit among interior offensive linemen. He also has six hits — height, weight, 40 time, vertical jump, bench and broad jump. He’s also a projected Day 2 draft pick.
Simpson is coming off a fantastic career at Clemson. He played for three seasons, making 29 of 30 starts at left guard. He was named third-team All-ACC in 2018 and first-team all-conference last season. He also garnered second-team All-American honors. He’s lauded for his technique and physicality.
Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
Ruiz ties for the third most hits among interior offensive lineman. He hits for what the Patriot like in terms of weight, 40 time, vertical jump, bench press and broad jump. He’s a projected first-round pick, who at worse falls to the early second round. The Patriots have already shown interest, meeting with Ruiz at the NFL Combine.
Ruiz had a great career at Michigan, where he played both guard and center (five starts at right guard and 26 at center). He enters the draft where he profiles as a starter at either position.
Damien Lewis, LSU
Lewis ties with Ruiz and four others with five hits. He meets what the Patriots look for in weight, 40 time, vertical jump, bench press and broad jump. It’s possible he hits more, but he didn’t participate in the 3-cone or shuttle drill. He is projected as a Day 3 pick.
After transferring to LSU from junior college, Lewis started two seasons at right guard. Last year, he earned second-team All-SEC honors. He was a part of a national championship and helped the Tigers win the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the top offensive line in the country. The Patriots met with him at the NFL Combine and had a FaceTime interview with him.
Danny Pinter, Ball State
Pinter also hits five of the eight targets. He matches up what the Patriots look for in height, 40 time, vertical jump, broad jump and 3-cone time. He’s also projected to go somewhere in Day 3 of the draft.
Pinter has an interesting story. He started at Ball State as a tight end and played there for two seasons before transitioning to tackle as junior. He started at right tackle over the last two seasons and excelled. Considering he stands 6-4 and weighs 306 pounds, teams will look to move him to guard. In fact, one athletic comparison is Patriots left guard Joe Thuney.