Tuesday, November 29, 2022

2022 NFL Combine: Who and when to watch for Patriots fans

Offensive linemen

Thursday media availability, Friday workouts

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LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY – SEPTEMBER 18: Darian Kinnard #70 of the Kentucky Wildcats against Chattanooga Mocs at Kroger Field on September 18, 2021 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Patriots have taken at least one offensive lineman in each of the last eight drafts, and multiple linemen in six of those eight. It’s a position that is always on their radar.

This year, tackle is an exceptionally notable need with Trent Brown a pending free agent and Isaiah Wynn entering a contract year. At the same time, depth at guard is also important, with Ted Karras a pending free agent. Michael Onwenu’s future also adds to the question – will he be a tackle a guard long-term?

Like with receivers, let’s break this down round-by-round and position-by-position…

–First-round tackle: Trevor Penning, Iowa State

In terms of linemen, Penning stole the show at the Senior Bowl and catapulted his draft stock to the back end of the first round. He’s a big guy (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) and plays with a mean streak. The Patriots had just three primary starting left tackles under Bill Belichick (Matt Light, Nate Solder, Isaiah Wynn), and all three were Senior Bowl participants and first-round picks. Penning fits the bill could continue that trend.

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–First-round IOL: Zion Johnson, Boston College

It’s unlikely the Patriots take an interior offensive lineman in the first round, but if they see Onwenu’s future at tackle and Karras is set to leave, it’s not unrealistic. Like Penning, Johnson has seen his stock soar since the Senior Bowl. A mauler in the middle, Johnson would fit in well in the Patriots’ ‘punch you in the mouth’ offense.

–Mid-round tackle: Darian Kinnard, Kentucky

Kinnard is another massive (6-foot-5, 345 pounds) tackle, who projects to play primarily on the right side in the NFL. Kentucky ran a run-heavy offense, so logically his best tape is in the ground game. In terms of finding a right tackle to follow Onwenu and Brown, Kinnard is a logical fit.

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–Mid-round IOL: Jamaree Salyer, Georgia

In recent years, the Patriots have targeted offensive linemen with four-position versatility (can play tackle and guard), selecting such a player in each of the last two years (Onwenu, William Sherman). Salyer, who played tackle at Georgia but projects primarily as a guard at the next level, fits that description. He caught a lot of attention in Georgia’s College Football Playoff Semifinal win over Michigan, playing a key role in neutralizing the Wolverines’ first round pass-rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

–Late-round T: Andrew Stueber, Michigan

Stueber is another hybrid guard/tackle. He primarily started at right tackle for the Wolverines, but occasionally filled in at right guard as well. Fitting the prototype of ‘big mauler’, he measured in at 6-foot-6, 327 pounds at the Senior Bowl.

,Late-round IOL: Cade Mays, Tennessee

Talk about positional versatility, Mays has experience starting at all five spots along the offensive line in college. He also played in two different offenses, transferring from Georgia to Tennessee in 2020. Even though he’ll likely be limited to the interior in the NFL, that experience is unique and valuable, and the kind of thing the Patriots look for in the pre -draft process.

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