Pats in protective mood with draft picks
Tom Brady may be feeling a little more physically secure today.
After not spending a single NFL Draft pick on an offensive lineman in 2012 or 2013, the New England Patriots used three of their first four picks on Saturday with an eye on upgrading Brady's pass protection in the form of a center, tackle and guard.
Having traded their third-round pick to Jacksonville on Friday after taking defensive tackle Dominque Easley of Florida in the first round and quarterback Jimmy Garoppola from Eastern Illinois in the second, the Patriots used their first Saturday pick - their third in the 2014 NFL draft and 105th overall - on Bryan Stork, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound center.
He will likely be fighting for a job with starting center Ryan Wendell, who signed a two-year contract in the offseason.
It was the first of three fourth-round picks for the Patriots Saturday, and all were built around offense. New England next took running back James White of Wisconsin at No. 130 overall, and then offensive tackle Cameron Fleming of Stanford at No. 140.
White, at 5-foot-9 and 204 pounds, is likely in place to add some security to a position at which the top three on the depth chart - Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden - are each entering the final year of their contracts.
Known for a running style characterized as "violent cuts," White could also add some depth to the kick return team, having returned 39 kickoffs in his career with the Badgers.
Fleming, the offensive tackle and an Aeronautics and Astronautics major at Stanford, is a nice match for Stork from a size perspective, standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 323 pounds. He could provide some long-term depth in the area of linemen Marcus Cannon, who is in the last year of his contract, and Sebastian Vollmer, who is recovering from a broken ankle suffered last October.
The next in the offensive line puzzle came in the sixth round, at 179 overall, with former Florida guard Jon Halapio who, at 6-foot-3 and 323 pounds, could challenge veteran right guard Dan Connolly.
The Patriots followed their offensive line binge with the 198th pick overall: 6-foot-5, 269-pound defensive end/outside linebacker Zach Moore from Concordia-St. Paul.
With their third and final sixth-round pick, at 206 overall, New England took defensive back Jemea Thomas of Georgia Tech, a 5-foot-9, 192-pound known as being undersized but instinctive.
In the seventh round, the Patriots took Jeremy Gallon, a wide receiver from Michigan.
All along, Sam insisted that he wanted to be known simply as a football player and not as some sort of trailblazer. Now he'll get the chance just a couple of hours down the road from his college home in Columbia, Missouri.