By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots had their top-30 pre-draft visits again this year, just like every team every year. And while visits aren't always indicative of serious interest in the prospects they do host, it's not unprecedented for visiting players to end up donning a Flying Elvis hat on draft day.
Three Patriots under contract for 2018 had a top-30 visit in Foxboro prior to being drafted: tackle Tony Garcia (2017), wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (2016), and defensive end Geneo Grissom (2015). And while 2014 first-round pick Dominique Easley didn't work out, he also visited the Pats privately.
So in that case, it is worth noting the list of prospects who reportedly held top-30 visits with New England. It's probably, at best, a 1-out-of-30 chance that one of the below prospects will end up with the Patriots, but some of them appear more likely than the others.
Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans, for instance, fills a need and comes out of a program with deep ties to Bill Belichick. And Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson also held a private workout with Josh McDaniels in addition to a pre-draft visit (teams aren't allowed to work out prospects in top-30 visits). In any event, if you plan on tuning in to the NFL Draft on Thursday night, it would behoove you to familiarize yourself with these names.
Based on a composite of sources with Walter Football and Boston Sports Journal draft analyst Mike Loyko, here are 26 of the 30 prospects that the Patriots reportedly hosted for a pre-draft visit, separated by position. They hosted players at every position except tight end, guard/center, and special teams.
Update: Players with their names
crossed out have been selected by other teams. (Click here for all the Patriots' draft picks.)
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Braxton Berrios, Miami (Drafted by the Patriots)
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
D.J. Moore, Maryland
Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
Ronald Jones II, USC
Tyrell Cosby, Oregon
Kolton Miller, UCLA
Will Richardson, N.C. State
Connor Williams, Texas
Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
Rasheem Green, DE/DT, USC
P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State
Breeland Speaks, DE, Ole Miss
Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
Jullian Taylor, DT, Temple
Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Christian Sam, Arizona State (Drafted by the Patriots)
Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Duke Dawson, Florida (Drafted by the Patriots)
Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
Justin Reid, Stanford
Damon Webb, Ohio State
Are The Next Patriots On This List?
It's interesting that, despite Belichick's insistence on drafting based on value rather than need, the Patriots hosted six defensive linemen, easily more than any other position. The Pats have a clear need to replenish their front-seven, so as far as balancing value with need, perhaps this year there's a little of both.
Here at the Sports Hub, the Felger & Massarotti program has held its annual draft prognostication with the "Big Board" - which has proven more reliable than actual draft "analysis". And after getting shut out in 2017, they have a chance to hit again in 2018. Leighton Vander Esch and Breeland Speaks are among the names on the board this year, with quarterbacks and tight ends coming on Thursday.
Stay tuned with the latest Patriots draft updates at the Sports Hub's Patriots Draft Hub, with a live blog starting Thursday night.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].
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