By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bill Belichick continues to scour the SEC for potential Patriots, as every NFL GM should every year. Now he’s in Gainesville, Fla. to attend Wednesday’s Pro Day for the Florida Gators.
The Florida Twitter page snapped photos of Belichick chatting with Gators head coach Dan Mullen, while the SEC Network spotted him with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. That’s a dead giveaway that he’s at least doing his homework on Florida’s top defensive prospects.
There’s really only one Gator who’s likely out of the Patriots’ reach in the 2019 NFL Draft. Tackle Jawaan Taylor is widely expected to be the first offensive lineman off the board, perhaps in the top-10. So let’s assume that Belichick isn’t that interested. They could use another tackle at some point, though. There are also some intriguing defenders that could find themselves in New England come April.
Here’s a quick rundown of four notable prospects taking part in Florida’s Pro Day that could pique the Patriots’ interest. You can get the full list of participants at FloridaGators.com.
DE Jachai Polite. Similar size (6-foot-3, 258 pounds) and Combine measurables to Trey Flowers. He has the speed off the edge to be a dynamic pass rusher at the NFL level. Polite also spent some of his freshman year playing on the interior, so the Patriots may like his potential for versatility. Ultimately he may be a pure edge rusher, but he’s the kind of defender you’d want up front on your defense in today’s pass-happy NFL. He could be there for the Pats at No. 32.
S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Could Belichick draft a Florida defensive back for the second year in a row? Gardner-Johnson checks a big Belichick box with his versatility. He played both single high safety and closer to the line of scrimmage for the Gators in his career. He’s also an impressive athlete with a similar frame to Patrick Chung (5-foot-11, 215 pounds). Scouts say he may lack, or need time to develop, the instincts and anticipation to match his athleticism. But this year seems like a good time to look toward the future at safety, and Gardner-Johnson certainly sounds like a Patriots type of prospect.
LB Vosean Joseph. Joseph can be fast and explosive in pass coverage, which could make him an effective “Will” linebacker at the NFL level. But his inconsistency and mental mistakes at times in Florida make him more of a mid-round prospect. The Patriots also have an impressive young linebacker in Ja’Whaun Bentley. This is not a pressing need, but Dont’a Hightower isn’t going to play forever either. Perhaps Belichick sees enough potential to develop Joseph under the rest of the linebackers.
OL Fred Johnson. An unusual prospect in that he played right guard for the Gators, but has the size (6-foot-7) of a tackle. He’s like the inverse of Isaiah Wynn. Johnson is a likely late-round selection, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Belichick took a flyer on a prospect who played both right side spots in Florida. Dante Scarnecchia would inspire confidence in turning Johnson into a successful NFL lineman. Would it really shock you if Belichick paired an undersized tackle with an oversized guard?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.