By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Are the Patriots looking to get younger at safety in the NFL Draft?
According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Patriots are among several teams expected to hold a private top-30 meeting with Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram. He's also expected to meet with the Jets, Chargers, Lions, Bucs, Cowboys, and Rams. So there will be plenty of competition for Abram's services later this month.
Graded with a "chance to become NFL starter" at NFL.com, Abram ranks fifth among all safeties there. He's one of the most physical defensive backs in this year's NFL Draft class, a hard-hitting safety and effective "big nickel" defender. He's expected to wreak havoc against the run or in coverage against slot receivers and tight ends in the short-to-intermediate areas.
Abram is also widely praised for his football IQ and drew positive reactions from his early interviews. He said at the Combine in March that he interviewed with the Patriots first, and remarked that he saw Bill Belichick smile for the first time.
"We were just talking football and [Belichick] asked me if I had any questions. I had a few questions for him," Abram said.
Abram produced at a high level against elite competition at Mississippi State, earning First Team All-SEC honors in 2018 as a senior. He led the team with 99 tackles and earned six different All-American distinctions.
The 22-year-old has the size (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) and versatility to play a hybrid linebacker or nickel corner role in the NFL, as well as a bruising box safety. His scouting reports don't project him well as a coverage safety over the top like Devin McCourty or Duron Harmon, but he sounds pretty similar to Patrick Chung.
With McCourty and Chung each a year older and approaching the back-end of their deals with the Patriots, the team could stand to infuse the position with youth at some point. Abram is one of the best options in this year's draft. He's generally projected to go as high as late in the first round, so Belichick may have to consider taking him at No. 32 if he's available.
Abram could contribute on special teams and sub packages right away, with the chance to develop into a good starter. His smarts, versatility, and experience against top competition make him an intriguing prospect for the Patriots.
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].