Running back is a sneaky need for the Patriots in this year’s NFL Draft. In the short term, they should be looking for a back that can contribute on passing downs. James White is currently recovering from a severe hip injury and Brandon Bolden now in Las Vegas, leaving snaps available in that role. Bigger picture, the team may be in the market for an early-down back with Damien Harris entering a contract year in 2022.
The Patriots’ roster-building philosophy favors players who can fill multiple spots, and the team’s latest top-30 visit could account for all of their running back needs. According to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, the Patriots are scheduled to meet with Georgia back James Cook this week.
Cook is one of the top ‘do it all’ backs in this year’s draft class. He totaled 1,002 all-purpose yards and 11 all-purpose touchdowns in 15 games for the National Champion Bulldogs last season.
Georgia running back James Cook (4) runs down the field during a football game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel/USA Today Network)
At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds he’s big enough to run between the tackles and contribute as a pass blocker, while still having the speed and agility to be a threat as a route runner. His route running is advanced enough that Georgia would line up outside the formation as a wide receiver at times.
Most projections currently have Cook as the fourth or fifth best running back in this year’s draft class, and going somewhere around the 100th overall pick – the end of the third round or beginning of the fourth. That’s currently between the Patriots’ third (85th) and fourth (127th) round picks. Of course, they could always move into that range with a trade. If Cook falls to 127, he’d be a great value pick in the same range the Patriots took Rhamondre Stevenson last year (120th).
Cook falling is looking less likely though. According to Pauline, nearly half the league has visits set up with him. If he’s valued that high league-wide, a team may race up the board and grab him early.
2022 Patriots pre-draft meeting tracker
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Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.