New England Patriots

L-R: Fresno State's Arron Mosby, Rice's Jordan Myers (Getty Images)

  • Trying to project what teams will do in the NFL Draft involves a lot of identifying and following trends. That’s even true for the Patriots. Although people like to describe Bill Belichick as ‘unpredictable,’ patters are bound to develop after more than two decades of doing anything. While the game evolves and philosophies change over time, there are some preferences that have stayed true.

    One of those trends that has stayed mostly under the radar is an apparent draw towards players that changed positions either when starting or during their college careers. It’s not an overly common occurrence, but relatively speaking those players have been popular in New England.

    A couple of those players have gone on to play key roles and become stars in New England. Julian Edelman is probably the first example to come to mind, although he doesn’t exactly qualify given he didn’t make the switch to wide receiver until after he was drafted. J.C. Jackson would be a better example – he was originally recruited to Florida as a two-way player who primarily played wide receiver in high school. Another impact player currently on the team who fits the bill is Jakobi Meyers, who made the move from quarterback to wide receiver after two seasons at North Carolina State.

    The trend goes back further too. Nate Solder, who was the starting left tackle for two Super Bowl winning teams in New England, began his collegiate career as a tight end. Other examples over the last decade or so include Gunner Olszewski (cornerback to wide receiver), James Develin (defensive end to fullback), Jakob Johnson (defensive end to tight end), A.J. Derby (quarterback to tight end), and Byron Cowart (outside linebacker to defensive tackle) among others.

    There have even been a couple of players who had successful careers in New England after changing sports entirely. Stephen Neal started 81 games at center after a decorated collegiate wrestling career. Nate Ebner has played a decade in the NFL despite not picking up football until his junior year at Ohio State and focusing on rugby instead. And of course, everybody knows Chris Hogan (who admittedly wasn’t drafted by the Patriots but still fits the mold) played lacrosse.

    Why do the Patriots continue to pursue such players? Versatility would logically be at least part of the reason. For example, they were able to take advantage of Edelman and Meyers’ backgrounds as passers, as well as Nate Solder’s experience as a pass catcher. It could also be about how these players see the game. For example, a wide receiver who had played quarterback is going to view the game differently than a player who has played receiver his entire life. That could give that receiver a better idea of what the quarterback is looking for. For those who went a step further and changed sides of the ball, it could give them an edge when studying an opponent on film or trying to read what is going on on the other side of the line of scrimmage, like a former wide receiver playing cornerback studying receivers.

    When it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft, there are players that fit this background at multiple positions and multiple spots on the draft board – although many are lesser-known prospects at this point. Some are already locked into new positions, while others may continue to be multi-positional as they begin their NFL careers. If you’ve followed the Sports Hub draft coverage to this point, many of these names will be familiar, and don’t be surprised if at least one of these players ends up in training camp with the Patriots.

  • QB/WR D’Eriq King, Miami

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 04: D'Eriq King #1 of the Miami Hurricanes rolls out against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the Chick-fil-A Kick-Off Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 04, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA – SEPTEMBER 04: D’Eriq King #1 of the Miami Hurricanes rolls out against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the Chick-fil-A Kick-Off Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 04, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    King is entering the NFL draft as a quarterback, which has been his primary position through his six-year college career. However, it’s not his only one.

    A record-setting dual-threat high school quarterback in Texas, King ended up at Houston where he was behind Greg Ward (who later became an NFL wide receiver) and Kyle Allen on the QB depth chart. After a number of injuries at the wide receiver position early in his freshman season, King ended up filling in there and caught 29 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown, and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He primarily played receiver again as a sophomore, before taking over as the starting quarterback as a junior.

    As a junior in 2018, King as Second-Team All-ACC before he torn his meniscus late in the year. That injury ended up limiting him to just four games in 2019.

    After transferring to Miami, King had another strong year in 2020 throwing for 2,686 yards and 23 touchdown while rushing for another 538 yards and four scores. He elected to return to school in 2021, but an injury to his throwing shoulder held him to just three games.

    King’s stature and recent shoulder injury have some scouts skeptical about his future as a full-time quarterbacks. At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, King is on the smaller side and may not be an exact fit for a role like the one Taysom Hill has in New Orleans. However, he could be used in a more finesse version that follows the same philosophy (slot receiver instead of tight end, kick returner instead of kick coverage). Some experts project he could move to slot receiver full time. He’s electric with the ball in his hands, it will just be up to whatever team adds him to find the best way to maximize that skillset.

    The Patriots met with King earlier this month for a pre-draft workout overseen by Joe Judge. King is currently projected as a priority UDFA.

  • RB/FB/TE Connor Heyward, Michigan State

    Oct 2, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Connor Heyward (11) stiff arms Western Kentucky Hilltoppers linebacker Malik Staples (24) during the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium. Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 2, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Connor Heyward (11) stiff arms Western Kentucky Hilltoppers linebacker Malik Staples (24) during the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium. Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    “Just give him to the Patriots, they’ll figure out exactly how to use him,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah remarked while Heyward was on the field at the NFL Combine.

    Heyward spent his first four years in Lansing as a running back, contributing in both the running game and passing game. Last year, he made the shift to tight end and caught 45 passes for 326 yards. Following the season he took part in the Senior Bowl, where he was listed as a fullback.

    In the NFL, he projects best as a utility fullback or H-back/move tight end. He moves relatively well, running a 4.72 second 40 at the Combine, while still being able to contribute as a blocker both on running and passing plays at 6-foot, 230 pounds.

    The Patriots have brought in similar hybrid fullback/tight end players in recent years in guys like Danny Vitale and Dalton Keene, although none have stuck yet. With no traditional fullback left on the roster, there may be more urgency now in adding such a player. Heyward could be a fit late on Day 3.

  • RB/WR/TE Jordan Myers, Rice

    Sep 18, 2021; Austin, Texas, USA; Rice Owls tight end Jordan Myers (7) runs the ball against Texas Longhorns defensive back Jerrin Thompson (28) during the second quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Credit: John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 18, 2021; Austin, Texas, USA; Rice Owls tight end Jordan Myers (7) runs the ball against Texas Longhorns defensive back Jerrin Thompson (28) during the second quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Credit: John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

    With Myers, it’s not so much that he’s changed positions as much as it is he doesn’t really have one. Myers has been listed as a wide receiver and tight end on the Owls’ roster over the course of his five-year collegiate career, but he’s mainly used as a ball carrier. His size (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) doesn’t add much when it comes to identifying a position either.

    Myers himself has struggled to answer the question of what two letters should come before his name on the roster. When asked before the 2021 season what his position is, he responded “Pretty much just wherever the team needs me. As of right now, I’m kinda labeled as the utility player.” Head coach Mike Bloomgren called him a “Swiss Army Knife.”

    Despite the Owls having a down season last year, it was a career year for Myers. Listed as a tight end, he ran the ball 92 times for 338 yards and eight scores, while catching 27 passes for 278 yards and another touchdown. Over the course of his career, he was given the ball 241 times – 148 on the ground and 93 through the air.

    In addition to his on the field utility, Myers would also bring a strong locker room presence to whatever team adds him. He was voted the Billy Ed Daniels Award winner by his teammates, which is given by Rice each year to the player who ‘exhibits the qualities most desired in a teammate.’

    At the next level, Myers could be anything from a move tight end to h-back to goal line back. He really can do a little bit of everything. Yet without a carrying trait beyond his versatility and having played just 45 games over five years in college, he’s currently projected to go undrafted. The Patriots did have a scout at his Pro Day, where he ran a 4.69 second 40.

  • OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan

    Feb 1, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; National offensive lineman Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan (76) works with a coach during National practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 1, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; National offensive lineman Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan (76) works with a coach during National practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

    On one hand, Raimann is currently projected to be a late-first or early-second round pick. So it’s not as though he’s a totally out of the blue prospect. At the same time, he’s an offensive lineman from a Group of Five (non-Power Five) school who has started just 16 games at the position, so for those casually following the draft he may not be quite on the radar.

    As an international offensive lineman (he was born and raised in Austria) he’s drawn comparisons to former Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer. However, he may really have more in common with another former Patriots tackle in Nate Solder, with both having made similar positional changes with Solder having began his college career at Colorado as a tight end.

    Raimann did grow up playing American Football in Austria, but as a tight end. He continued to play that position as a high school exchange student in Michigan, and even through his first two years in college.

    It wasn’t until his junior year with the Chippewas that he started playing left tackle. That was the 2020 season, which was shorted to six games due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. He then started 10 more in 2021. At the end of the college football season, he was projected as a Day 2 pick, but after a strong performance at the Senior Bowl some now see him as a potential first-rounder.

    Also like Solder, Raimann brings a massive frame to the position. He stands 6-foot-3, and is currently up to 303 pounds. It’s expected he’ll continue to bulk up once he gets into an NFL training program. As a former pass catcher and ball carrier, he brings tremendous athleticism for that size. As was the case with Solder, he knows how to use his athleticism to his advantage as a blocker.

    With Isaiah Wynn entering a contract year, left tackle could be a major need for the Patriots in 2023. They can stay ahead of it by drafting a player this year and allowing him to develop – which is exactly what happened when the team took Nate Solder in 2011 to replace Matt Light in 2012.

    The Patriots hosted Raimann for a top-30 visit earlier this month.

  • OL Cade Mays, Tennessee

    Sep 2, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Cade Mays (68) waits for the snap during the second half against the Bowling Green Falcons at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 2, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Cade Mays (68) waits for the snap during the second half against the Bowling Green Falcons at Neyland Stadium. Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    It’d be hard to find an offensive lineman in this draft more experienced than Mays. Mays is a four-year starter, who during that time started at all five positions across the offensive line.

    On top of that, Mays has experience in two different offensive systems. He transferred to Tennessee from Georgia after two years with the Bulldogs. That’s another under-the-radar trend for the Patriots – targeting players who have played at multiple schools or in multiple systems at the same school.

    Although he’s projected mainly as an interior lineman in the NFL, Mays still should be able to offer that five-position versatility in the pros if needed as an emergency backup tackle. He’s currently projected to be a Day 3 pick, and the Patriots have taken a multi-positional offensive lineman on Day 3 in each of the last two drafts.

  • DT Marquan McCall, Kentucky

    Kentucky nose guard Marquan McCall (50) reacts after a stop during a NCAA college football game in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl against Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

    Kentucky nose guard Marquan McCall (50) reacts after a stop during a NCAA college football game in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl against Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA Today Network)

    After ranking 25th against the run last year, don’t be surprised if the Patriots address their run defense in this draft. One way to do that would be by adding a big traditional nose tackle who can eat blocks in the middle on early downs, and free up linebackers to make plays.

    McCall could be that player. The 6-foot-3, 342 pound nose tackle would give the Patriots some serious size up front, which will be needed especially if they plan on adding more smaller linebackers. McCall’s weight is actually down from the 379 pounds he played at last season, as he works on his conditioning and overall health. Still, he’s one of the biggest players in this draft.

    So what sets McCall apart from the other nose tackles in this draft? He was originally recruited to Kentucky as an offensive guard. Coming out of high school in 2018, multiple scouting organizations had him ranked as the fourth-ranked guard in his class. 24/7 Sports at one point listed him as the top recruit in the state of Michigan – ahead of likely first-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson.

    As an offensive lineman, McCall was regarded as a “tremendous technician.” If he had the technique down to neutralize opposing defensive linemen, would that give him insight on how to win against technically sound linemen now that he’s on the other side of the ball? That’s something the Patriots may consider when looking at McCall as an NFL prospect. Given his lack of value as a pass rusher and projected two-down role, he’s currently projected to go late on Day 3.

  • LB Troy Andersen, Montana State

    Feb 2, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; National squad linebacker Troy Andersen of Montana State (45) talks with National squad linebacker Sterling Weatherford of Miami (OH) (12) during National team practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 2, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; National squad linebacker Troy Andersen of Montana State (45) talks with National squad linebacker Sterling Weatherford of Miami (OH) (12) during National team practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

    Simply put, Andersen played a lot of football in college. He was a two-way player as a true freshman in 2017, taking snaps at both running back and linebacker. The next year, he moved to quarterback and led the team to an 8-5 record and a trip to the FCS Playoffs running an option offense. That season, he was named First Team All-Big Sky quarterback, a third-team All-American, and FCS Sophomore of the Year.

    Despite having so much success at quarterback, the team moved Andersen back to defense full time the next season as a full time linebacker. He was named First Team All-Big Sky and a First Team All-American that season. The program didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but he didn’t show any rust in 2021. Back at middle linebacker, he received numerous accolades highlighted by being named FCS National Defensive Player of the Year. With Andersen in the middle of their defense, the Bobcats allowed just 15 points per game – which ranked sixth among all FCS teams – and reached the National Championship.

    Despite all of that success, Andersen was considered a late Day 3 pick following the season. He really started to pop during the Senior Bowl, then blew evaluators away by running the fastest 40 yard dash (4.42 seconds) of any linebacker at the NFL Combine at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds. He also had a 36-inch vertical and 10-foot-8-inch broad jump.

    Multiple times this offseason, those connected to the Patriots – including director of player personnel Matt Groh and linebackers coach Jerod Mayo – have talked about the need to get faster on defense. Andersen could offer them that opportunity while not sacrificing too much size. He also brings the experience of having seen the game through a quarterback’s eyes to the middle of the Patriots’ defense. That shows up in the way he plays, and his instincts allow him to play even faster than he tested.

    The Patriots met with Andersen at the NFL Combine. He’s currently projected to be a Day 2 pick.

  • DL/LB/DB Arron Mosby, Fresno State

    Oct 23, 2021; Fresno, California, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs defensive end Arron Mosby (3) celebrates after recording a sack against the Nevada Wolf Pack in the fourth quarter at Bulldog Stadium. Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 23, 2021; Fresno, California, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs defensive end Arron Mosby (3) celebrates after recording a sack against the Nevada Wolf Pack in the fourth quarter at Bulldog Stadium. Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    In high school, Mosby was a two-way player who saw time at both wide receiver and defensive back. His freshman year at Fresno Sate, he was listed as a safety and played primarily special teams. The next year, he moved to cornerback and started playing more on defense. By his junior year, he had added 20 pounds to his frame and was now playing linebacker for the Bulldogs. He continued to move towards the line of scrimmage, and in 2021 he was an All-Mountain West honorable mention – as a defensive end. The one-time safety had 15.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks in 13 games playing on the defensive line last fall.

    As Mosby moved positions, he bulked up as well. He entered college as a 6-foot-3, 196 pound two-way receiver and defensive back, and now heads to the draft as a six-foot-4, 250 pound edge defender.

    However, because Mosby played so many different positions over his five year collegiate career, he never truly developed his skill set at any one of them. Because of that, he’s currently projected to be a UDFA. He’ll likely start his NFL career competing for a spot in the kicking game, but does have the upside to be a contributing player either as a defensive end or outside linebacker depending on scheme. Unlike some of the players he’ll be competing with though, he brings the coverage knowledge of a safety to that spot.

  • CB Tariq Woolen, UTSA

    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 06: Tariq Woolen #DB38 of UTSA runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 06, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – MARCH 06: Tariq Woolen #DB38 of UTSA runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 06, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

    Woolen is one of the most unique and exciting players in this draft. There are few, if any, that have the upside and ceiling he does.

    There aren’t many cornerbacks built like Woolen. He stands 6-foot-4, 205 pounds with 34-inch arms. His unreal size is paired with unreal athleticism – he ran a 4.26 40 at the Combine (making him one of just three players to record a sub-4.3 time), and led all players with a 42-inch vertical.

    What’s the catch? Woolen has only been playing cornerback for two years. For his first three seasons at UTSA, he was a wide receiver.

    As expected, he’s still learning the finer points at a position where success can be heavily predicated on technical ability, not just raw athleticism. He may be a year or two away from playing the kind of reps that come with being a starting outside cornerback.

    Still if he can put it all together, he could be the ultimate eraser for any defense. There simply won’t be many receivers that can mismatch with him, both in terms of size and speed/athleticism. Add to that fact he knows how to read routes and throws like a receiver, and his potential is even more intriguing.

    Even if Woolen doesn’t max out his skillset as a cornerback, some experts believe he could also find success moving to safety. His speed as a final defender, paired with his size making him a competitive tackler, would play at the free safety spot.

    Woolen began the pre-draft process projected as an early Day 3 pick. Now, there’s some speculation he won’t even make it out of the second round.

  • K/P Matt Araiza, San Diego State

    CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Matt Araiza #2 of the San Diego State Aztecs kicks the ball against the Boise State Broncos on November 26, 2021 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

    CARSON, CA – NOVEMBER 26: Matt Araiza #2 of the San Diego State Aztecs kicks the ball against the Boise State Broncos on November 26, 2021 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

    By the midpoint of the 2021 college football season, fans were already referring to Araiza as ‘Punt God.’ Now, some experts consider him the best punting prospect in the history of the NFL Draft. The lefty re-wrote the college football record books in 2021, including setting a new single-season mark for yards per punt at 51.2 and had multiple punts travel over 80 yards before being downed inside the 15.

    That’s all impressive enough, before you consider the fact that last year was Araiza’s first as a full-time punter. He was recruited primarily as a kicker, and was the Aztecs’ starter at that spot for two years. In each season, Araiza was named honorable mention All-Mountain West.

    Araiza took a scientific approach to his development as a punter. That including studying multiple NFL punters, looking for the one who most resembled his build and kicking style. He ended up mirroring his game after current Patriots punter, Jake Bailey.

    The one knock on Araiza right now is that he struggles at times to control his kick power. While most of his longer punts – including the two 80 yarders – were downed inside the 20, he ended up kicking more touchbacks when punting from closer to midfield. We don’t often talk about upside with punters, but that may apply to Araiza here. Again, he hasn’t been punting for that long, and still could learn to control his kicks better. If he does, he has the potential to be the best punter in the NFL.

    Will punting be Araiza’s only job in the pros? Depending on what team drafts him, some think he could handle kicking duties as well. In three years at San Diego State, he connected on 73.5 percent of his field goal attempts, connecting on multiple 50-plus yarders. Handling both roles wouldn’t be new for him either, he did both for the Aztecs last season.

  • QB/WR/DB/KR/Attack Jared Bernhardt, Maryland/Ferris State

    Farris State's Jared Bernhardt looks downfield for an open receiver Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Lubbers Stadium. (Cody Scanlan/Holland Sentinel/USA Today Network)

    Farris State’s Jared Bernhardt looks downfield for an open receiver Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Lubbers Stadium. (Cody Scanlan/Holland Sentinel/USA Today Network)

    Jared Bernhardt seems more like the result of a Patriots fan’s pre-draft fever dream than an actual draft prospect. He spent his first four years in college at Maryland, where he was a dominant lacrosse player playing attack for the Terrapins. He walked away from the storied program with its all-time goals record, with his 202 goals in 76 career games ranking fourth in NCAA Division-I history. As a senior, he won the Tewaaraton Award, which is the lacrosse equivalent of the Heisman.

    Bernhardt’s athletic career wasn’t done there though. Last fall, he transferred to Division-II Ferris State to play football. As an option quarterback, he led all Division-II players with 26 rushing touchdowns, and was 10th in rushing yards with 1,476 in 10 games. He also threw for 1,322 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 70.7 percent of his passes.

    With Bernhardt leading what ended up being a QB rotation, the Bulldogs went 14-0 in 2021 on their way to winning the Division-II National Championship. In the title game against Valdosta State, Bernhardt rushed for 148 yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns. Following the season, Bernhardt was named GLIAC Player of the Year and first-team All-Conference.

    Going beyond all of that, Bernhardt actually has an indirect connection to the Patriots. His father Jim was a long-time football coach, who worked for former Patriots assistant Bill O’Brien for a number of years. The elder Bernhardt was on O’Brien’s staff at Penn State, then followed him to Houston where he held the title of director of football research.

    Now, Jared is trying to get to the NFL. He worked out at Maryland’s Pro Day, where the Patriots had a scout in attendance. After running a 4.70 second 40 and a 6.89 second 3-cone drill (which would have been a top-10 time among all players at the Combine), he ran through drills as a quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back, and kick returner. His path to the NFL is likely to catch on on special teams as a returner and in kick coverage, and then try to grow into a more gadget role on offense. Bernhardt is currently projected to be a UDFA although at least one team is interested – he met with the Broncos on a top-30 visit earlier this month.

  • Congratulations, you are now ‘in the weeds’ when it comes to this year’s NFL Draft class! But how many of these prospects had you heard of before reading this post?

    0: “What draft?”

    1-2: “I’m aware there is a draft this weekend”

    3-6: Avid college football fan

    7-9: Regular 985TheSportsHub.com/Draft reader

    10+: Certified draft nerd