New England Patriots: NFL Combine Provides New Targets for 2014 NFL Draft

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New England Patriots: NFL Combine Provides New Targets for 2014 NFL Draft

New England Patriots 2014 NFL Draft
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The New England Patriots need a good draft this year. They want to squeeze another title out of the Tom Brady / Bill Belichick era, but they don’t have a lot of money to spend in free agency. If they want to get better, which they need to do to keep competing for titles, they need to do it in the draft.

The most glaring need for the Patriots is to find a big play receiver. Brady may not be the quarterback he was just a few years ago, but he is still good enough to win the Super Bowl. But, that won’t happen with the current collection of weapons at his disposal.

New England also has needs in the defensive backfield, as usual, and on the interior of the offensive line. The line struggled to protect Brady against the Denver Broncos in the playoffs last year, and the defensive backfield is always a sore spot of the New England defense.

You never know what the Patriots are going to do in the draft. You think they’re going to go one way, and they inevitably trade down and take someone you’ve never heard of. It may be frustrating, but it keeps things interesting at least.

The picks usually don’t make much sense at the time, but don’t believe all the talk about Belichick not drafting well recently. No one hits on all their picks, but Belichick has hit on more than most in recent years.

New England is looking for a game-changing receiver on offense and some depth across the board in this draft, and these are five players who grabbed their attention at the NFL combine this year.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky

Jonathan Dowling 2014 NFL Draft
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The Patriots need to get better, and certainly deeper, at safety. Jonathan Dowling caught some attention at the combine when he came in with a 4.52 second 40, fast for a bigger safety who usually gets by on his height and long arms. He needs to get stronger and learn to take better angles, but his length and speed make him tough to look past.

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4. Gabe Ikard, G/C, Oklahoma

Gabe Ikard New England Patriots
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The Patriots need depth on the offensive line, and one late-round prospect that looked good at the combine was Gabe Ikard. A starter for 50 of his 52 games, he was a mainstay on the line for Oklahoma over his college career. He lacks ideal size and strength, but he has the versatility and intangibles the Patriots like on the offensive line.

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3. Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota

Brock Vereen New England Patriots
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How about some brotherly love on the Pats? Brock Vereen, brother of running back Shane Vereen, will start flying up draft boards after his impressive showing at the combine. Coming into the weekend teams were concerned with his lack of size, but he ran fast — 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash— and put up an eye-poping 25 reps in the bench press, the most among all defensive backs.

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2. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Brandin Cooks New England Patriots
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A playmaking wide receiver that was one of the best surprises of the combine, Brandin Cooks made himself an immediate contender to go late in the first round. The Patriots need as much speed and athletiscism as they can get on offense, and Cooks would be an immediate upgrade at receiver.

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1. Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson

Martavis Bryant New England Patriots
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The Robin to Sammy Watkins' Batman at Clemson, Martavis Bryant was awfully impressive at the combine. He ran a fast 4.42 second 40 and was sixth among receivers with a 39-inch vertical leap. He needs seasoning, but at 6'4" and 221 lbs., with big hands and long arms, he has the raw skills the Patriots desperately need at receiver.

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