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Erving replaced Stork at center for FSU in 2014, and could be a candidate to team up with him again this year
The panic of last September is far from Patriots fans minds following their most recent Super Bowl championship, but those early season struggles perfectly illustrated just how much poor offensive line play can effect an otherwise excellent football team. As the likes of Marcus Cannon and Jordan Devey hemorrhaged pressure left and right from the interior, Tom Brady often found himself running for his life before even completing his dropback. The ascension of rookie center Bryan Stork into the starting lineup proved to be a godsend, as it freed veterans Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell up to fill those vacant spots at guard. With better protection, Brady was able to settle down and establish a rhythm with targets like Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LeFell, and the offense took off.

The Connolly/Wendell bandaid at guard proved to be effective enough for a season, but the Pats have a clear need to upgrade on the interior. According to ProFootballFocus, Connolly finished dead-last amongst qualifiers at guard last season in pass blocking efficiency, a metric that weighs pressure surrendered against snaps played in protection. Couple that with his age (he'll turn 33 before next season starts) and injury history, and it shouldn't be surprising that he remains unsigned on the free agent market. Wendell remains under contract for one more year, but counting on him to maintain his 2014 level of play out of position at guard could be a risky proposition.

The Pats are clearly aware of their need on the interior, as they've sent Dante Scarnecchia to work out seemingly every top guard prospect this spring. Amongst their targets, perhaps the most intriguing one could be Florida State's Cameron Erving. An All ACC selection at left tackle in 2013, Erving made the rare midseason switch from tackle to center last year, where he showed exciting potential as a mobile interior blocker. There's little consensus regarding Erving's best position at the next level: some view him as a right tackle, some as a center and some as a guard. However, Erving has the rare versatility and body type to play all five line positions if needed, and his athleticism makes him an ideal scheme fit for the Patriots.

Measurables:

Ht: 6'5"
Wt: 313
Arm length: 34 1/8"
Hands: 10 3/8"
40 time: 5.15
Bench: 30 reps
Vert: 30.5"
Broad jump: 112"
3 cone drill: 7.48
20 yd shuffle: 4.63

College statistics:

2010 (Redshirt Fr): Medical redshirt after missing the season with a back injury
2011 (Fr): Played in 13 games as a reserve defensive tackle, registering 20 tackles (11 solo), 2.5 for a loss and one sack
2012 (So): Started all 14 games at left tackle
2013 (Jr): Started 13 games at left tackle, earning all ACC honors and the Jacobs Blocking trophy (best ACC offensive lineman) for National champion Seminoles
2014 (Sr): Started first 9 games at left tackle and final 5 games at center. Earned All ACC honors and Jacobs Blocking trophy for the second consecutive year

Professional comparison:

NFL.com compares Erving to Bills center Eric Wood. It's an apt comparison measurables-wise, as they have similar long, lanky body types for the position. Wood has been a solid center for the Bills since his selection in the first round of the 2009 draft, but Erving arguably has a higher upside thanks to his superior athleticism.



Strengths:

  • Excellent quickness for his size
  • Uses length/hands well in protection
  • Good balance and footwork in protection
  • Can get to the second level and make reach blocks against moving targets
  • Athletic enough to pull
  • Shows good awareness picking up blitzes and stunts 
Weaknesses:
  • Merely adequate power, rarely overwhelms defenders
  • Lack of experience playing on the interior
  • Occasional technique issues, sometimes gets in trouble by leaning to far forward 


Projection: Late first/early second round

It will be a major surprise if Erving falls out of the first round. As an interior linemen, he probably won't go in the top 20, but is a good bet to go somewhere in the final 12 picks of the first round. The Broncos, picking at 28, have been a popular destination for him in mock drafts, for whatever that's worth.

Will the Patriots draft him?

The value of landing Erving with the 32nd pick would be intriguing, but the Pats will have to wait and see if he lasts until their pick. If he's still on the board, he'll certainly be one of the most talented available options, regardless of position. Erving would project as a Day one starter, but his true value could come a year or two from now, when he'll have a few years of experience on the interior (and in an NFL weight training program) under his belt.

Ned Brady 4/24/2015 03:49:00 PM Edit
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