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Tomlinson is one of the best guards in the draft. (Clyde Click)
The Patriots had their issues last year along their offensive front that resulted in poor performances by the offense as a whole. Injuries, players playing out of place, and the transition to a line without Logan Mankins required time and practice to become fully functional. Now that line could yet again be altered with the potential departure of captain and starting LG Dan Connolly. Starting RG Ryan Wendell is on the last year of his deal. Starting LT Nate Solder is playing on his fifth-year option. Even starting RT Sebastian Vollmer has doubts in regards to his health. Center Bryan Stork may be the closest thing to a surefire lock to be on the team past this season. This draft presents a few options that could step in and be expected to be a day one starter at guard, the Patriots greatest need currently. One of these options is Duke's Laken Tomlinson.

Laken Tomlinson has been linked to the Patriots about as much as any other draft prospect. They talked to him at the combine. They saw him at his Pro Day. And it is easy to see why they are so interested. His intelligence is near unparalleled for his position, and his size and technique fit that prototypical guard mold for the Patriots. He was a four year starter who didn't allow a single sack in his last two seasons. Three years ago he traveled to Ethiopia to dig water wells. He's double majoring in evolutionary anthropology and psychology. The man wants to be a doctor after his football career is over. What isn't to like about this guy?

Measurables:
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 323 lbs
Arm Length: 33 5/8”
Hand Size: 10 1/8"

Combine Results:
5.33 40 Yard Dash
25 Reps of 225 on Bench
31.5" Vertical
103" Broad Jump
8.17 3 Cone Drill
4.87 20 Yard Shuttle

Pro Day Results:
5.23 40 Yard Dash
29" Vertical
108" Broad Jump
7.87 3 Cone Drill
4.73 20 Yard Shuttle

Here is a look at the Blue Devil's Pro Day, from NFL.com.

Professional Comparison:
Trai Turner - Similar size at 6'3" 315 lbs. Both are great at turning DL and walling them off from the run lanes. They both also struggle with balance when it comes to relying too much on their lean when blocking. Strong enough to dominate in run game, but quicker DL can take advantage at times.

Strengths: 
I watched three games and didn't see him commit a single penalty. Great vision in pass pro - can see stunts and adjust. Walls off defenders on run plays, turning them so that his back is to the hole. Won't sit back blocking no one, will help teammates with their blocks. Displays good technique with hand placement on blocks. Rarely gets out-leveraged by defenders. Hands are strong and quick enough to recover from pass rush moves. Can get to 2nd level and make blocks downfield. Uses his lean perfectly to keep leverage and a solid base.

The entire game - With a few exceptions, this is how you play guard.
At 10:22-10:45 - This is how a guard pulling should look. From start to finish.





Weaknesses: 
Doesn't consistently finish blocks. Can occasionally give up on plays that are away from him. Head can drop in run block, causing him to lose balance. Falls forward far too often when run blocking. Can be beat with initial quickness from DL. Saw him come off the field for a few plays at the end of the Miami game, conditioning may be questionable. Played exclusively at RG his entire college career. A pull move from a DL can beat him due to reliance on lean. Can lunge at defenders when not directly engaged face to face. Lateral quickness lacks.

At 1:02-1:11 - Example of him losing his balance due to relying on forward lean to hold block.



Projections:
2nd round. Tomlinson may be the 2nd best guard in the draft after AJ Cann. Both will likely be taken in the 2nd round. Also wouldn't be surprising if he is the first guard taken; him and Cann are that close. Guards don't have a high positional value, and that's why he may have to wait till the end of the 2nd to hear his name.

Will the Patriots draft him?
If the Patriots don't have another player they prefer at 64 (assuming they stay there), Tomlinson would be a great pick. I still believe they may wait until the 3rd round to get a better value on whoever is left of the top four guards (Cann, Tomlinson, Marpet, Jackson). If they feel like Tomlinson is the fit though I can see this being a great pick and a Day 1 starter for them at either guard position.

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Adam Bogdan 4/22/2015 05:00:00 PM Edit
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