Should The Patriots Take A Look At These Potential Fits In 2023?

September 3, 2022

As we look forward to the 2022 NFL regular season and the start of proper Patriot action, football fans also look forward to the beginning of college football season in just a few days.

While the Patriots have rounded out specific gaps in their roster, there are still areas where they can improve,, and this next week will give fans to look at the players who could be the future of the Patriots and the NFL in general. Here, we look at five players who could be excellent fits in New England’s system.

Will Anderson Jr – Alabama LB

It’s no secret that players from Saban’s Crimson Tide fit well as Patriots on both sides of the ball. Donta Hightower and Christan Barmore look to play a crucial role again on the Patriots’ defense, while Mac Jones and Damien Harris will be critical for the offense. However, this particular Saban product may be a cut above even those names.

Likely, Anderson will be a contender for a top-five pick and the Heisman trophy. Belichick typically doesn’t go for such high-profile players, nor will the Patriots have a draft pick to get him. However, he’s the kind of player worth trading up for. His intelligence and work ethic mesh well with the Patriots, and his athleticism and pure power will make him a disruptive linebacker that the Patriots badly need to make dents on the prolific AFC offenses.

Arguably the most dominant player in all of college football, Anderson had a whopping 17.5 sacks in 2021 and did so against a set of solid SEC offensive lines. More importantly, his tape shows excellent power, elusiveness (raw speed and agility), and an ability to make big hits. He’s a natural pass rusher, and looking at his sacks, few missed blocks were involved, Will plowed through or dodged the lineman.

Having the ability at his position to rush in or drop back provides excellent versatility that makes him extremely hard to read, and he is able to not only get sacks but also stuff the run for tackles for loss, and even deflect the occasional pass. He is a leader in that Alabama defense and has an excellent work ethic.

Given his size, at 243 pounds, one whopping statistic is the fact that he is the fastest player on the entire Alabama team in terms of going from standstill to five yards at 10.7 mph. This is a rarity for his position and gives an insight into how he is so quickly able to penetrate opposing backfields. This combination of threats has made him unblockable at the college level, and he is a Heisman contender for this season.

Deuce Vaughn – Kansas State RB

What Deuce lacks in size, at 5’6″, he makes up for it with his electric speed and then some. He is following up an incredible season from last year, where he accounted for just under 1900 total yards and had 22 total touchdowns. He got it done in both the run and passing game, having 49 receptions with 9.6 yards per catch and running at an impressive six yards per carry.

The numbers don’t show the sheer impact that Vaughn has had on the Wildcats. Not often do we see running backs that don’t need holes opened up for them, but Vaughn is one of them. His ridiculous horizontal and vertical speed allows him to get to the edge sooner than any defender could and then scorch his way upfield. When he has a hole to run through, he can recognize it quickly and use his excellent agility to change direction and quickly gain a head of steam.

Even at his peak speed, he’s able to juke past defenders and for his size, he is extraordinarily good at getting the tough yards. As a pass catcher, he’s reliable, getting meaningful yards with catches both behind and ahead of the line of scrimmage. But, probably the most impressive thing I noticed in his tape was his ability to get open invariably. On multiple plays, Skylar Thompson, his quarterback, was under a lot of pressure and near a sack in what appeared to be a broken play, and somehow, off-screen, Vaughn was shedding his coverage and setting up for a big play.

For the Patriots, Vaughn can be an even more potent version of JJ Taylor, and with some of the struggles the Patriots offensive line has this offseason, the prospect of a running back who can get it done even when the play breaks down is appealing. And as Mac Jones has reached his success so far mainly by accurately distributing the ball to various weapons, Vaughn would create many more possibilities in the playbook for Mac and the Patriots’ offense.

Marvin Mims – Oklahoma WR

The Patriots dipped into the pot of Big 12 receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft with Tyquan Thornton, and at least in the offseason, it’s looked like a good pick. Another potential gem for the Patriots in that pot is Oklahoma receiver, Marvin Mims. With a total stat line of 69 receptions for 1315 yards and 14 TD, Mims didn’t put up the most mythical figures in his two years as a Sooner, primarily due to a large variety of weapons at Oklahoma. Still, he was a leader in the offense, and when he did catch the ball, he made a considerable impact, with 22.0 yards per catch.

On paper, he’s a very orthodox receiver, running exact and refined routes, but an examination of his tape shows he’s anything but conventional. He runs his routes with a high football IQ and can easily adapt to changes and breakdowns in the progressions of the play. He can be involved in all parts of the passing game, from mid-range slants and crossing routes to much deeper passes.

His speed and agility allow him to beat his man more often than not, but when he doesn’t, his reliable arms take care of the rest. His signature strength on the field is his ability to make impressive catches in traffic, even in double or triple coverage, and many times his catches have saved throws destined to lead to turnovers.

Furthermore, many of his best catches have come in critical moments, and one of the signature catches of his career came during the 2021 Red River Rivalry game against Texas, where he had a brilliant diving catch to complete a historic comeback and tie the game at 41. Much of his production came in game-defining moments or on third or fourth downs.

In Mims, the Patriots would gain a guy with versatility, disciplined route running and football IQ, his leadership and work ethic, and the loyalty that kept him away from the transfer portal and instead led him to want to lead the new era of OU football. These are all traits that mesh very well with the Patriot way. So, an underappreciated receiver relative to the likes of the bigger names in college football, Mims could be another one of Belichick’s diamonds in the rough.

John Michael Schmitz – Minnesota OG/C

After a rough offseason for the offensive line, the Patriots would certainly be looking for someone to bolster that unit. Schmitz certainly has the tools to do just that. At 6’4″, 320 lbs, he’s certainly a significant, imposing figure. He has been very successful as a Gopher and has built up meaningful experience on his way to being an all-Big Ten lineman.

He has a unique combination of being extremely strong and having quick feet. As a center, he reliably snaps the ball and immediately can pivot, find his man, and plant a clean block. Not only is he able to hold his ground and prevent himself from losing his matchup, but he also can push forward when needed, which helps him open up running lanes.

Despite significant injury issues in the Minnesota offense, especially to the running backs, he was a big part of a successful offensive line that sustained a strong rushing attack and did well in terms of preventing sacks, ranking in the top five of the conference in both areas. He’ll be looking to build on this past season to elevate the now-healthy Minnesota offense to even greater heights. He’s a natural leader on and off the field and would be an excellent addition to the Patriots.

McCallen Castles – UC Davis TE

The Patriots love finding talent in relatively unexplored places, the FCS being one of them. So a quick look will find them the imposing 6’5″, 240 lb tight end McCallen Castles. Castles has had an all-Big Sky career at UC Davis, and last year he caught 27 passes for 387 yards and four TDs, and was a significant contributor to their offense.

His size has allowed him to be an excellent blocking tight end, and he has good technique and fundamentals in that area. As a pass catcher, he has surprising speed for his size and can make an impact with both short and downfield passes. He has excellent hands and can make tough catches in traffic, and while his size certainly helps, he can snag the ball even in unfavorable situations.

His versatility, size, and reliable hands make him a very intriguing tight end prospect for the Patriots, who are thin at the position beyond Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

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