While there’s a good chance the New England Patriots will trade the 28th pick in the NFL Draft on April 28, if Bill Belichick holds on to the pick taking offensive lineman Danny Watkins is a selection that would make a lot of sense.
Watkins, a 6-foot-3, 310 pound guard out of Baylor, would be able to step in immediately and start on New England’s offensive line. At 26 years old, Watkins is older than most draft prospects and is expected to be taken sometime in the late first round or early second round.
Originally from British Columbia, Watkins played a season at Butte College, a small community college in northern California where Aaron Rodgers once played, before transferring to Baylor where he played two seasons for the Bears.
Watkins worked as a firefighter in Canada before beginning his football career and will be bringing a few of the firemen he used to work with to New York with him for the draft.
While some have questioned Watkins draft stock because of his age, he has all the physical tools, strength and skills to be a starting offensive guard at the NFL level.
Watkins started all 25 games of his Baylor career at left tackle after replacing Jason Smith when he was drafted second overall by the Rams in the 2009 Draft, but by all accounts Watkins is expected to play guard in the NFL. His flexibility and experience at the tackle position make him a more valuable player in the eyes of scouts with the number of injures that occur in the NFL.
It’s no secret to Pats fans that the Patriots have some serious issues on their offensive line. The team’s current depth at the guard position consists of Pro Bowler Logan Mankins (who may or may not be back with the team), Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell.
Veteran Stephen Neal announced his retirement from the NFL in March, leaving the Pats with some serious question marks at the position. If Mankins returns to the Patriots (depending on the new CBA and his franchise players status), Watkins could compete with Connolly for time at right guard. If Mankins does not come back, Watkins could start immediately alongside Connolly at one of the guard positions.
His ability to play tackle would also be a valuable asset as the Patriots are thin at the position. Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer are the only tackles with significant experience on New England’s current roster.
For more about the 2011 NFL Draft, be sure to check out the hornface.com NFL Mock Draft.