Dec 26, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Aaron Donald (97) during the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against the Bowling Green Falcons at Ford Field. Pittsburgh Panthers defeated Bowling Green Falcons 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: If Not A Tight End, Then Who?

Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert (4) reacts during the game against the Missouri Tigers in the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Missouri won 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like it is a given that the Patriots will select a tight end with their first pick in this year’s NFL Draft., as everybody has them taking either Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, or Troy Niklas in the first round (this is including me). The Pats need a tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski, and there are quite a few talented prospects that will be available to draft. But what if New England goes in a different direction? With Bill Belichick as the head coach, anything is possible, so here are a few guys that the Patriots may target who don’t play the tight end position.

1. Aaron Donald, DT

Gaining depth at the defensive tackle position is need number two for the Pats. Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly should be back for the 2014 season, but in case of another big injury, New England can’t go through another season ranked 30th in the league in run defense. Donald is a talented young guy, and while he is a bit undersized, his ability to rush the passer from the inside could be a valuable asset for the Patriots’ defense.

2. Justin Gilbert, CB

I doubt Gilbert will slip all the way down to the 29th pick, but if he does, New England would be wise to snatch him up. Even if Aqib Talib is brought back, you can never have enough cover corners in today’s NFL, and while still a bit raw, Gilbert’s potential is limitless.

3. Trent Murphy, DE

Murphy doesn’t have a great physical build, and he isn’t the most explosive guy on the field, but he knows how to play defense. He could be used as a pass rusher, as well as an outside linebacker in the Bill Belichick defensive system, and as a Stanford graduate, you know he will be a smart guy.

4. Ra’Shede Hageman, DT

Hageman is another pocket pushing defensive tackle, which the Pats could obviously use going into the 2014 season. Mike Mayock of has Hageman ranked as the fourth best defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, just behind Aaron Donald.

5. Louis Nix III, DT

Unlike Donald and Hageman, Nix is much more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. He weighs in at 345 pounds, which immediately triggers a comparison to Vince Wilfork in my mind. Mayock has Nix ranked as the best defensive tackle among the defensive prospects, and the idea of Nix playing next to Wilfork is an enticing one if you are a Patriots fan.

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Tags: Aaron Donald Justin Gilbert Louis Nix III New England Patriots NFL Draft Ra'shede Hageman Trent Murphy

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