The Patriots added some much-needed youth and depth to a couple of offensive positions in the fourth round of the NFL draft Saturday.
They selected offensive linemen Bryan Stork, of Florida State, and Cameron Fleming, of Stanford, and running back James White, of Wisconsin, with their three fourth-round picks.
Stork and Fleming are huge, and look to add to the competitiveness of the offensive line, which struggled at times last year. They are also the first offensive linemen drafted by the Patriots since 2011, when they took Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon.
Stork is a 6-foot-4, 315-pound center. Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about him is this note from his Draft Profile: "The game is important to him.”
That’s something the Bill Belichick constantly says about players that he likes. And if football is important to Stork, then Belichick will surely like him.
Stork did not participate in the NFL Combine this year because of injuries to his left knee and both shoulders. Speaking to the Patriots media Saturday, he said, "Yeah, I’m fine. It’s not a big deal. I’m a ball player.”
He made 40 career starts in college, some at guard, which gives him the versatility the Patriots crave in their ofensive linemen. He was awarded the Rimington Trophy as the top center in college football.
Fleming, meanwhile, is 6-5, 323 pounds. He is a three-year starter in a Pro-style offense, which bodes well for an adjustment to the NFL.
He’s considered a great drive blocker and is very smart: he is earning a degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford.
White gives the Patriots some needed depth in the backfield and projects as third-down, change-of-pace back. He’s 5-9, 204 pounds and is a good North-South runner.
He’s also considered a good pass blocker, something the Patriots highly value in their backs.
He rushed for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. He finished fourth in school history in rushing yards (4,015) and third in rushing touchdowns (45).
Perhaps even more important: he fumbled only twice in 754 career touches. The Patriots demand ball security from anyone who is going to carry it.
Both Stork and White were projected as late-round selections, so the Patriots took them much higher than anyone anticipated.
Fleming was projected to go as high as the second round, but dropped nicely to the Patriots.