With their second pick in the second round, the Patriots took California RB Shane Vereen 56th overall. The Pats were expected to take a back, as the futures of Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk are all uncertain. As good as BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead were last season, the team still needs another back, especially the way Bill Belichick likes to split carries. Vereen's receiving abilities and maturity fit the mold of a Patriots back. Here is PFW draft expert Nolan Nawrocki's scouting report on Vereen.
Notes: Also excelled in track as a California prep. Redshirted in 2007. Played all 13 games in '08, starting three, and rushed 142 times for 715 yards (5-yard average) and four touchdowns with 27 receptions for 221 yards (8.2) and a touchdown. In '09, was voted the Bears' offensive co-MVP along with Lions '10 first-rounder Jahvid Best - carried 183-952-12 (5.2) with 25-244-2 (9.8) receiving. Added 24 kickoff returns for 551 yards (23.0) and two punt returns for 10 yards (5.0) in 13 games (three starts). Started all 12 games in '10 and toted 231-1,167-13 (5.1) with 22-209-3 (9.5) receiving. Team captain. Also was a sprinter on the Cal track team. Graduated.
Positives: Controlled mover with nice foot quickness, balance and body control. Sticks his foot in the dirt and cuts upfield. Good lateral agility. Good vision - stays square to the line, reads blocks and sees cutback lanes. Competitive - will lower his shoulder and fight for yards. Very effective receiver - can split out and has soft hands. Good production. Has kick-return experience. Bench-pressed 225 pounds 31 times, best among running backs at the Combine. Mature, articulate and grounded.
Negatives: Small-framed and lacks bellcow bulk. Average burst and acceleration. Lacks NFL-caliber perimeter speed and does not pull away from the pack. Gears down to change direction. Leg drive/extension is just adequate. Not an exceptionally strong runner or tackle breaker. Too often whiffs in pass protection. Ordinary creativity.
Summary: An average-sized, one-cut, stretch-zone runner without a home-run gear who was quietly productive when teamed with Best and had a strong junior season as the featured back. Lacks exceptional traits but is a good receiver and can be effective in a zone ground game such as that of the Redskins, Packers or Texans.
NFL projection: Third- to fourth-round pick.