Saturday, May 10, 2014

Patriots inject depth, youth into O-line with Day 3 trio


The New England Patriots made their intent crystal clear Saturday -- get deeper and younger on the offensive line.

On the third day of the draft, New England scooped up three offensive linemen in the form of Florida State's Bryan Stork, Stanford's Cameron Fleming and Florida's Jon Halapio.

Stork, a center, and Fleming, a tackle, were had in the fourth round at No. 105 and No. 140, with Halapio entering the fold a little later in the sixth round at No. 179 overall.

Stork will likely start his pro career as Ryan Wendell's reserve, though his versatility could pit him as a possible backup to Dan Connolly and/or Logan Mankins. He'll play anywhere.

"It doesn’t matter," he said, via "I’m just here to play ball. That’s all it is."

Fleming, meanwhile, is a notable pickup given Sebastian Vollmer's recent injury issues and Marcus Cannon's entering a contract year. If he proves capable, Fleming could give the Patriots some leeway from a financial standpoint as Cannon contract nears expiration.

Barring injury, however, left tackle Nate Solder isn't going anywhere.

"I’m going to go there and play wherever they put me and learn from these guys," Fleming said. "... they have two great tackles. I know they do. Just to get a chance to learn from them and see what the NFL is all about. "

Stork was a Remington Trophy winner, a consensus All-American and a first team All-ACC selection in 2013. Fleming started 39 games in his career at Stanford and was an All-Pac 12 second team selection in 2013.

The 6-foot-3, 323-pound Halapio was a 43-game starter at Florida and will also jockey for a reserve position on the depth chart and could be possibly be groomed as Connolly's successor.

"Whether it is to be a backup or whatever my role may be, my mindset is to come up there and just start from the bottom and work hard every day and contribute to team success," he said.

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