3 prospects for Patriots fans to watch in Saturday's Senior Bowl

BY Cameron DaSilva • January 29, 2016

The New England Patriots enter draft season with a clear disadvantage: They don't have a first-round pick due to Deflategate. However, there are still plenty of talented prospects that will be around when the Patriots pick in the second round -- many of which are playing in the Senior Bowl on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Running back and wide receiver are two of the Patriots' biggest needs, and there will be several top players on display at both positions Saturday. Additionally, adding a cornerback in the offseason would certainly help the secondary.

These three players are worth keeping an eye on when the North and South squads square off this weekend.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

Outside of the injury-prone Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, the Patriots don't have much at wide receiver. Brandon LaFell was a huge disappointment this season and may not be back in 2016. Shepard isn't the biggest wide receiver at 5-foot-10, but his ball skills and route running are better than most prospects in the draft. He can play both outside and in the slot, which gives New England position flexibility, which the coaching staff loves. He can make an impact on Day 1, and could be around when the Patriots pick in the second round. This season at Oklahoma, he caught 86 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games, and also returned 19 punts for 148 yards.

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech

LeGarrette Blount will be a free agent in March, and at the age of 29, he's due to decline like many other running backs do at that point in their careers. Dixon is an intriguing prospect despite his smaller stature than Blount's. He forced 66 missed tackles at Louisiana Tech this season, per Pro Football Focus, and was the best back during practice this week. He can come in and be a first- and second-down back for New England with James White and Dion Lewis handling third-down duties. It would give the Patriots a dynamic trio with all three backs possessing the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Jalen Mills, DB, LSU

Bill Belichick loves defensive backs who can play multiple spots like Devin McCourty, which is exactly what Mills can do. He played both safety and corner at LSU, but he's expected to play the latter at the next level. He received rave reviews out of many in Mobile this week, showing tenacity and grit against opposing wideouts. He played just six games in 2015 after missing the start of the season due to injury, but still managed to make 30 tackles and three passes defensed. He has four career interceptions in four years as a starter for the Tigers. As a nickel defensive back, he fits what Matt Patricia wants to do on defense and can play multiple spots when need be.

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