Patriots beyond the first round: Linebacker

A majority of the media coverage entering the NFL draft focuses on the first round, so the "beyond the first round" series is meant to fill out the picture for the New England Patriots, who enter the draft with nine selections, beginning with the final selection of the first round (No. 32).

The "beyond the first round" series begins with off-the-line linebackers, attempting to identify good fits for the team:

Second round: Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State) -- The 6-foot-4 1/8 and 246-pound McKinney has good size for the position, which projects in part to playing downhill in the running game. He also runs well enough to immediately factor into the special-teams mix and could add important depth behind Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins in 2015 with upside for the future. He is a former teammate of Patriots second-year linebacker Deontae Skinner and enters the draft after his junior season.

Middle rounds: Jake Ryan (Michigan) -- A two-year captain, the 6-foot-2, 3/8 and 240-pound Ryan comes from a football family and started 36 of 38 games in the three seasons he was fully healthy for the Wolverines. He played defensive end, outside linebacker and inside linebacker at Michigan, and media analysts refer to him as a film junkie.

Middle rounds: Taiwan Jones (Michigan State) -- The 6-foot-2 5/8, 245-pound Jones played every game over his four-year college career, is viewed as a leader, and analysts project him as more of a downhill run-stuffer and core special teamer. Compared to most other off-the-line linebackers in the draft, he has good size.

Middle rounds: Kyle Emmanuel (North Dakota State) -- A small-school prospect, the 6-foot-3 1/4, 255-pound Emmanuel played in 61 career games with 49 starts, which is hard to beat from a games-played standpoint. A team captain, he has the makeup of a potential core special teams player, running well for his size (4.78 in the 40).

Late rounds: Trey Depriest (Alabama) -- The 6-foot-0 3/8, 254-pound Depriest is known for his strength, and is viewed by analysts as better in the run game than the passing game. Like the others on the list, he would project to a potential core special teams role.

Late rounds: Henry Coley (Virginia) -- A team captain, he is viewed by analysts as a prospect who enjoys studying film and working at his craft. His 4.95 time in the 40-yard dash might reflect some of his limitations, as his testing and physical makeup rate lower than others, but he makes up for it with production.