By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The Patriots continue to meet with prospects ahead of next Thursday's NFL Draft, and the latest meeting was with a player who could go in the first round.
Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu had a private meeting with the Patriots on Thursday, according to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. The team has previously met with UMass safety Khary Bailey-Smith.
What makes the team's reported meeting with Melifonwu interesting is that he is considered one of the top safety prospects in the entire draft. CBS Sports' NFL Draft prospect rankings have Melifonwu 35th overall and third at the safety position. At 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, he's a physical freak and good tackler who projects to cover well against tight ends. NFL.com's draft profile projects Melifonwu as a second-round prospect.
The Patriots' interest in Melifonwu is also peculiar because the team appears set at the position for 2017. Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, and Jordan Richards are all currently under contract for next season.
If the Patriots are interested enough in Melifonwu, they will almost certainly need to trade back up into the first or second round to have a chance at drafting him. That's where speculation about the team still planning on trading Malcolm Butler to the Saints for the 32nd overall pick comes back into play.
The Patriots' highest draft pick is currently at No. 72. Bill Belichick may just be doing his homework on players that could be available to him down the road, but he sure looks like he's prepared to have a first or second-round pick by the time the draft kicks off next Thursday in Philadelphia.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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