With just two days until the NFL draft, I’ll be taking a position by position look at the draft, and see which players fit the Patriots mold, and which players the Patriots are interested in. Lets start with DE/OLB, a position the Patriots are clearly targeting. In the 3-4 alignment, the Patriots will surely look for these players to play the outside linebacker position. Here is a list of players the Patriots are/may be targeting:
Chris Long (Top 5):
If a miracle happened, and Long fell to the Patriots, and the Pats took him, where would he fit in? He is best suited for the 3-4, but probably at end, although some experts have said he coulld be transitioned to outisde linebacker in the 3-4. But I doubt that, as I believe he lacks the foot speed to play that position.
Vernon Gholston (Top 10):
Simply stated, Gholston is a premier edge rusher. He is fast (best 40 time of all linebackers and de’s), as well as the strongest. Gholston is explosive, has great instincts, and is a solid tackler. If drafted, he would immediately start on the outside, allowing Thomas to move back inside, although Gholston could put his hand down and Thomas would shift to the outside at times. The only knock on Gholston is inconsistency, as he sometimes takes himself out of games. If he is around at seven, I think the Patriots will select him.
Derrick Harvey (1st Round):
The Patriots have shown a lot of interest in Harvey, and he looks to be a potential target if the Patriots traded down to the 12-18 range. His main pro is quickness off the edge. He is a great pass rusher, can shed blocks well, and has good patience (all good strength for a 3-4 edge linebacker.) The only knock on Harvey is his merely adequate playing strength, his poor pass coverage abilities and his frame. He is 6’5″, so it may be harder for him to switch to linebacker, although the speed is certainly there.
Quentin Groves (Mid-Late 1st Round):
Groves is a guy that I REALLY REALLY like. If Gholston isn’t there at 7, I really think we should trade down to 15-20 to get this guy. I would even consider drafting him at seven, he’s that good. First, he is fast, very fast. He has good burst but great speed, and can rush the edge well. He also has great instincts which is a plus. He’s great with his hands, a very smart player. Best of all, he’s an amazing working. He will lay himself out on the line every play, regardless of the situation. The knocks on him are size and chest strength. The whole size thing only comes into play if he’s selected by a 4-3 team, but in a 3-4 scheme, he could be an immediate superstar.
Cliff Avril (Late 1st-2nd round):
Avril is more of an OLB/DE, which is a good thing. He has good quickness off the edge, but lacks some passrushing skills. However, he is a smart player who is versatile, and should be a good linebacker at the pro level. The Patriots have showed a lot of interest in Avril, so he could be a trade target from anywhere in the late first to mid second round.
Lawrence Jackson (Mid 2nd Round-Early third round): Jackson is very hard to project. He can rush the passer, but is inconsistent. His foot speed isn’t the best, although he has a nice burst. He is a good tackler, but can’t shed double teams. A lot of people think he can make the shift to being a 3-4 OLB, but I don’t think he can do it very well.
Shawn Crable (3rd Round):
Crable is strong, and has the ability to fight through double teams as well as take on blockers. He times his blitzes well, has good instincts, has good speed, is a great tackler, and is good in coverage. The knock on him is agility, and the ability to pass rush. I think he would be a great fit for the Pats at the edge linebacker position in the 3-4, and would be a solid pick.
Jason Jones (3rd Round):
Jones only has adequate quickness, and is only an average pass rusher. Nonetheless, I like what he brings to the table in terms of run defense, and mechanics. Some analysts have said he can play DT, DE, or OLB. Crazy enough, I think he could make the transition to inside linebacker in the 3-4, crazy enough. Maybe he is the big inside presence the Patriots need… or maybe not.
Titus Brown (3rd Round):
Brown is versatile, having played ILB, OLB, and DE in college. He has OK speed, but can beat blockers off the edge. Has a good work ethic, but he isn’t too physical. Brown is an interesting prospect, but he should find his way onto the field somehow, most likely as a linebacker. I think he would be a decent fit, especially if he fell to the fourth round.
Darrell Robertson (3rd Round):
Robertson is athletic, agile, and has good coverage ability. I think he could be a very good fit for the Patriots. He speed and pass rushing abilities aren’t too great, but as I said, he makes up for that with his athleticism. I think the Patriots could consider him at 69, and should definately take a long look if he is around at 94.
Chris Ellis (3rd Round):
Ellis has blazing speed, which could allow him to be a 3-4 OLB, but would he be an ideal fit in that system? He’s a little big for the system, has poor instincts, and doesn’t have good block-shedding mechanics.
Bruce Davis (3rd-4th Round):
I like Bruce Davis a lot, and the Patriots have shown a lot of interest in him. He looks like he can easily make the transition to outside linebacker, as he has a wide build, and is a strong tackler. He doesn’t have great foot speed, but I think his emotion and love for the game will more than make up for that. The Patriots should seriously consider drafting Davis at the #94 slot.
Bryan Smith (4th round)
I think Smith projects as an outisde linebacker mostly because of his size at 6-2 and about 230 lbs. However, he has a nice first step, can close out tackles, and has great instincts. He will be a project, but I think he is worth consideration in the 4th round.
Jeremy Thompson (4th Round):
Thompson is a solid player all around. He is a solid tackler, has a good first step, has fluid hips and is therefore good in coverage, and has good instincts. I think he could develop into a solid starter at the next level.
Tommy Blake (5th-6th Round):
Following his junior season, Blake looked like he could be a first round pick. But things fell apart when he was diagnosed with depression and other serious medical condition. He put on a lot of weight, lost his endurance, as well as his speed. Blake would be a risk for the Patriots, but if he got back on track, he could have the potential to be good.
Marcus Howard (6th Round):
Howard shows AMAZING footspeed. He seems to have good instincts, and is a great pass rusher off the edge. At 5-11″, he is undsersized, but with OK coverage skills, looks like he is a possible linebacker prospect whom the Patriots should take a look at on the second day.
Joe Clermond (7th Round):
Clermond is an effort guy, who is a good tackler, and gets good sack production. However, he isn’t too fast, is not consistent, and will struggle in pass coverage. He is worth giving a look later on, but doesn’t look like he is an ideal upgrade or future at linebacker.
Brandon Miller (7th Round):
Miller has linebacker experience, but looks like he might be more productive as a DE. He is strong verse the run but has bad instincts and bad coverage skills.
Jeremy Geathers (7th Round):
Geathers is athletic, and has good upper body stength. Good first step, but is sometimes weak at the point of attack. Still, he is an ok pass rusher, and I think he could be a late gem, if the Pats decide to go in his direction.
Martail Burnett (7th Round):
Burnett is an intriguing prospect. He has some instincts, as well as great athleticism and leaping ability. He is also good in coverage, despite his large frame (which is a plus). However, he is inconsistent, and sometimes lacks power.
Hilee Taylor (7th Round – undrafted)
He is a good pass rusher who shows good effort. But he is small, mechanical, and is not a good tackler. He could be a 7th round or free agent option for the Patriots.