By Chris Warner
Today, we look at dominant pass rushers, creatures that have remained elusive to Coach Bill Belichick and his band of merry draftniks. The footballers chosen below aren’t meant as predictions (best to avoid those, judging by our track record); rather, they represent the level of talent available to the Pats in each round.
New England has two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), two in the second (48, 62), one in the third (93) and one in the fourth (126). They have traded away their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.
DAY ONE (Round One)
Overview: Plenty of athletic talent to choose from here, even in the latter part of the round where the Patriots make their picks. Some negatives include a lack of consistent production and some immaturity among certain candidates.
Nick Perry, USC (6-3, 270). Perry’s about as raw as a spicy tuna roll, but the Pats have to give him consideration. He ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash (faster than several defensive backs in this draft), benched 225 pounds 35 times (more than many linemen), and hovered 38.5 inches on his vertical leap.
He might be immature. He might have trouble learning the vagaries of New England’s defense. Who cares? Tell him to get the QB, then sit back and watch the opposition panic.
Chandler Jones, Syracuse (6-5, 266). Though his statistics fail to pop (4.87 40, 22 bench reps), Jones made the All Big East First Team as a defensive end and made an impact for the Orangemen. He has been mentioned as a late first-round pick and could fill the role as a bigger, versatile linebacker for the Patriots.
DAY TWO (Rounds Two and Three)
Overview: As one might expect, we go from spectacular to solid athletically, with Day Two candidates often lacking in one testing category or another.
Shea McClellin, Boise State (6-3, 260). Every Tom, Dick and Sully in New England wants a shot at this guy – and not just because of his last name. He’s got the right size for a 3-4 outside linebacker, he’s got speed (4.63 40) and quickness (7.07 seconds in the 3-cone drill, the same as many big running backs). Plus, he has publicly stated that he wants to copy former Patriot Mike Vrabel (cap tipped to Mike Reiss’ blog for pointing out the story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).
McClellin played outside linebacker and defensive end at Boise State, excelling in both. Two concerns: a relatively weak bench press (19 reps of 225 pounds) and questionable competition in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
Vinny Curry, Marshall (6-3, 266). Curry had an egg-timer-slow 40 (4.98 seconds), which raised more red flags than a Maoist rally. However, his quickness ranks near the top of his position (6.90 seconds in the 3-cone drill) and bodes well for beating offensive linemen off the edge. Like McClellin, the value of Curry’s opposition gets scrutinized.
In all, though, the Pats could spice things up with Curry.
(I know, I know: awful. Like we’re the first to come up with that.)
DAY THREE (Rounds Four through Seven)
Overview: A sharp drop in talent here, but some prizes might become available over the course of the first two days. A prime spot for “effort” guys who excelled in college but have some distance to make up at the NFL level.
Jake Bequette, Arkansas (6-4, 272). Bequette’s a hybrid who has battled injury recently, hindering some of his testing and making his availability questionable for this summer. The workout numbers he managed to register catch the eye, including a 4.82-second 40, a 4.07-second 20-yard shuttle and an impressive 6.90 3-cone drill.
Cam Johnson, Virginia (6-4, 268). Lots to like about the Cavaliers, including their association with former coach (and Belichick buddy) Al Groh, and those incredibly snappy uniforms. (Navy blue with a dash of orange? Be still my heart.)
Johnson did well in UVA’s defense but hasn’t shown the type of athleticism or consistency to contribute regularly in the NFL. As a long-term project, could find his way in a specialist role.
UNDRAFTED ROOKIE FREE AGENTS (UDFAs)
Overview: Every year, New England finds someone who missed draft boards but makes the roster. Definitely some talent worth a look here.
Donte Paige-Moss, UNC (6-3, 268). Paige-Moss hurt his ACL and might not play this season, but his athleticism warrants some inspection (including a 4.67 in the 40). Came out as a junior despite an off year after a notable sophomore season. Could be worth the time, if a team seeks a long-term project.
Broderick Binns, Iowa (6-1, 261). Consider Iowa as a New England farm team for linebackers, with Jeff Tarpinian making the club last year and A. J. Edds stopping by for a cup of coffee (less time than that, actually – a shot of espresso?). Despite his shorter stature, Binns had five sacks and a remarkable eight pass knockdowns his senior season.
Our Call: The Patriots have too great a need to wait on this position. Yes, picking in the first round means taking a chance, but New England has proven that holding out for “value” can be just as treacherous (ask any fan about Jermaine Cunningham and/or Shawn Crable. Oh, wait: don’t).
With two picks in the first round, the Patriots must make a call on Day One to improve their pass-rushing.
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Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org