New England Patriots Draft Needs: Defensive Line

Over the next few days I will be considering the biggest draft day needs for the New England Patriots and assessing what players could possibly get drafted to address those needs.  Today’s entry will focus on the defensive line.

Vince Wilfork is and will continue to be a staple on the defensive line for years to come.  Ty Warren’s return from injury will improve the talent level along that line as well.  With the high level of talent and depth of 3-4 defensive lineman in this draft, picking up one of those players could prove to be a great move towards improving the Pats’ defense in 2011.  Here’s a look at a few guys that could be new additions to the Patriots come 2011:

Name: Cameron Jordan

Position: 4-3 DT/DE / 3-4 DE

School: California

Year: Senior

Size: 6’4” 285 lbs

Projected Round: 1st

Analysis: Jordan has the size and strength to be an effective 3-4 defensive end, and he also possess the agility and quickness to push the pocket and pressure the quarterback.  Managed 34 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks over the course of his career.  Already has familiarity with the 3-4 scheme, as Cal runs a 3-4.  With a decent 40 time Jordan could be considered by 4-3 teams to play end, and by adding 15 lbs, defensive tackle also.  Jordan will need to put on some bulk to play the run effectively, but is a candidate to contribute immediately.  With Nick Fairley and Marcel Dareus likely off of the board, Jordan will be battling with JJ Watt and Adrian Clayborn to prove who is the best 3-4 end left on the board.

Name: JJ Watt

Position: 4-3 DE / 3-4 DE

School: Wisconsin

Year: Redshirt Junior

Size: 6’6” 292 lbs

Projected Round: 1st

Analysis: Second team All-American JJ Watt burst onto the season with Wisconsin this past season.  At 6’6”, 292 lbs, Watt is best known for his burst off of the line and his relentless pass rushing.  Watt has the frame to add another 15-20 lbs, which would place him in Richard Seymour territory in terms of size.  Watt consistently neutralized offensive lineman on run plays, but his lateral quickness was sometimes lacking.  With a little polishing, JJ Watt could be a force in the league.  Won the Lott IMPACT Award for integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity among college defenders.  Academic All Big-Ten in 2009 and 2010.  High character guy.

Name: Adrian Clayborn

Position: 4-3 DE/DT / 3-4 DE

School: Iowa

Year: Senior

Size: 6’4” 285 lbs

Projected Round: 1st

Analysis: First team All-American Adrian Clayborn comes from a pedigree of defensive players at Iowa, led by head coach Kirk Ferentz, who happens to be a friend of coach Bill Belichick.  Clayborn has great hands that he knows how to use, utilizing rip and swim moves to dominate offensive lineman.  He may be the best run defender of the players that will be mentioned on this list.  Clayborn is active against the run, using his strength and quickness to shed blockers.  Clayborn’s explosiveness is still questioned, something that I will be looking for at the combine.

Name: Cameron Heyward

Position: 4-3 DE / 3-4 DE

School: Ohio State

Year: Senior

Size: 6’5” 290 lbs

Projected Round: 1-2

Analysis: Before returning to school for the 2010 season, Cameron Heyward was considered to be a lock top 15 pick.  Heyward’s dominance wasn’t the same in 2010, but that doesn’t mean he’s a slouch.  Recent surgery on his elbow because of a hyperextension suffered in the Sugar Bowl.  At 6’5”, 290lbs, Heyward’s speed is obviously in question but his pure ability can’t be denied.  He has great feet and hands for a guy his size, which translates to him being a decent pass rusher, and then combined with his exceptional strength, Heyward is stout against the run.  Surprisingly, one of Heyward’s biggest strengths is his quickness off of the line of scrimmage.  Heyward was a four year starter on one of the best defenses in college.  Late in the first round, or with the first pick in the second round, Cameron Heyward would be a great selection.

Name: Kenrick Ellis

Position: 4-3 DT / 3-4 NT

School: Hampton

Year: Senior

Size: 6’5” 335 lbs

Projected Round: 3rd

Analysis: If a team is in need of a nose tackle in the 2011 draft, big Kenrick Ellis is among the short list of guys that you need to take a look at.  Originally a South Carolina Gamecock, Ellis was dismissed from the program due to off the field issues, and landed at Hampton.  As a senior, Ellis posted 94 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, and two sacks, earning first team All-MEAC for the second consecutive year.  Obviously, at 335 lbs Ellis is a very strong guy, but he has quick feet for a guy his size and shows surprising agility (similar to the scouting report of Vince Wilfork out of Miami).  Character concerns are the difference between Ellis being a late first rounder or a third rounder, but either way he is a supreme talent.

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2 Responses

  1. […] is a breakdown of the deals… _________________________________________ To […] […] BrickNew England Patriots Draft Needs: Defensive Line February 18, 2011Over the next few days I will be considering the biggest draft day needs for the […]

  2. […] is a breakdown of the deals… _________________________________________ To […] […] BrickNew England Patriots Draft Needs: Defensive Line February 18, 2011Over the next few days I will be considering the biggest draft day needs for the […]

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