Patriots Draft Targets: Defensive Tackles
After two nights and three rounds of the NFL Draft, we've seen a lot. There's been hilarious shots of coaches and general managers in their homes, there's been dogs, there's been controversial selections and teams loading up with talent. We've seen way too much of Roger Goodell and ESPN has pushed way too many depressing stories on us. 106 picks have been made and the Pats finally got in on the fun with five of their own.
At this stage, most fans are tuning out on Saturday and just getting the updates on their phones. It makes sense, because rounds 4-7 start at noon today and aren't all that exciting. A lot of the big names are gone and most of the picks won't illicit much reaction. However, this is the most interesting part of the draft. It's where Bill Belichick makes his magic and wins Super Bowls. I don't need to list the great players that have gone late because there are simply too many.
When it comes to writing about prospects though, the well is pretty dry. I'll try to delve into the details and find some guys that make sense. We'll start with defensive tackles, because it's something the Patriots did not address on Night 2 and it remains a big need.
PLAYERS THEY "MISSED" OUT ON: Derrick Brown, Javon Kinlaw, Ross Blacklock, Raekwon Davis, Justin Madubuike, Davon Hamilton, Neville Gallimore, Jordan Elliott
PLAYERS TO TARGET
Jason Strowbridge - When we get to this point in the draft, we have to look at best available, regardless of if we personally believe he's a fit or going to be a good pro. You just have to look at talent first and foremost and therefore, Strowbridge might be the leader of the pack. The other thing about this point in the draft is that all of these players are going to have major concerns and question marks. That's why they are here.
With Strowbridge, the first thing you notice is that he is WAY too light for an interior lineman. At 275 lbs, he needs to bulk up big time. The lack of weight doesn't really help his quickness or burst either. He's been described as out of control and awkward with his footwork as well. The good thing? All of this can be improved.
His upsides include great strength, toughness, and motor. He's got great hands and reaction time that allow him to beat blockers at the point of attack. The reason I'm not high on him? From what he's said pre-draft, it seems like he'd rather stay lean and play defensive end, which he did quite a bit at UNC. Versatility is nice, but I think the Pats should be looking for a big body to put in the middle first and foremost.
Rashard Lawrence - Once again, I love players coming out of the SEC and I definitely love a guy that contributed to a historically great team like last year's LSU squad. Lawrence wasn't just great last year though, as he's been making plays since he was a freshman. As a sophomore, he was a team captain and then really came on as a junior while posting 54 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, 4.5 sacks and three pass breakups. He capped that year as the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP and then took a bit of a slide as a senior due to injury, but still contributed heavily.
His big downsides are injuries, and like Strowbridge, bad footwork and an out of control pace that can lead to mistakes. To be honest though, it's easy to find positives about Lawrence and it makes me think he will be the Patriots pick. His scouting report is littered with key words like "team player," "warrior," "character," "worker," and "hustle." His size is proportional and right about what you'd want. He's powerful on the punch and lift and is quick with his hands. I'm all in.
Robert Windsor - Windsor is on the lighter side like Strowbridge, and needs to add weight. However, he's was great at the combine and his technique seems to be advanced enough to make up for the lack of power. Speed and agility seem to be his strong suit but he's certainly going to be a work in progress if he wants to push with the big boys.
Larrell Murchison - Like Windsor, Murchison had a Zoom or Skype or FaceTime or whatever conversation with the Patriots before the draft. He spent time at JUCO before transferring to NC State for his last two seasons. The downsides are aplenty as he doesn't really have any of the measurable, athleticism or for lack of a better word, natural talent. It's more about effort with Murchison, which is commendable but may not do the job.
He performed in big games and obviously grinded to get this far but it's unclear if his production will translate to the NFL. I love the fact that he's high energy and doesn't take any plays off. His moves at the line of scrimmage look good and he's one of those players that is just determined to find a way by his blocker regardless of how he has to do it. If he wasn't a "tweener" that has already gotten the most out of his potential, I'd be really interested. Heart only goes so far though and I'm thinking Murchison might just be a guy who had a nice college career.
THE PLAYER THEY SHOULD TAKE: RASHARD LAWRENCE
THE PLAYER THEY WILL TAKE: RASHARD LAWRENCE