NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
In recent weeks we’ve talked about all the statistics, measurements and testing numbers the New England Patriots look for when drafting players. It’s time to narrow the scope and look at 15 players.
This week I will be looking specifically at defenders, in the 2012 draft who have a legitimate shot at hearing their name called by the Patriots during the April draft.
Please note that this list is not in any specific order based on their likelihood of being drafted by the Patriots. I am simply looking at players based on all the information I have gathered to this point in the process and combining it with what I know the Patriots look for in college players.
1) Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. Barron is the consensus top safety in this year’s draft and safety is the biggest need on the Patriots roster. Barron was a four year starter at the University of Alabama, so he has a lot of big game experience. Having been coached by Nick Saban for four years, Barron understands the type of work ethic and commitment the Patriots will ask of him.
While Barron is considered a SS, he has shown the ability throughout his career of being a ball hawk. He was able to intercept 12 passes throughout his career including seven in his Sophomore season. Barron is also a strong in the box safety, playing the run, shooting gaps and blitzing. Bill Belichick has shown that he will draft a safety in the first round as he did with Brandon Meriweather in 2007.
Barron is a far superior player and much more pro ready than Meriweather. With Barron’s leadership, experience, ability to move around the defense, he’s a natural fit for the Patriot organization.
2) Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
In my latest 15 thoughts article I touched on the comparison of Nick Perry to former USC DE Everson Griffen, whom the Patriots were ready to draft in 2010. Their numbers are strikingly similar in every aspect, so naturally one would think that Perry could interest the Patriots.
Perry has only had one year of big time production at USC and is one of these DE-OLB converts that will have to play a new position in the NFL. Perry proved at the combine that he is one of the best athletes among front seven defenders in this draft, so he likely has the ability to play standing up in the NFL.
Perry might end up going before the Patriots even have a chance to take him. However, if he does last until the Patriots pick at #27 he is a player that the Patriots could pull the trigger on.
3) Michael Brockers, DL, LSU
Brockers is a player whose stock has peaked and is now coming back down to earth. When Brockers entered the draft he immediately shot to the top of draft boards. Now that people have had a chance to further evaluate Brockers his stock has seemed to settle somewhere in the 20-30 range.
Entering the draft after his Sophomore season, Brockers is still a relatively raw player, especially technique wise. He is a player that will take some coaching but has a very high ceiling. With his 6’5″ 322 pound frame and his 35″ arms, I actually think Brockers best position in the NFL is as a 5-Tech DE in a 3-4 system.
The Patriots have had a revolving door at the DE spot since they traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders and I have to think part of the reason for them playing more 4-3 last season is that they didn’t have any 3-4 DEs they trusted on the roster.
Getting younger on the defensive line is going to be important this off season as players such as Gerard Warren and Andre Carter are UFA and Mike Wright has already been released. With Ron Brace looking like a bust and Myron Pryor unable to stay healthy, the DL is a major area of need. If Brockers is there are #27 or #31 it will be tough to pass on him.