3rd Round (94)
Audie Cole, LB, NC State
Cole is one of the few linebackers in this class with prototypical Patriots size. He’s a versatile player who can likely play inside or out in a 3-4 and fits the Patriots system well.
Cole displayed surprising athleticism at the combine, especially in the 3 cone, which is something the Patriots value highly. He also showed up well at the Senior Bowl displaying surprising fluidity and flexibility.
After seeing Gary Guyton, Tracy White and Niko Koutouvides play valuable snaps last season, it’s obvious the Patriots lack depth throughout their front seven. Cole can provide that depth as a situational player, especially on running downs. His biggest skill is getting inside and fighting off blockers with his hands and length. He’s a superior run defender, who could also do some damage blitzing from the outside.
4th Round (126)
Derek Wolfe, DE, Cincinnati
One thing that can go a long way in improving the Patriots pass rush, is getting after the QB from the inside. Wolfe provided that and more at Cincinnati, gathering 9.5 sacks his senior season.
With Mike Wright retiring and Myron Pryor an injury risk anytime he steps foot on the field, the Patriots need depth at that interior pass rush position.
Wolfe showed up at the combine 295 pounds, and then was down to 280 at his pro day, which is a bit alarming. With NFL training, he should be able to stay around that 290 mark, which is prototypical for a Patriots interior pass rusher. Wolfe doesn’t have an explosive first step, but he does a nice job fighting inside with his hands and length.
Wolfe could be a situational player for the Patriots, and add increased depth along the front seven.
Chris Owusu, WR, Stanford
Owusu adds further depth to the Patriots WR corp, and adds another over 6’0” player with plus speed and experience in a pro style offense. Owusu runs crisp routes and displays soft hands. He’s best in short and intermediate routes, but his speed can also help take the top off the defense.
The biggest concern with Owusu is his concussion history, but if he can stay healthy at the pro level, he could be an absolute steal in the 5th round.
We’ve seen the Patriots take late round risks for numerous reasons lately whether they be drug concerns (Hernandez), cancer (Cannon) or getting shot (Deaderick). We can add concussion history to that list after Owusu is chosen.
Olivier Vernon, OLB, Miami
Vernon is another player who will drop, this time because of suspension due to the Miami pay scandal. He’s a talented player, who’s senior season was a bit of a wash because of his suspension.
He has tremendous upside as a prospect, and flashed that as a junior with 10.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. He uses his hands and length well to get into the backfield and should be able to transition into a stand up pass rusher in the Patriots system due to his athleticism.
Vernon impressed at the combine running a 4.68 and had great vertical and broad jumps. He’ll be a bit of a risk due to his character concerns and lack of tape his senior season, but he could very well be worth it.