NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The start of the 2012 NFL Draft is 11 days away. The draft process is nearing an end and with speculation constantly running high, we are all anxious to see how it plays out.
In today’s 15 thoughts, I take a look at 15 players whose names may be called by the New England Patriots on draft day and how they would fit in with the Patriots.
1) Michael Brockers, DE/DT, LSU
I really believe that Michael Brockers is the apple of Bill Belichick’s eye. Brockers potential combined with his measurements would make him the perfect Patriots defensive end. Brockers has all the talent in the world, but needs some time and coaching to develop. He has put on a lot of weight over the last three years and needs to learn how to play with it. He is just scratching the surface of his talent.
Brockers’ best tool is his length and size, which makes him an ideal fit for 3-4 defensive end. He’s not a player who was overly productive at LSU and was used on a rotational basis a lot. But let’s not forget that Richard Seymour was knocked coming out of college because he was unproductive and didn’t generate much of a pass rush, similar to the way Brockers has been knocked.
I am not comparing Brockers to Seymour, but giving the time and coaching Brockers could adequately fill the void that Seymour left when traded in 2009. Brockers played inside at LSU, but when I look at Brockers I see a 3-4 DE. There certainly figures to be a number of suitors for Brockers which limits the chances he makes it to pick #27. However, I believe Brockers will fall a little bit further than some project, just because he is raw and doesn’t offer much pass rush. If Bill Belichick decides to trade up I believe Brockers is one of the few players they would move up to get.
2) Nick Perry, DE, USC
News broke this week that USC DE Nick Perry visited the Patriots. I have been way ahead of the curve on this one suggesting that Perry would be of interest to the Patriots, since he is quite similar to former Trojan DE and current Minnesota Viking Everson Griffen.
The Patriots were close to drafting Griffen in the third round in 2010 before trading the pick. Perry would be a big addition to the Patriots front seven. Perry would be the edge rusher that so many Patriot fans have been begging for since Bill Belichick took over the drafts for the Patriots. Perry is a great athlete and put on a show at the combine finishing in the top 3-4 of every agility and speed drill.
A question that has been raised is why did Perry only have one year of production at USC, despite having such great metrics. He appears to me to be a little bit tight when pass rushing and needs to develop a secondary move. He does know how to use his upper body and his hands to free himself from blockers.
There has also been some talk of Perry standing up and playing OLB, which would make Nick Perry all the more attractive to the team. Perry’s draft stock is very fluid, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was off the board as high as #12 to the Seattle Seahawks. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he was on the board for the Patriots first selection at #27. If he does make it to the Patriots, I am positive he will be in the discussion for the pick.
3) Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
Shea McClellin’s name has come up the most over the last two weeks, when projecting the Patriots picks in the first round. McClellin is a smart, versatile, edge rusher who reminds some of a Mike Vrabel type player. Our own James Christensen has called him “a rich man’s Rob Ninkovich right now”, and I think that is a fair comparison.
I will say that McClellin brings a more athletic player and someone who has better natural pass rushing skills. McClellin was used in a variety of ways in the Boise defense, DE, OLB, MLB, sp Bill Belichick would be able to get creative with McClellin. He was called one of the most coachable players at the Senior Bowl, when he was asked to play MLB instead of his more familiar edge positions.
His stock has risen since then to the point where it would actually be a surprise if he didn’t go in the first round. There are so many teams starting with the Jets at 16 and the Chargers at 18 that will be looking to address the pass rush. I think it’s likely that McClellin is on the board with the first selection at 27 and he may tempt the Patriots there. I have been told that McClellin isn’t likely the first option on their board but, if the other guys are off the board he may be the guy.
4) Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse
Jones is someone whose name is starting to gain momentum with the Patriots in round one. I started off the draft process kind of on the fence with Chandler Jones. However, I have spent the last week or so watching a lot more film of him, including four full Syracuse games from this prior year. I came away much more impressed with Jones that I initially thought.
Jones is a big man standing 6’5″ 266 lbs and has those long JPP arms which he uses to knock down a lot of passes. He also uses his long arms well when pass rushing. He is able to get them into the OT pads and create separation and knock the tackle off balance. Jones isn’t the speed rusher that a Shea McClellin or Nick Perry is, but what Jones does is beats you with power and effort. I also saw Chandler Jones make a lot of plays in run support, he does a very good job of coming flat down the line of scrimmage when unblocked to make plays. He is pretty disciplined with pass rushing and is able to sniff out draws and screens. He has made a lot of tackles on screens, swing passes and tackles down field due to his motor and ability to chase down plays.
If the Patriots were to take Jones, he would most likely play a hybrid “elephant” type of roll, where he stands up on some plays, drops on some plays and puts his hand on the ground on others. That’s not to say I don’t have my concerns with Jones I do. But, Jones like Brockers is a player who I believe is just scratching the surface of his potential. Jones has also shot up draft boards rather quickly, but I think there is a good probability that Jones is there at #27 or #31 for the Patriots to make a decision on.
5) Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
Notice a trend beginning to develop? Mercilus is yet another edge rusher who has been linked to the Patriots. The Patriots went to his pro day in Champaign, Illinois and worked him out. Mercilus like Perry had only one year of production at Illinois. In that one year however, Mercilus was able to lead the nation in sacks with 16 total, which is a huge number for a player in his first year as a starter. Posting 16 sacks in one season turned a lot of heads and rocketed Mercilus’ stock up into the first round mix.
What really intrigues me about Mercilus is the possibility of standing him up and playing him at OLB. At 6’3″ 261 pounds, he certainly has the size that Bill Belichick likes his outside linebackers to have. Mercilus has a very good first step and can get off the ball quickly. He needs to get better against the run and play a more physical brand of football. Mercilus like many of the players mentioned here are far from a finished product, so he will be picked for his long term potential.
As a rookie Mercilus would likely be able to add some situational pass rush, while he develops the other areas of his game. I feel pretty confident that Mercilus will be there when the Patriots pick in the first round and he might even be a player the team could trade down a little bit and still get at the beginning of the second round.