Drafting Defensive Linemen: A Patriots Case Study

Wilfork Warren Warren

What were the Patriots looking for physically when drafting Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren?

NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed

If there is one position that can change an entire defense, it’s up front at defensive line.

The Patriots have drafted 16 defensive linemen during the Belichick-era, and it seems like they may be looking to draft a couple more this season.

The needs are there, Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love are replaceable starters, Vince Wilfork has been playing out of position at 3-tech and 5-tech, and even after signing Jonathan Fanene, they could still use some more interior pass rush.

Over the last few years, Belichick has looked at his defensive line as space-eaters and run defenders. I think that is half scheme decision and half personnel based. Last season, the Patriots main interior rushers Mike Wright and Myron Pryor were injured early, and Shaun Ellis was very ineffective at rushing the passer.

In trying to see who the Patriots might look after in the draft this season, I wanted to look back on those 16 defensive linemen they’ve taken in the past to see if we could find any patterns.


Ten of the 16 defensive linemen have been over 6’3”. That may seem obvious that they would be looking at NT under 6’3” and 3 and 5-techs over 6’3” but that’s not necessarily the case.

Myron Pryor is an interior rusher in the Pats system at 6’0 ¼” whereas Ron Brace is a nose at 6’3”

Length does not seem a key aspect, but Marquise Hill and Richard Seymour were the tallest at over 6’6”. Dan Klecko was by far the shortest at 5’11 ½”.


Lately, Belichick has been looking at defensive linemen over 300 pounds exclusive, but it hasn’t always been that way (or weigh).

The first four DL the Pats drafted under Belichick were all under 300 pounds, but the last player under 300 pounds drafted was Kareem Brown during the Pats horrendous 2007 draft.

Since 2007, the Pats have taken five players all over 300 pounds. In total, 10 of the sixteen players drafted were over 300 pounds.

The real outliers here are Jarvis Green and again, Klecko. Klecko is understandable since he’s shorter, he can fit more strength into that 283 lbs. Green was just 272 coming out of college as a 7-tech defensive end. The Pats made him a 5-tech pass rusher, so it may be interesting to look at some lighter prospects this year who could potentially add more weight to their frame and become third down interior rushers.


There does not seem to be a major pattern here, but seven of the eleven players measured had arms over 33”.


Once again, there doesn’t seem to be a major pattern here, but athleticism might be a small factor.

Ron Brace and Kareem Brown are by far the slowest DL that Patriots have drafted. Four players have run 40 times under five seconds, Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, Dan Klecko, Le Kevin Smith and Kade Weston.

It seems the average time for a Pats DL prospect is around 5.0 or 5.1, but do not be surprised if the Pats take a much faster or slower prospect.


This part seems a lot more important. We only have the times for seven players and five have them have fun their first ten yards at 1.76 or faster. Once again, Brace and Brown are the slowest, and neither player has been effective in the league.


Both of these measurements are all over the place. They’re supposed to measure explosion.

The measurements for the vertical range from 25.5” (Darryl Richard) all the way to 35.5” (Ty Warren).

Fore the broad jump, they range from 8’1” (Richard) to 9’3” (Klecko).


One pattern I’m definitely sensing is that the Pats used to look for slimmer, more athletic players whereas now they’re looking for bigger bodied players, who like I said, can eat up space, eat up blocker and stop the run.

After Vince Wilfork, no Pats DL draft pick has run the 20 shuttle under 4.71.

Since 2007, no Pats DL draft pick has run the 3 cone under 8.01.


Only two players have put up less than twenty bench press reps, Richard Seymour and Darryl Richard. Vince Wilfork had the highest with 36.


Only three players have had less than 20 starts during their college career. Only five players have had less than 25 starts during their college career.

Darryl Richard had the most with 43.


The Patriots have never drafted a small school prospect. All 16 players have come from FBS schools. Six have come from SEC schools and four have come from Big 12 school.

Only Vince Wilfork and Marquise Hill were underclassmen.

Tomorrow I will tackle which players the Patriots may fit the specified criteria. The big question, is whether the Patriots will continue drafting big, less athletic bodies, or whether they’ll go back to the more athletic players who may be able to get after the QB.

20 Responses to “Drafting Defensive Linemen: A Patriots Case Study”

  1. psw says:

    Reyes and Still in the first round would make me happy, double up on CB in the second, convert one or McCourty to safety. Round 3 & 4 are gravy.

  2. qwerty says:

    Best OLB – Melvin Ingram
    Best front DL – Devon Stills
    Best DL with speed – Fletcher Cox

    I like all three. Any team that gets them should have a starter.

    I think Stills will be a solid football player in the middle. Given the current talent the Patriots have, he wouldn’t improve Patriots as much as he would provide depth or starter next to wilfork and solidify the front 3 or 4.

    Fletcher Cox will be an interesting player. Not sure where his ceiling is. He will be better than Wright at pass rushing I think plus be able to stop the rush. I don’t know if he will be more useful than Ingram.

    Ingram is a rarer talent in draft especially at OLB. I think he would definitely fortify the patriots defense the most.

    Ingram is just a safer pick than Cox at this point but Cox is the most interesting. Ingram would give the Patriots a strong LB group of starters.


    1) Ingram
    2) Cox
    3) Stills

    • Ken W says:

      I like your break down. I think you’re right about the Cox and Still comparison, Cox is most likely the safer pick but not as high of a ceiling. Still has a little more unknown but has a higher ceiling with the tools he has, if he can put it together he could be great.

  3. Prefectly Smart says:

    Not to be a smartass, but I think you missed Jeremy Mincey (pick #191 in 2006, DE from Florida) in your list of Pats’ drafted linemen.

  4. alex says:

    great post….didn’t realize seymour only had 18 reps on the bench press. also didn’t realize deadrick smoked it on the wonderlic with a 36. good for him, that’s like ivy league qb territory

  5. Ken W says:

    Here is my list as of today with where the pats would be able to get them:

    1. Fletcher Cox 1st round
    2. Dontari Poe 1st round
    3. Devon Still 1st round
    4. Michael Brockers 1st round
    5. Jared Crick early to mid 2nd round
    6. Kendall Reyes early to mid 2nd round
    7. Jerel Worthy 2nd round
    8. Derek Wolfe late 2nd early 3rd
    9. Brandon Thompson late second early 3rd
    10. Kheeston Randall 3rd round

    I think the best values for this group would be Still late 1st with 27 or 31, Crick or Reyes at #48 or maybe trade up a little bit or down into early 2nd from 31. Wolfe or Randall in the 3rd.

    • D.T. says:

      Amazingly, in the fiat people’s draft, Cox fell all the way to the Pats at 31.

    • AM says:

      The issue with Still is motor and coachability. By all accounts he doesn’t do very well in either category. I’d rather trade back to get Crick or Reyes if Brockers isn’t there.

      • BILL says:

        completely agree

      • Ken W says:

        yah thats true, but he has shown that he can be very dominant and I think “if” he can take some coaching and be willing to give a little more effort on every play instead of just some of them then the Pats could have a great player. I know thats a bit of a risk but I think he has the tools and ability to be a dominant DE for many years.

        • Ken W says:

          and I do agree that that the best value would be trade back into early 2nd, gain some picks, this year or next and take Crick or Reyes.

    • Tom says:

      I used to like Crick as a prospect until I watched some film of him this year. If the play got more than 10 yards away from him, he would stop. I do not see BB tolerating that kind of effort.

  6. Dan says:

    I think BB would love to have Brockers. He’s very young and inexperienced, but he could mold this kid. Brockers already showed some “getting it” at this pro day…he worked hard and showed some anger. Again, the kid is 20 years old…he’s a man-child. We have some players to bring him along.

    If he’s slipping into the teens I think he’s the one player we move up aggressively for.

    I like Cox a lot, but I think he’ll be gone, and I’m not too sure we’d move up for him; I say Brockers is the player they would love to bring in.

  7. Ryan says:

    I think a lot of the problem with Bill picking DL is that unless we can get an early first round prospect, picking up a FA is about the same as trying to get a second round player or later. Really the best linemen we have had as of late were UDFA (Love and Deadrick). Pryor would have been a good pick up if he could say healthy. The point being in the 3-4, it is harder to get quality players.

    BTW: Deadricks wonderlic UNREAL.

  8. Jeff says:

    The main thing that list says to me is that, if we want to really address d-line, we need to do it in the first round. And that would require trading up for Cox or Brockers. Neither will be there at 27. Cox makes the most sense, but he’s looking like a top-ten pick at this point. If we wait until rounds 2 or 3, I like Malik Jackson.

    • BILL says:

      There may be more value later, and at least the failure doesn’t hurt as bad. Malik Jackson could be a good player who needs alittle more time. And he might even be availabae at #93. Derek Wolfe is another you could get at that # 62 slot. Brandon Thompson may turn out as good as Worthy and avaiable 20 spots later.

    • Bob Shannon says:

      Trading up to get both Brockers and Cox would be my goal if I were BB. With Vince in the middle, that line will make the whole defense that much better….

    • qwerty says:

      Brockers films showed he is second round at best. Only person to trade up for is Ingram who is a 4 down player and immediate starter. Brocker will not be a starter first year and could be a bust.

  9. 401patsfan says:

    Great stuff.

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