NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
Among Friday’s three bowl games, the one likely to generate the most interest from NFL scouts is the Russell Athletic Bowl, featuring the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Virginia Tech Hokies. With some very talented defensive prospects on both teams, this should be especially true for the New England Patriots.
The following players would be great additions in Foxborough:
Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers (Jr.)
The New England Patriots already have one Rutgers alumnus in their secondary in 2010 first-round pick Devin McCourty. If current Scarlet Knights cornerback Logan Ryan declares for the draft and is available when the Patriots pick late in the second round, they would be smart to add another.
Ryan doesn’t have elite measurables, but is a very good all-around cornerback. He is consistent in coverage, has good hips and athleticism, very good ball skills and is physical with opposing receivers.
Ryan projects to be a solid No. 2 cornerback at the next level, a player who can cover receiver anywhere on the field and is also a solid tackler in run support. For the Patriots, who will need to find a new starting cornerback opposite Alfonzo Dennard if Aqib Talib does not re-sign, and depth regardless of whether he returns, Ryan would be a great second-round draft pick to add much-needed young talent in the secondary.
Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers
Even if Logan Ryan returns for his senior season, Rutgers could still have a second-round pick with Khaseem Greene, one of the best all-around 4-3 outside linebackers in the 2013 NFL draft class.
Greene is undersized at only 6’1” and 230 pounds, but he makes up for his lack of size with his playmaking ability. He is a tremendous athlete with a terrific tackling range. He is very good at tracking down run plays in space, while he is also effective in coverage.
Greene made the most of his entire skill set as a senior, finishing a very productive regular season with team-leading totals of 125 tackles and 5.5 sacks, along with six forced fumbles, which is tied for second nationally. Greene also had seven pass defenses, and was named a third-team AP All-American.
Greene has the game to be a very good weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defensive scheme. Although the Patriots already have a standout in that position in Jerod Mayo and a very good starting trio of linebackers, they have minimal depth at the position, which could make Greene an attractive possibility if available late in the second round.
Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s Bruce Taylor likely won’t be drafted nearly as high as Khaseem Greene, but he is a very solid linebacker prospect in his own right. A versatile playmaker who could play any of the three spots in a 4-3 defensive scheme, Taylor would be a great fit as depth for the Patriots’ defense as a Day 3 selection.
Taylor has good size for a linebacker at 6’2” and 244 pounds, and he is a good athlete as well. He is an instinctive tackler who is very solid against the run, but can also line up on the edge as a pass-rusher. His weakness is pass coverage, but his ability to get up to the line of scrimmage and into the backfield to make plays makes him a dynamic playmaker.
Taylor likely won’t be a starter at the next level but could be a perfect fit as a physical linebacker who can provide depth at all three spots on the Patriots’ defense. That said, they would likely have to trade for more Day 3 draft selections in the fourth or fifth round for the chance to draft him.
James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech (Jr.)
Another defensive prospect who could be a promising mid-round selection is Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle. Gayle would be smart to return to the Hokies for his senior season, but should he declare, he is a potential fit for the Patriots, who could use another pass-rushing defensive end even with the addition of Chandler Jones in the 2012 NFL draft.
Gayle is an athletic pass-rusher with an explosive get-off and very good size for a 4-3 defensive end at 6’4” and 268 pounds. He was an inconsistent producer this season for the Hokies, finishing the year with only five sacks, while he needs to improve as a run defender, but he has high upside.
If in the 2013 draft class, the Patriots could look at Gayle as a rotational pass-rusher and hope to develop him into a more well-rounded defensive end.
Other Prospects to Watch:
Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers (R-So.) – Grade: 3rd Round
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (Jr.) – Grade: 5th Round
Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech – Grade: 6th Round
Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech – Grade: 7th Round