NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
Once considered a possible first-round pick, Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes fell to the No. 62 overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft due to character concerns and very poor 40-yard dash times (5.03 and 5.10 seconds) at his Pro Day. The Patriots used their third second-round pick of that year’s draft to pick Spikes, their second consecutive pick from Urban Meyer’s Gators team in that draft.
Those concerns may have been warranted — his character issues since joining the league have included notoriously racy tweeting and a suspension for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs, and he hasn’t gotten much faster — but the Patriots still got very good value on one of the league’s better run-stopping middle linebackers.
Spikes is a big, physical middle linebacker who hits hard and is the Patriots’ most impactful linebacker against the run. He is a good blitzer who uses his instincts well, and often makes stops at or near the line of scrimmage. Spikes also became a turnover-creator in 2012, forcing five fumbles.
In part due to his lack of speed, Spikes does not make many plays near the sidelines and struggles in coverage, although he improved significantly in the latter category this past season. A shaky overall Patriots pass defense has caused Spikes to be exposed at times, but his play against the run is among the NFL’s best for inside linebackers.
Due to injuries and suspension, Spikes has yet to play a full 16-game NFL season. Inconsistency has also been an issue in his game. But when at his best during the 2012 season, he was one of the stars of the Patriots’ defensive front seven.
The Patriots will likely continue to take Spikes for what he is, and keep him as their starting middle linebacker, as long as he can continue to be a force against the run.
Considering the pick came close to the end of Round 2, and was one of three picks they ended up with from what originally started as a 2009 third-round pick, ending up with a starting middle linebacker was a success.