NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
In a typical draft, Belichick selects an average of 1.85 defensive linemen, a trend which may continue this year. Belichick and the Patriots also like to draft developmental linemen with size in the sixth and seventh rounds; eleven of the twenty-four defensive line picks were made in the draft’s final two rounds. Based on yesterday’s weigh-ins, there are a handful of interior defensive linemen who may appeal to Belichick in the final two rounds, where New England currently holds a pair of seventh-round selections. Read on to learn more about a few late-round options for New England in 2013.
If there’s one thing we know about Bill Belichick’s draft tendencies along the defensive front seven, it’s that he covets size. Of the sixteen defensive tackles or five-technique defensive ends he’s drafted during his thirteen year tenure with New England, only two (2003 fourth-round pick Dan Klecko and 2002 fourth-round pick Jarvis Green) weighed less than 290 pounds, with ten of the sixteen players drafted weighing over 300 pounds. The average size of these players is just over 6’3”, with an average weight of 304 pounds.
Mississippi State defensive tackle Josh Boyd (6’3”, 310), Alabama defensive tackle Quinton Dial (6’5”, 318), Georgia defensive tackle Abry Jones (6’3”, 313), and Notre Dame defensive tackle Kapron Lewis-Moore (6’4”, 298) are a few defensive tackles with appealing size. In addition to playing inside, all four of these players could logically project to defensive end in a 3-4 front as well, with Dial, Jones, and Lewis-Moore all playing in odd base defenses while in college.
Boyd is a relatively short-limbed prospect whose arms measured in at just over 32”, but he has a stout build which allows him to anchor vs. the run, even against the occasional double teams he faced in college. Boyd was very productive back in 2011; playing next to Philadelphia Eagles first-round pick Fletcher Cox, he recorded 51 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. However, his stock dropped this season, as he recorded just 33 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
Dial has struggled through a somewhat damaging offseason after his name cropped up in the deer antler spray controversy which surrounded Ray Lewis in the days preceding the Super Bowl. Dial played the five-technique at Alabama, where his long arms (34.5”) are perhaps best suited at the next level. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, turning in just 1.5 sacks last year, but his familiarity with Nick Saban could draw some attention from New England.
Like Boyd, Jones is a player whose physical tools are impressive, but whose stock dropped following a weak senior campaign. Playing defensive end in the Bulldogs’ scheme, Jones recorded 48 tackles, seven for loss, four sacks, ten hurries, and three passes deflected in 2011, but managed just 17 tackles and one for loss in 2012. He missed all but seven games this year after undergoing season-ending ankle surgery, but was highly regarded by the SEC’s coaches, being named to the preseason All-SEC Third Team. He could interest teams late because of his size, length (his arms measured over 35”) and versatility.
Lewis-Moore will not participate in this year’s Combine after suffering a torn ACL in the BCS Championship game, but is an effective pass rusher whose leadership skills led to being named one of Notre Dame’s captains this season. Before getting hurt, he was enjoying a very effective senior campaign, having recorded 40 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks, with an additional nine hurries and two forced fumbles. His ability to create pressure may earn him a spot ahead of the other three players mentioned.