NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
With three effective starting linebackers in Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont’a Hightower, the New England Patriots may be unlikely to draft a linebacker high in this month’s 2013 NFL Draft. However, they could use additional depth at the position, and, should Brandon Spikes leave in free agency next year, a future starter could also be in the cards. Read on to find out who the Patriots may target in each round of the 2013 NFL Draft should they decide to add a linebacker. FRX rankings and stock values are included to help determine availability. Check out their website and create your own draft portfolio here.
1. Alec Ogletree, Georgia* (FRX: #21 overall prospect, $1,473)
Should New England decide to replace Brandon Spikes with a middle linebacker more proficient in coverage, Alec Ogletree would represent an incredible value at the end of the first round. A lanky, rangy linebacker with impressive tackling fundamentals, but who is nevertheless a forceful presence on the field, Ogletree would dramatically improve New England’s sub packages as a rookie before taking over starting responsibilities in 2014. His character must be investigated; he would not otherwise be available.
2. Khasheem Greene, Rutgers (FRX: #63 overall prospect, $647)
Greene started for three years with the Scarlet Knights; he was particularly productive over his last two seasons with the team, recording 140-14.0-3.5 as a junior and 136-12.0-6.0 as a senior, adding two interceptions in his final campaign. He does not possess elite height, weight, or speed, but works through traffic well and has some experience as a blitzer and in coverage. He could contribute in New England’s sub packages, or as a strongside linebacker in a 4-3 alignment.
3. Jon Bostic, Florida (FRX: #94 overall prospect, $491)
Another Florida Gators product, Bostic diverges from Brandon Spikes’ style of play by offering a more athletic option inside. Although he is not the enforcer that Spikes is, Bostic possesses superior movement skills which could also allow him to potentially function as an outside linebacker, either on the strong side or on the weak side; he has some experience rushing from the outside spots. Bostic’s pursuit and his ability to drop into coverage could be appealing at the end of the third round.
4. Chase Thomas, Stanford (FRX: #129 overall prospect, $444)
Thomas may not have the speed to cover tight ends, but he does offer intriguing pass-rush ability; over four years at Stanford, he recorded a total of twenty-seven sacks and fifty tackles for loss. A 6’4”, 248 pound prospect, Thomas could project to outside linebacker in either the 4-3 or 3-4, the latter of which he most often played with the Cardinal. New England lacked a consistent pass rush last season, so having a player such as Thomas on roster may be appealing, as the Patriots could send him after passers out of either formation.
5. Jelani Jenkins, Florida* (FRX: #162 overall prospect, $429)
Jenkins could go higher than this, but should he slide to the fifth round, he would represent a strong value as a reserve weakside linebacker in New England’s base 4-3 defense, as well as a potential starter in their 4-2-5 sub package. An athletic linebacker with impressive movement skills, Jenkins was used not only in coverage but also as a pass rusher with the Gators. Depth is currently an issue on the weak side in New England, with Jeff Tarpinian (ten games played over two seasons) as Jerod Mayo’s primary backup.
6. Gerald Hodges, Penn St. (FRX: #185 overall prospect, $425)
Hodges is a little bit undersized for a strongside linebacker at 6’1” and 243 pounds, but he helped expand the range of roles he could realistically play by running the 40-yard dash in 4.70 seconds at the NFL Combine; at this point, teams may be considering him for any of the three linebacker spots in a 4-3 defense. Bill Belichick should be able to get some accurate information on Hodges after the latter played under former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien at Penn State last season. Hodges could easily go in the fourth or fifth round, though.
7. Travis Long, Washington St. (FRX: #185 overall prospect, $425)
Long’s stock has dropped after undergoing ACL surgery in November, meaning that he could make sense as a value pick late in the 2013 NFL Draft. He played both defensive end and outside linebacker in Washington State’s 3-4 defense last season; at the pro level, he could potentially play either defensive end or strongside linebacker in a 4-3 front, or rush the passer as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. At 6’4” and 243 pounds, Long could potentially add some additional bulk. He was a productive player last season, recording a 61-12.0-8.5 line.