Potential Patriots in the 2015 NFL Draft: Kurtis Drummond

Kurtis Drummond is a possible answer at safety for the Patriots. (USA Today Sports Images)

Kurtis Drummond is a possible answer at safety for the Patriots. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Staff Writer: Adam Bogdan

There are few remaining questions in the Patriots defensive backfield. Devin McCourty mans one of the safety positions, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner man the outsides, and Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, and Logan Ryan fill in the holes.

But there is one spot that doesn’t appear to have a clear cut starter, and that is the second safety position.

I emphasize the second safety position, because Belichick may be leaning towards removing the tags “free” safety and “strong” safety in favor of having two safeties that can provide a little bit of everything. We can see examples of that in the players currently slated to play alongside McCourty. On Wednesday, Belichick had some input on how the safety position is used when implemented within a 3-4 front, which the Patriots have been exploring so far in camp.

The advantages of it are if you play it well I think you have more ability to play some safety coverages. That’s the main thing. It just comes down to a numbers game. Play a one-gap defense then you need another player for the extra gap, if you will. If you play some form of two-gap defense, whether it’s 3-4, whatever it happens to be, if you play some form of two-gap defense then you can theoretically match your six against their six, your seven against their seven, whatever it is and you don’t always need an extra player for an extra gap.

The teams that don’t two-gap a lot of times have linebackers responsible for two gaps. So it’s the same numbers, different principle though. But you’ve got a big, strong, physical team then that’s what you need to play those techniques. I’d say those are the type of players they have.

The Patriots are currently projected to have a rotation that may or may not contain the likes of Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, and Tavon Wilson. None of these players are roster locks, and none of them are tremendous impact players for the role they would have to fill, with each having their own noticeable flaws. So without knowing who will make the final roster cut yet, I looked to the college football ranks to find players that may fit this role.

Kurtis Drummond is one of those players. The 6’1” 200 lbs free safety can provide an immediate playmaker to the secondary, and one who is unafraid to make tackles. The redshirt senior has played in 21 consecutive games, and 39 overall. Over the course of his career he has notched 161 tackles, 10 pass break ups, 8 interceptions, and 9 tackles for loss.

As a member of the Michigan State “No Fly Zone”, Drummond has helped lead an impressive secondary that held opposing QBs to 47.5% completions, only 5.2 yards per attempt, and impressive 12:17 TD to Interception ratio, and only 165.6 yards per game according to cfbstats.com.

There are many things to like about Drummond, most of all is his ability to find the ball and make a play. Against Western Michigan last year, he was a part of three plays that highlight this skill.

Early in the game, he almost had a pick that bounced off the ground after breaking off coverage to find the ball.

He followed that effort by catching a lateral from a teammate after an INT, that he returned for a TD.

Later in the game, Drummond made a beautiful leaping one handed grab, where he broke off his initial coverage to attack the ball as it went in his direction.

One missing aspect of the Patriots secondary is a hard hitting player to bring fear to receivers going across the middle. To fill that strong safety type skill set, Drummond fearlessly attacks ball carriers with reckless abandon.

He doesn’t hesitate to come down to tackle the ball carrier from his safety position.

Before the play, Drummond becomes a natural leader, calling out adjustments and play calls to his teammates. Unfortunately, due to his high intensity, he can tip what his role is before the snap. This anxiety shows when he takes a step or two back as the quarterback goes through his cadence, or when he starts to come down and tip his blitz before the ball is snapped.

In pass coverage, he patiently reads the quarterback’s eyes, which allows him to see where the ball is going and make plays. Occasionally he is caught flat footed, which allows receivers to get passed him initially, but he has phenomenal recovery speed. Once running with the receivers, he uses his hands to ride his man downfield while being able to turn and locate the ball. When in man coverage, Drummond sticks to receivers’ hips and follows them downfield excellently, putting him in great position to make a play on the ball.

Drummond’s biggest flaw is his tackling technique. I rarely saw a proper wrap up tackle from him in the two games I watched of him. He often times launches his body at players’ legs in an attempt to take out their footing. He’s not the greatest in open field tackling either, due to not breaking down properly before contact. While he has no fear to tackle anyone with the ball, he needs to improve on his fundamental tackling.

All of this analysis is based off his play last year, so he has an entire season to improve and hone his craft. I’m excited to see what his game will be like given another year of experience and leadership.

Come next May, it will be interesting to see if the Patriots will be interested in such a promising player.

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22 Responses to “Potential Patriots in the 2015 NFL Draft: Kurtis Drummond”

  1. Larry says:

    They will draft either a TE or LB in the first round depending on which player is rated higher on their board……….Second Rd will be a TE or LB depending on the first rd pick……They have to find a starting caliber TE because of Gronks injury history………….They should have drafted one but that’s water under the bridge…………….

    • acm says:

      It’s too early to tell if there would even be players at those positions who’d be worthy of such high picks. Forget about projecting with certainty what positions the Pats may be drafting high almost a year from now. Talking about jumping the gun.

    • MaineMan says:

      “They have to find a starting caliber TE because of Gronks injury history………….They should have drafted one but that’s water under the bridge…………….”

      SHOULD have drafted a starting caliber TE?

      That seems to depend on (a) one’s definition of “starting caliber TE”, and (b) whether or not there was one available to the Pats in the 2014 draft. I’m sure everybody has a list of TEs that the Pats *could* have drafted, but none of us amateur outside observers can possibly know YET for absolutely certain that any of them WILL be “starting caliber”. It’s all just speculation about their *potential* until after they’ve played at least a few games of regular season NFL football.

      Meanwhile, the Pats appear to have already gotten a pretty good rate of return on the players they DID pick up out of the 2013 and 2014 draft classes, as well as in free agency, so, even with some “depth issues” for 2014 at TE and LB, they still appear to be way better off than all but a handful of teams via having developed enough versatile depth at other positions to be able to compensate.

      • Larry says:

        Other than Amandola and Edelman who are not downfield threats the Pats have ZERO proven wide recievers……………These wideouts better pan out if Gronk is injured again………..

  2. Russell says:

    If you want a LB name the Patriots may consider,… A.J.Johnson 6’2″ 245 lbs SR at Tennessee.

    • steve earle says:

      Sure, I have AJ Johnson on my early board along with Perryman, Beasley, McKinney, and Thompson among others but who knows how they will grade out at this point. How do we know how any prospect will, so just saying it’s to early to start naming names as to 1st rd pick and so on? Pointing out good prospects, guys to watch, is great and interesting, keep them coming but to early to get serious about any one or two.

    • acm says:

      AJ Johnson is one of the better prospects in this LB class but I have my reservations about him being a 3-down backer in the NFL. He is a Spikes 2.0 imo and I’d rather see them get a 3-down backer if they are gonna spend a high pick on the position. Hope they finally move on from big but sluggish LBs once and for all.

      • MaineMan says:

        I think the key there is to go for “big” while trying to avoid “sluggish”. Collins is a rare find, especially in the 2nd round, because he’s both big (6034/255+) and athletic. HT is big (6022/265). He’s not as athletic as Collins, but plays faster than his timed speed because of his instincts (and he’s faster and more agile than Spikes was anyway). Mayo is the “little guy” at 6012/250 +/-, but still bigger than the majority of NFL LBs, and he’s very quick.

        All it takes is getting the right opportunity. But that just doesn’t come around in every draft. For 2015, I’d be looking at prospects in the 6005-6040/240+ range who’ve shown they can tackle well, regardless where they’re ranked.

        • acm says:

          Usually one comes with the other, which is why I mentioned them together. Collins is an athletic freak but hoping to land another player like that would be a waste of time from pure probabilities’ perspective.

          Mayo has the instincts and understanding of the game but is still not as explosive as other elite LBs in the league. He is the smallest LB on the team yet he would be among the biggest LBs on teams with the best Ds in the NFL. Mayo is best suited to play as a MLB and punish the run but the lack of athletic LBs over the years forced him being used way too often as a cover LB, a role even he is a bit too big and sluggish for by elite NFL standards (read Willis, Bowman, Kuechly, David, Wagner, Pozslusny etc, etc).

          As for Hightower, let’s not sugar-coated – he epitomizes the ageing philosophy of overly big NFL LBs. Yes, he is quicker than one would expect from a 270 lbs LB and is more agile than Spikes but that doesn’t say much. Ultimately, he is a DE used as a LB. I personally expect he would be played in the old Spikes role this year, which should allow him to play to his strengths and less so to his weaknesses as he was used while BS was still in Pats uniform. But again, wherever they play him in a LB role, it would be more a matter of minimizing the negative effects of his size than anything else.

          All in all, if you looked at the best LBs in the NFL over the past decade or so, what jumps out at you is that they seem to come from the same mold, size-wise – it’s either 6’1″- 6’3″, 235-245 lbs (6’1″ 240 and 6’3″ at 238 seems to be the most common). All explosive, athletic and at least quick, if not fast.
          None of the Pats starting backers fall in that category with only Collins POTENTIALLY ending up there once he masters the position due to his unnatural athleticism.

        • MaineMan says:

          acm –

          I guess it partly depends on a coach’s defensive philosophy and how views the role of LBs in his scheme. IOW, what makes for a good LB is not necessarily a “one size fit all” proposition.

          On the one extreme, LBs might be an extension of the secondary – the Bills went this way for awhile, using the lighter/faster LB type almost exclusively. Their pass-d was great while their run-d got the snot kicked out of them to the point where adjusting to stop teams running wild on them made their coverage highly vulnerable to play-action. “Passing league” it may be, but teams that ignore run-d do so at their peril. The Bills’ record speaks for itself.

          The other extreme would be to view LBs as an extension of the DL – using bigger guys to fit the run gaps, especially when the DL is 1-gapping rather than 2-gapping, and also to attack the backfield. The Steelers were very successful with this using relatively large LBs – “selling out against the run” and making offenses one-dimensional. This worked very well for them up until recently when their guys “suddenly” got old while they hadn’t been successful finding young replacements in the draft to groom behind them. Arizona is another team that has tended in this direction with pretty decent success recently, and Carolina to a great degree, Kuechly notwithstanding. The basic idea is that, if you can render the opponent’s ground game relatively useless with just 5-6 guys up front, it means that you can keep 6 or 5 guys behind them focused on coverage and not biting on play-action.

          BB actually explained all this in detail, including some of the history behind different strategies, just the other day at a post-practice media appearance.

          The other side of this is looking at successful Front Six units as a whole. While many of them these days do, indeed, have a “star” LB who’s the lighter/faster type running all over the field making plays in coverage, TFLs and some sacks while racking up a gazillion tackles, quite often his “supporting cast” – the guys we don’t hear nearly as much about – are bigger guys, 6’2″-6’4″/245+. You’re right – most of even those guys aren’t as big as HT and Collins, but the principle is still the same.

          Even so, there’s not any clear divisions in all this. Seattle’s Front Six is actually mostly light/faster types and they’ve made that work just fine. Of course, their defensive backfield is pretty outstanding in and of itself, and that probably helps a bit.

          It’s like using perl – there’s always more than one way to get something done.

        • acm says:

          MM, I understand that the LB corpse should be take in the context of teh entire D and as part of an overall defensive philosophy. And agree with that, of course, but it doesn’t mean that a defensive philosophy itself cannot become outdated. Of course the players would fit into the coach’s scheme – otherwise that would mean their drafting was left to random chance to begin with. But again, it’s the scheme that’s the problem. I may have not made that clear in my previous post but I have posted my views on the matter many times before. What I said about the size of the LBs for the Pats was to be taken in that context.

          The Pats have one of the biggest read fat and least explosive fronts that come to mind in the NFL (the heart of that D-line), lacking severely in getting to the opposing QB for a number of years in a row (things have seen some improvement recently but are still well behind the best of teh best in the league). Couple this with a withdrawn and soft secondary playing prevent defense and you end up with a whole lot of space left for the LBs to have to cover between the front 4 and the back 4 … on top of the opposing QB getting oodles of time to pick his targets.
          That’s just about the worst situation to have slow and overly-big LBs, getting shredded by TEs and RBs, forget about slot Wrs too. It’s the mixing and matching of too much size and lack of quickness and explosion thruout the front 7, coupled with the prevent-D style of the Pats secondary, that reads like a bad, disjoint script, pieced together by random authors in hope for the best.

          Take the Seahawks for example – they are fast, athletic all over the front 7, while their secondary presses forward, not backwards, thus making the field available to the opposing offense that much smaller, literally suffocating it. So, on one hand they already have fast and explosive LBs able to cover a lot of space in no time, while on the other hand they have to operate over a much smaller field as a result of effective press-men coverage by the secondary.

          I challenge you to go thru all the top NFL defenses in the modern era of pass-happy and versatile offenses. What you will see they have in common is a certain shift towards athletic and explosive players in their front 7s. Yet, somehow they are all better vs both the pass and the run than the Pats have been over the past 7+ years. And yes that is the case with both Arizona and Carolina too – not sure what you were talking about earlier, tbh, but they front 4 consists of explosive, athletic players (mass can come from muscle, not just sheer fat) and smaller-sized LB corpse (smaller by Pats’ standards).
          Yes, the Bills suffered against the run but that doesn’t mean it’s the size of teh Lbs that’s to blame – inadequate defensive schemes and preparation and lack of sufficient talent on the roster come well before that in the line of plausible culprits.

          The Pats are starting to move just now in that direction with the acquisitions of Collins and Armstead (obviously not a story with a happy ending) last year and Easley in 2014. Several years too late, imo.

      • steve earle says:

        AJ Johnson is Spikes 2.0. A run stuffer specialest and I agree not a 3 down LB but a good LB. My board has Perryman at the top of the ILB catagory because he has the quickness to go sideline to sideline, good instincts and a high motor. He smaller then alot of ILB’s but his positives outweigh his negatives.

        • Adam Bogdan says:

          I believe the Patriots are going to experiment more with the 3-4 this year, which Belichick has always been a fan of. They just didn’t have the personnel to pull it off. With four LBs they will need to see if Ninkovich and Jones exceed in those roles or if they are going to have to draft someone to be able to be a bruiser in the middle. I do agree that Spikes/Hightower are members of a dying breed due to their lack of speed and quickness. I will take a look at both Perryman and AJ and see what I can evaluate out of both of them.

  3. steve earle says:

    Like most projected “likely Patriots” presented this time of year I fully expect this guy to have a great year and gets drafted ten places higher then our pick. But by some miracle, should he fall to us, I would think him a great pick. But again, like Russell says, it could be a LB though we need depth more there at LB whereas a true starting safety, at this point anyway, would be of greater value imo. Thing is at this early stage we have no idea what our needs will be come the draft so I just take Adam Bogdam’s article for the very interesting possability that it is. Thanks Adam.

    • Adam Bogdan says:

      Thanks guys for your inputs. I appreciate any and all feedback. I do see LB as a potentially bigger need, but like Steve said, it’s early and I’m just tackling players I have readily available game footage of at the moment. Once the season starts I will be covering a much larger range of positions that will include S, LB, TE, DL, among others. Right now it’s just so early, once the games start going though it will be much easier to judge draft worth and if the players are worth the Patriots taking a shot at.

  4. Russell says:

    I don’t see the Patriots drafting a S, …LB is far more likely, #1or#2 in th draft.

    • Adam Bogdan says:

      This is so early in the process, I’m just looking at players they could take in rounds 1-3. None of these players are guaranteed to be first rounders. LB is the position I think they may take in the top three rounds, but without knowing potential draft value of players right now I’m just taking a big picture view of multiple players and positions.

    • acm says:

      Would depend on where the value turns out to be. Not many LBs who project as early round must-haves in the 2015 crop, imo … at least so far as things can always shake up as far as evaluations go.

  5. Adam Bogdan says:

    I agree with you. I just believe, due to the way he addresses his defensive backs, and with the recent play time of Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan at the safety position shows that he is trying to be ahead of the curve with these new rules being emphasized. I think the physical safety is dying/dead and safeties who can cover WRs while being able to step up into the box to play the run will have to be key. These rules will change the game and maybe not for the better, but Belichick always seems to foreshadow these things an I believe this is another example of this. I appreciate the feedback.

  6. MaineMan says:

    BB “leaning towards removing the tags “free” safety and “strong” safety in favor of having two safeties that can provide a little bit of everything” seems a bit of a hedge, considering that back in 2010, BB specifically stated that that’s where he was headed, and he’s been deliberately working toward that ever since.

    Actually, “Strong Safety” is an outdated term for a couple of reasons. First, there isn’t really a “strong” side to the OL much anymore with so many two-TE sets and five-wide sets. Second, with so much more passing nowadays, a DB who can cover very well and at least be in position to slow down a ball-carrier until help arrives has much more value than a guy who’s like an extra LB against the run and “can cover a little” (and guys who can cover like a good CB and defend the run like an LB are still as rare as they’ve always been).

    And, of course, the “big-hitter/enforcer” aspect represents a case of diminishing returns with all the rules protecting defenseless receivers, so guys like Meriweather and Calvin Pryor could end up costing their teams more in penalties than they gain from any “intimidation factor”. DBs (CBs and safeties alike) who can accurately and quickly distinguish run from pass so that they don’t bite on play-action, and who consistently take good angles to make classic wrap-up tackles have more value in today’s game.

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