NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
Hang in there, we are almost there. We are just over a week away from the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. Sadly, it feels like time is standing still and we may never actually get to the draft at all. On the bright side, it gives me a chance to hit all of you over the head with more prospects and information than you ever could have hoped for. Today, we look at the edge players. These are the guys who primarily rush the QB, but we all know that in the Patriots system, you better be able to do more than that. Some of these guys will translate to 4-3 defensive ends while others may be better suited as 3-4 outside linebackers. Either way, their primary job in the NFL will be to get after the quarterback. Here is my list of guys who I like for this role.
Current Roster: Jabaal Sheard, Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan.
Position Need: Medium
Position Overview: Going this route is tricky because the Patriots do not really have guys on the current roster that are edge rushers. Sheard is probably the closest to that and he is new to the team. I will say that this team does not draft one trick ponies and if they take a guy from the list of prospects below, it is because they think (and me as well) that they can bring more to the table than just rushing the passer. I broke it down this way because I didn’t want to pigeon hole these guys into just the defensive end position or linebacker position because I feel they have a unique skill set that makes them unique.
Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Kentucky (6’4″, 269 Lbs.) 1st round
Spoiler Alert-Dupree will end up in my top 5 overall players in this draft. Up until a week ago, he was talked about going in the 20’s and I thought he could be a player the Patriots trade up for. It is looking more and more like he will be getting picked closer to 10 than 32 now, which makes me sad. He has an incredible size, speed, athleticism combination. He has some work to do to become an elite pass rusher and needs to learn how to finish, but where he is deficient is easily correctable. He has shown on tape that he can drop back into coverage as hold his own as well. He has been compared to the Patriots own Jaimie Collins, and I can see it, but he is stronger as a pass rusher. The thought of those two playing together would be very exciting. Here is my report on him from earlier in the season. http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2014/10/scouting-report-alvin-bud-dupree-deolb-kentucky.html
Nate Orchard, Utah (6’3″, 250 Lbs.) 2rd round
Orchard has a lightning quick first step and good bend to get to the quarterback. He has a relentless motor and never gives up on the play. He is a smart player who diagnosis plays quickly and reacts. He does a nice job mixing up his pass rush moves and setting up offensive lineman. He has active hands and a nice variety of moves. Orchard was an extremely productive player in college and a team captain. Orchard will need to improve on his strength, both upper and lower, to defend against the run better. He also has very little experience dropping into coverage, but he has the mental makeup and the work ethic to do it and probably do it well.
Zack Hodges, Harvard(6’2″, 250 Lbs.) 4th/5th round
I watched him earlier this year (see link below) and really liked his tape. Since I wrote that article, there has been some chatter of some off field concerns, but I have yet to dig up exactly what that is. He also has dealt with some injuries and that is a concern as well. I still like him and think he could play multiple positions for the Patriots with some time to develop. http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2014/11/scouting-report-zach-hodges-deolb.html
Davis Tull, Chattanooga (6’2″, 246 Lbs.) 4th/5th round
Tull jumped onto the draft scene after posting some impressive numbers at the combine, although I have to give credit to a poster on nepatriotsdraft (sorry, I can’t remember your name) who told me to watch this guy really early in the season. Tull is a max effort guy with a quick first step and good bend to get after the quarterback. He is fluid in his movement skills and plays well in space. He has the speed and determination to run down opposing players even when the play goes away from him. What concerns me about Tull is that he needs to get stronger but I think his frame might be maxed out. Even playing against lesser competition, you could see lineman redirect him too easily. If he doesn’t win with his first step and speed, he struggles to disengage and does not have the counter moves to get back into the play. Tull has shorter than ideal arms. He could be a situational pass rusher and a special teams monster.
Max Valles, Virginia (6’5″, 251 Lbs.) 5th round
You may notice that his counterpart at Virgina, Eli Harold is missing from this list and that is because I like the value I can get from Valles later in the draft. Here is are my thoughts on Valles from earlier this year. http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2015/03/scouting-report-max-valles-deolb.html
Obum Gwachum, Oregon State (6’5″, 246 Lbs.) 5th round
Gwachum and Valles are very similar in my opinion. Both look the part with good measurables. Gwachum has a quick first step and impressive acceleration and bend to get around the corner and get to the quarterback. He has active hands and a good motor to fight through blocks. He needs to improve his strength and technique. He lacks any sort of pass rush arsenal and sometimes looks like he is running around like a chicken with his head cut off. He must improve his awareness and harness his aggressiveness as he tends to over pursue. He has explosive traits, but needs some time to develop the rest of his game to be a regular contributor, but he can be a situational pass rusher and special team guy in year one.
Shaq Riddick, West Virginia (6’6″, 244 Lbs.) 5th/6th round
Has the long, tall frame of players that the Patriots have drafted in recent years. He has great athleticism, fluidity and flexibility for a guy his size. Shaq has active hands and good awareness and was able to knock down a lot of balls in college. He plays with a good motor and is known to be a hard worker. Riddick is really skinny and has to get stronger in both his upper and lower body or he will get pushed around in the NFL. He didn’t have a ton of production at WVU, but he played out of position there, which hurt him. He could be a real bargain if he can get some meat on his bones and keep his athleticism.
Marcus Rush, Michigan State (6’1″, 243 Lbs.) 5th/6th round
I have to give credit where credit is due. I only became aware of Rush from a bleacher report article written by Justis Mosqueda. He does a fantastic job of breaking down this player, so if you want to know more about him, here is a link to the article. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2420336-2015-nfl-draft-why-msus-marcus-rush-is-the-best-player-no-one-is-talking-about
Deon Barnes, Penn State (6’4″, 260 Lbs.) 6th/7th round
Another guy who wins with speed more than power and needs to continue to add strength. He wins with his first step burst and acceleration and never gives up on plays. Barnes shows good effort to chase down plays that are away from him. He needs to work on his hand/arm use as he tends to lean in with his shoulder when trying to play with power. This leads to him either getting redirected out of plays or not being able to see where the ball carrier is. Shows flashes as a pass rusher, but has to work on his craft and add to his pass rush moves to be effective at the next level.
Note: 2 guys I never did get to watch were Kyle Emmanuel (North Dakota State) and Zack Wagenmann (Montana) but I have heard and read good things about these 2.
Ryan Delaire, Towson (6’4″, 254 Lbs.) just missed a draftable grade for me.
Xzavier Dixon, Alabama (6’3″, 260 Lbs.)