NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
The draft has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean the scouting stops. Over the next several days, I will be doing post draft reports on all the newest Patriots players. Today, I chose Matthew Wells. I chose him because he was the one player I knew nothing about. Here I had done all this research on all these players, and this is a guy that never even made a blip on my radar. I don’t feel too bad though, even the most hardcore draftniks had little to no information on the newest Patriot. If you looked at my Big Board and mock just before the draft, you will have seen that I was a proponent of drafting Shaq Thompson in the 1st round of last Thursdays draft. He was not my highest rated player, but I assumed (correctly) that there would be a run on Corners as well as a few players from other positions. In my analysis, I thought Belichick and his staff would have fun with Thompson’s versatility. It turned out the Panthers thought the same thing and took him before the Patriots would have a chance to draft him. Little did I, or anyone, really know that there was another player with a similar skill set that could be had 5 rounds later. I am not saying Wells is Thompson, but there is no denying the similarities in their games. I did some investigating and watched a bunch of Mississippi St. games and here is what I came up with on Wells.
The first thing that jumps out when watching tape of Wells is his versatility. In the Texas A&M game alone, he played middle linebacker, outside linebacker, edge rusher, slot corner and safety. It makes it tough to scout him because he lines up all over the field and it can be difficult at times to find him. He typically lines up shaded outside the Tight End and from that position he was used as an edge rusher or he dropped back into zone coverage. Wells has impressive straight line speed and a quick first step to come down hill and attack the ball. He is fluid in his back pedal and looks comfortable dropping into zones. He keeps his head on a swivel and is quick to recognize and react when someone enters his zone. Wells shows a willingness to fight through blocks to make plays. He is also big enough and fast enough to cover Tight Ends.
The obvious concern with Wells is his size. He is just a shade under 6’2 and weighs 220 pounds with a frame that looks pretty maxed out. Thompson is roughly the same size, but there are two things he does that make him stand out from Wells. The first is his lateral quickness. While Wells has impressive straight line speed, you can see a loss of momentum when he changes direction. You see it when he is rushing the passer as well as when he is playing in space. Wells wins at the snap every time he is asked to rush the passer, but when he tries to turn the corner, he loses all momentum, allowing offensive lineman to recover. When he is in space, he struggles to make blockers miss because he does not have the foot quickness and lateral agility to make them miss. This forces him to take on much bigger blockers than him, and he does not win that battle too often. The other area Thompson is better is his instincts. Thompson is so quick to diagnose plays that he plays bigger and faster than he actually is. Wells is just a half step behind, but in the NFL, that will cost you.
Like I said in my intro, I had no idea who Wells was before Saturday, but after watching his tape, I am cautiously optimistic. At the very least, he can use his size and speed to be a very good special teams player. I think though, he has the athletic skills to play that hybrid role that I thought Belichick would look for in a guy like Thompson. The crazy thing is, Wells may have even more flexibility, he just needs time to develop his skills to be relied on regularly. The Patriots will have to be creative with him so he is not put into situations where he has to take on big offensive lineman, but he can be that moveable chess piece that can line up all over the place. He should be a fun player to watch this fall to see exactly where they line him up and how they use him.