Building The 2018 Patriots Big Board: Defensive Line/Edge Rushers

NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken

The offense has been fully covered, so now we can move on to the defensive side of the football. Let’s start by looking at the Edge defenders, a position that the Patriots have struggled to get great production out of the past few seasons. For the Patriots, being a player that gets after the QB is not good enough. The team looks for players who are more balanced. They want guys who have pass rush ability, but also the strength to stop the run. Several years back, Belichick mentioned he prefers guys who land somewhere close to 6’4″, 260 Lbs. and run a 4.6 forty so that is where I start as well. I am a little more lenient when it comes to those hard and fast rules, so if I see a guy I like that doesn’t fit the mold, he still gets the nod on my big board. As for Interior Defensive Lineman, there isn’t really a tell when it comes to a players physical makeup. Again, they must be stout against the run, but they have added some smaller, more athletic guys to get some interior pressure.

Position: Defensive Line (DT, DE/Edge)

Priority: Low(DT) High (DE/Edge)

Current Roster:

Defensive Tackles:

Malcom Brown (age 24, signed through 2019)

Vincent Valentine (age 24, signed through 2019)

Danny Shelton (age 24, signed through 2019)

Adam Butler (age 23, signed through 2019)

Defensive End/Edge:

Lawrence Guy (age 28, signed through 2020)

Adrian Clayborn (age 29, signed through 2019)

Deatrich Wise (age 23, signed through 2020)

Trey Flowers (age 24, signed through 2018)

Derek Rivers (age 22, signed through 2020)

Keionta Davis (age 24, signed through 2019)

Geno Grissom (age 25, signed through 2018)

Eric Lee (age 23, signed through 2018)

Trevor Rielly (age 30, signed through 2018)


Position Overview:

The interior of the defensive line is young and has talent. I thought Malcom Brown played much better last year. Getting Valentine back and adding Shelton should help out a unit that did not play great last year. The team will need to figure out if they are going to pick up the 5th year options on Brown and/or Shelton, but that should play itself out. Butler is a nice interior pass rush option and he showed some flashes. On the outside is where things got ugly for the Patriots last year. Losing Rivers hurt from a pass rush perspective and the team had to rely heavily on Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, and Lawrence Guy. None of them are elite pass rushers and the unit as a whole struggled in all aspects. Bringing in Claiborn should help some, but I don’t see him as a true pass rusher either. Hopefully Rivers can flash some of that ability we saw in his college tape and help get that pressure the defense desperately needs. As for the rest of the guys on that list, I have seen enough from them except Davis to know that if they are on the field, the team will be in trouble again.


Defensive Lineman With A Draftable Grade:

Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

Payne is a compact player with a powerful lower half to handle double teams or quickly shoot gaps to get after the passer. He has heavy hands with a powerful punch to get his opponent off balance. He plays with good awareness and shows the ability to work through traffic to locate and attack the ball carrier. He is a very good athlete for the position and has some limited work on offense as a blocker and even has a touchdown catch. Payne is inconsistent with his leverage and will play too high despite his stout nature. He was not asked to be a pass rusher on a consistent basis despite his athleticism and he lacks a plan as a pass rusher. His best football might be ahead of him if he is allowed to and develops a better pass rush arsenal. He has a rare combination of physical and athletic traits. Grade: 1st/2nd round


Taven Bryan, Florida

You might not be able to build a better looking athlete for the Defensive Tackle position than Taven Bryan. His combination of size, speed, and strength are almost impossible to find in a human being. He shoots out of his stance and quickly gets into gaps. He shows great strength and effort on every snap. He is known for his work ethic and should be a positive influence in the locker room. He has all the physical and athletic traits to be special. My concern with Bryan is with all his god given traits, he just was not productive in college, even though he was put into situations to do so. He relies on his athleticism too much and he has not developed the technical side of his game to be consistently productive. His pass rush moves are limited and need further development. He is too aggressive at times and will take himself out of plays. If Bryan can get the coaching he needs, he can be an elite interior pass rusher with the ability to play the run well. Grade: 1st/2nd Round


Nathan Shepherd

Shepherd is another guy with intriguing size and athleticism. He has the core strength to handle double teams, but the quickness and footwork to give you pressure from the interior. He uses his hands really well, showing the ability to keep lineman away from his chest. He showed the power to easily move his opponent where he wanted them to go and then showed the ability to disengage. He has a plan as a pass rusher and has developed a nice array of pass rush moves and counters. He was absolutely dominant against lower level competition even when double and triple teamed. He is an older prospect. Shepherd played with inconsistent pad level at the college level and was able to get away with it, but will not have that luxury in the NFL. He needs to develop better awareness, both locating the ball and feeling out backside blocks. Grade: 2nd Round


B.J. Hill, North Carolina

Hill has the physical make up the Patriots look for in their Defensive Tackles. He has good size and strength to hold up against double teams. He plays with excellent awareness and he uses his smooth lateral movement to slide down the lines to locate the ball and make the play. He has the foot quickness and strength to fight through blocks and make plays in the backfield. Showed insane change of direction skills at the scouting combine with a better three cone than former teammate and top 10 pick Bradley Chubb. He has a non stop motor from the first snap of the game to the last. Hill has active and powerful hands, but doesn’t always know how to use them. Quickness and power is there, but is not a developed pass rusher. Hill does not play with consistent leverage which negates all his physical and athletic advantages. Hill is a bit raw and needs to play with better leverage, but his strength and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect. Grade: 2nd/3rd Round


Andrew Brown, Virginia

Brown is one of those guys I am basing my grade on him more on his testing and his traits over his tape, which I rarely do. He has a tremendous combination of size, length and athleticism. He shows good strength on tape to control the line of scrimmage. He moves quickly for a guy his size and can make plays anywhere. He has lots of wow moments on tape, but needs to play with more consistency. He can win in a variety of ways, including speed up the middle, on the edges as well as with power. He is an emotional player that has let them get away from him in games and he must stay focused and under control. He is a raw from a technical standpoint, but has the production and rare traits to develop into a playmaker with position versatility on the defensive line. Grade: 3rd/4th round


Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi, Connecticut

Fatukasi is a huge man with long arms and huge hands, which he uses very well. Extremely strong with the ability to easily move his opponents. Very technical in his play in terms of hand use. He has a good anchor and uses his strength to dictate the flow of himself and his opponent. He plays with great awareness and always seems to know where the play is going and where the ball is. He is a high effort player, never giving up on plays even down field. Fatukasi is not the rangy athlete like the guys ahead of him on this list and does not bring as much pass rush ability to the position. He plays high and relies on his power too much. He has the potential to be a rock on the inside with some limited potential as a pass rusher. Grade: 4th round


Breeland Speaks, Mississippi

Speaks was a guy I wasn’t exactly sure where to put, which speaks to his versatility. He played every single position along the line and even some linebacker. He has really long arms and he uses them well to create separation. He shows excellent awareness and always knows where the ball is. Speaks was always around the ball and was highly productive. He has a long, angular frame, with wide shoulders and long limbs. He needs to add mass to his lower body. He struggles to anchor  and shed when opponents get their hands on him. He has good speed and change of direction to get pressure on the QB. Speaks plays with emotion, which can get carried away and he was kicked out of a game because of it. There are also some off field and immaturity issues that need to be addressed. Speaks has the look of a smaller “nascar” package player that can bring some versatility and pass rush to a team. Grade: 5th Round


Bilal Nichols, Delaware

If you look closely at the numbers above, you see a guy who is one of the most well rounded players from an athletic and physical standpoint. Against the run, he plays with good leverage and awareness. He has the strength needed to handle double teams. Has a sixth sense to sniff out where the ball is at and where it is going, putting himself in position to make plays. He has a non stop motor and will get into space to get after the ball. He is a younger prospect with an athletic build that can still add mass and strength. Team captain. Nichols does not explode out of his stance like his testing would indicate. Lacks the explosion necessary to get consistent pressure in the backfield. He does not have a plan as a pass rusher. Nichols body type and athleticsm gives him some flexibility and with some added strength and coaching to improve as a pass rusher, he could develop into an intriguing player. Grade: 6th round


Zach Sieler, Ferris State

Shout out to my friends and Ferris State alums, Jeremy and Ian. I will be honest, I didn’t get to see as much tape on Sieler, but what I did see was impressive. He had insane production even for the lower level of competition he played against. He has very strong, active hands and uses them well. He shows some advanced pass rush moves with the ability to string together counter moves. He shoots gaps quickly and is a consistent presence in the backfield. Sieler plays upright and while it had little effect in college, he won’t get away with it at the next level. He needs to show better awareness of his surroundings as well. Grade: 7th Round


Interesting UDFA’s:

James Looney, California

Jullian Taylor, Temple

Jalen Wilkerson, Florida State

Christian LaCouture, LSU

Frank Herron, LSU

Greg Gilmore, LSU


Edge Rushers With A Draftable Grade:

Harold Landry, Boston College

While Landry may not have the elite size you look for at the position, he might have the quickest first step in this draft. He explodes out of stance and shows the natural bend to run the arc quickly and efficiently. He has developed a wide array of pass rush moves and he knows how to set up lineman to use them to his advantage. He has a natural knack at finding the ball and punching the ball out. Landry is a smooth mover who looks comfortable in space and can drop into zones. He has a relentless motor to chase down plays that go opposite to him. He played hurt in 2017 and production really suffered. Needs to get stronger to hold up against the run. He wins more with speed and is not as effective when he cannot win with it. Landry has to get stronger to hold up against the run and be a better overall player, but he has the traits to be an elite pass rusher. Grade: 1st Round


Marcus Davenport, UTSA

Davenport is a physically impressive prospect with great size and length. Shows good quickness and explosion out of his stance and is one of the few players in this draft who can convert speed to power. He plays with great strength, showing the ability to run through offensive lineman to get to the QB. He is athletic enough to drop into coverage and powerful enough to set the edge against the run. Davenport is the opposite of Landry in that he wins by running through guys instead of around them. He has not developed his pass rush moves and may struggle with stronger lineman in the NFL. His football awareness needs to improve as well as he loses sight of where the ball is and there are plays where the runner goes right past him and he is so engaged with the guy in front of him that he doesn’t even realize it. Grade: 1st/2nd Round

Josh Sweat, Florida State

As I talked about at the top of this post, Belichick has mentioned a certain physical and athletic threshold he looks for in his pass rushers and Sweat passes the test. He shows the explosion and the agility to run the arc with the lower body flexibility to change direction quickly. He has really long arms and he uses them really well to create separation. He has active hands and a good variety in his pass rush moves. Sweat plays with good power and awareness to hold the point of attack and get to the ball. He plays with a relentless motor and will pursue the ball no matter where it is on the field. Sweat’s athleticism can be negated by his late get off at the snap. He has to continue to add strength to be more consistent at the point of attack. FSU did him no favors by playing him in a frog stance. Medicals will determine where he gets drafted because he has had a laundry list of injuries. Grade: 2nd Round


Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

Hubbard is a bigger Edge prospect and while he does not have elite speed, he has excellent agility for a guy his size and he uses it to his advantage. He has impressive lateral quickness to avoid blockers. He is highly technical and fundamentally sound in just about every aspect of the game. He locates the ball quickly and has the ability to shed blocker to make plays. Hubbard plays with good leverage and strength to set the edge in the run game. He shows the footwork and balance to drop into zones and not look out of place. He is a hard worker who continues to develop his game and was a team captain and good locker room guy. He is not an elite pass rusher. He does not have the speed to win the arc. He has good strength, but not enough to consistently win with it and he looks maxed out. He is good to really good at everything, but does not have an elite trait that he can fall back on. He is a reliable, hard working guy who can contribute immediately and not be a liability in any phase.  Grade: 2nd Round


Kemoko Turay, Rutgers

Turay is another guy who is very close to fitting all of Belichicks requirements. He has great speed to go along with that size. He plays with good balance and can get after the passer in a variety of ways. He has excellent balance and change of direction skills. Turay uses his long arms to stay clean when setting the edge and has active hands to disengage and get to the ball carrier. He did not drop into coverage much, but didn’t look out of place doing so. Turay needs to get stronger to be move consistent in the run game. He can be moved out of run lanes by bigger guys. His frame may be maxed out, which is a concern in that aspect. His motor is always running high, but he does not always play with control, leading to miss tackles. He has had his fair share of medical issues and that will be a deciding factor on where he gets drafted. He is a young player with not a lot of actual playing time, so he is still raw from an awareness aspect. Grade: 2nd/3rd Round


Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest

Ejiofor will not wow you with athleticism, but he has good size and length and has learned to win in other ways. He is quick off the snap and shows the ability to shoot gaps while maintaining balance. Ejiofor plays with good leverage and is strong at the point of attack against the run. He moves well down the line, shuffling his feet and avoiding traffic to get after plays strung to the outside. He is very smart and disciplined, rarely making mental mistakes and getting himself out of position. He does not have the explosive traits to win as a speed rusher along the arc. He overcompensates for his lack of athleticism with aggressiveness and will over pursue plays. He has a history of concussions as well as a shoulder injury that has prevented him from working out this pre draft season. Again, does not have ideal athleticism, but makes up for it with technique and determination and can be a solid contributor in all facets of the game. Grade: 2nd/3rd Round


Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State

Lewis is a big, powerful guy who plays with good strength. He bullies his way around the field, using his power to get his opponent off balance and moved out of his way. He shows good initial burst to fill gaps quickly. He uses his hands really well to keep defenders hands off of him. Lewis does not possess the change of direction skills to be much more than a power rusher. He lacks a gameplan when it comes to his pass rush. He does not always play with good leverage, leaving his chest exposed and getting on his heels. He played with a lot of talent at Ohio State and production could have been based on favorable matchups. Overall, he has a well rounded game that doesn’t have any major weaknesses, but no real strengths either. He is a hard worker and a two year captain that wins with power and effort over everything else. He may never put up eye popping numbers, but he is a tough player who competes on every snap and should carve out a role in the NFL. Grade: 4th round


Ade Aruna, Tulane

I already wrote Aruna up, so I won’t bore you too much,but I will leave you with a few additional comments. Although Lewis and Aruna ended with similar grades, they are very different in my opinion. With Lewis, what you see is what you get. You know how he wins and what his role will be. With Aruna, he is still raw, but the upside in his game is immense. He has freakish athletic traits with the physical traits to go with it, but his skills need polish. Lewis might be the safer pick, but Aruna has such potential that his ceiling is much higher than his draft slot will be. If he can go to a system that takes the time to develop him, he could be special. If you want to read more on him, here is my original scouting report. Grade: 4th Round


Kylie Fitts, Utah

In a class that is desperate for pass rushers, it is a surprise that Fitts is not talked about more. He has good size and athleticism for the position combined with great length. His tape shows a guy who is capable of converting speed to power. He is very quick with ideal change of direction. He plays with great awareness and active hands, with an innate ability to get into passing lanes and knock down balls. He explodes out of his stance, getting into gaps really quick. He is a versatile player that has shown he can play in space.  Fitts must get stronger to handle the point of attack and set the edge. He does not have the bend you look for in elite pass rushers. He did not put up the type of production you would expect from someone with his athleticism. Fitts can be overaggressive at times, taking himself out of plays. He has a laundry list of injuries and medicals will affect where he gets drafted. Grade 4th/5th Round


Trevon Young, Louisville

Before his injury, Young was on the path to a much higher draft slot than where he will finally end up going. He has the size and length you look for in an edge rusher. At his best, he has great quickness and lower body flexibility to run the arc, stay low, and get to the QB quickly. He is a well rounded player who can get after the QB, set the edge in the run game, and even drop into coverage. His size and athleticism as well as the program he comes from gives him some position flexibility as well. Like I said before, he suffered a major injury back in 2015 which required multiple surgeries and a full year away from football. It is unclear if he will fully regain his form and may not ever be the explosive athlete he once was, but he did show signs of improvement throughout the season. He needs to get stronger and continue to develop his pass rush moves to have a back up plan if the athleticism doesn’t fully recover. Not only is his injury history a concern, he also had a few off field issues that will need to be looked into and signed off on. Young is a lottery ticket. He could pay off big if he can get back to form, or he may never contribute because the post injury version just does not cut it in the NFL. Grade: 6th Round


Interesting UDFA’s:

David Bellamy, Georgia

Justin Lawler, SMU

Joe Ostman, Central Michigan

Peter Kalambayi, Stanford

Sharif Finch, Temple


Overall Impressions:

There is a lot of talent at the interior defensive line position. Whether you are looking for a true nose to stop the run or an interior pass rusher, this draft has something for every team and every scheme. The Edge class does not have the same type of talent or depth. There are some interesting prospects, but it could thin out quickly and if you don’t get one early, the crop is more of the developmental guys. Don’t get me wrong, there are guys I think have a bright future, but I don’t see a lot of super stars in this group.


7 Responses to “Building The 2018 Patriots Big Board: Defensive Line/Edge Rushers”

  1. @j_fid says:

    Great work Mike.

    Duke has been a crush for years. He just screams New England. Hard worker, active/violent hands, variety of move but recognizes what blocks are in front of him and is able to combat them w counters n strength. Weight room monster. Love Duke.

  2. kevinz says:

    1st:James Daniels C
    2nd:Rasheem Green DE
    2nd:Dallas Goedert TE
    2nd:Kyle Lauletta QB
    3rd Darrell Williams RB
    3rd:Dorian O’daniel OLB Hybrid role plus box saf my Reach pick or Oren Burks
    4thAde Aruna DE-LB
    6th:Leon Jacobs LB
    6th:Bilal Nickols DT
    7th:Phillip lindsay RB

  3. kevinz says:

    1st:Rashaan Evans LB
    2nd:Carlton Davis CB
    2nd:BJ hill DT
    2nd:Kyle Lauletta QB
    3rd Ian Thomas TE
    3rd:John Kelly RB
    4thAde Aruna DE-LB
    6th:Leon Jacobs LB
    6th:joshua Kalu S
    7th:Phillip lindsay RB

  4. brandon maxham says:

    1st:Lorenzo Carter OLB

    1st: traded to LAC for 2nd(48),3rd(84) and 4th(119).

    2nd:DJ Chark WR

    2nd(48):Dorance Armstrong JR OLB-DE

    2nd:Kyle Lauletta QB

    3rd(84):Royce Freeman RB

    3rd:Ian Thomas TE

    4th(119):Andrew Brown DE

    6th:Isaac Yiadom CB

    6th:Jerron Searles OT

    7th:Dylan Cantrell WR

  5. Stephen J says:

    I am attempting to post a reply in Big Board TE’s post and I have received Your Comment is awaiting moderation on 8 different comments some with links others without any.

    Continuation with Lenny Hayden Hurst

    Since I am on a new post different location if you google Hayden Hurst Shy Phillips it will also bring you to the Citadel link dated Nov 22 2015

    Check the Florida Game in 2016 where he had another drop

    You can also google Gamecocks three game winning streak drowned.
    That will bring you to the link on Nov 12 2016 since I can’t seem to post it here.

    So just between the Citadel in 2015 and Florida in 2016 that is two of the three drops. Either way it’s still a great ratio.

  6. kevinz says:

    id say i like lewis shepard hill nickols Aruna for where all could be picked more value i think

  7. Stephen J says:

    Tyquan Lewis look at his comparison’s and you see Jermaine Cunningham

    So lets compare

    ………….Tyquan Lewis………Jermaine Cunningham
    Height….6’3 1/4″……………..6’3 3/8″…..1/8″ difference
    Arm L….33 3/4″……………….33 3/4″
    Hand S..10 3/8″……………….10 3/8″
    Vert…….35 1/2″……………….35″
    Broad….10’7″(127″)Pro Day…9’10″(118″)Pro Day
    20 Shut..4.34……………………DNP(Injury Quad)
    3 Cone…7.20……………………DNP(Injury Quad)

    Games Played…44…………….45
    Career Solo Tkl..63……………79
    Career TFL……..37…………….33
    Career Sacks…..23.5………….18.5
    Career PBU…….5.0……………4.0
    Career FF……….5.0……………5.0

    Jermaine Cunningham Drafted 2nd round Pick 53

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