Putting together the Big Board: Edge Players

A team can never have too many pass rushers, but what guys are a good fit for the Patriots?

A team can never have too many pass rushers, but what guys are a good fit for the Patriots?

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.

Draftable Options:

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.


Interesting UDFA’s:

Ryan Delaire, Towson (6’4″, 254 Lbs.) just missed a draftable grade for me.

Xzavier Dixon, Alabama (6’3″, 260 Lbs.)






19 Responses to “Putting together the Big Board: Edge Players”

  1. AM says:

    Dupree would be a fantastic add, but like you, I think his stock is just too high at the moment. Not that he couldn’t be had for the right deal, but the price would be exorbitant. Failing that, I’d be happy to see someone like Owamagbe Odighizuwa in the 2nd Round. I’d even add Danielle Hunter into this mix, though he’s a little light.

    • acm says:

      The knock on Dupree is his football, as well as overall, IQ. As a tidbid on Dupree, IIRC, he scored something like an 8 on the Wonderlic, which is abysmal (and no, I am not using it to measure ability to read the game).
      In his role in college he could get away with it but in the NFL one would probably want to make the most out of his tools and turn him into a multiple player, who plays on and off the line. I for one think he will struggle the more they try to put on his plate. He’s a supreme athlete but I don’t think he becomes the next Khalil Mack by any stretch.
      Superior athleticism and some character red flags aside, a player that reminds of Dupree coming out of school is Courtney Upshaw.

      • AM says:

        It’s always a bit of a projection when it comes to players who have more raw athleticism than polished skills, but I would be pretty confident in his potential (potential being the operative word). I have heard conflicting opinion on his instincts and ability to diagnose plays, but I recall some similar points about Jamie Collins. Dupree may not be an instant star, or even starter, but I think he’s worth the development. Regardless, I’m not sure that I agree with the on-and-off-the-line assessment in the Patriots system; I think he is more of an “end of the line” player whose function will vary relatively little, regardless of whether he is at OLB or DE from play to play. I don’t think he is the proverbial “chess piece” (a metaphor I hate), though still a potentially great player.

        I also never put any stock in the Wonderlic stuff, partly because the scores can never really be confirmed, partly because there is a tendency for teams to leak them to create negative buzz about some prospects they are interested in, and mostly because it is a ridiculous test with virtually no correlation to intelligence, much less success.

        Either way, I expect it is a moot point–I don’t imagine he’d slip past the early 20s, and I don’t think he’d be worth the trade up.

      • Russell says:

        I agree with acm, Dupree is not as intelligent as I would like to see in a player coming into the NFL, as well as some character issues.
        If I had my choice,…. IMO I would rather draft DE ZaDaruis Smith, over Dupree If I was, BB.

        • AM says:

          I’m curious about the character issues, which I hadn’t heard about–can you elaborate?

  2. Russell says:

    Nick spoke today about a drafted players role and how they fit on the team. Keeping this in mind my MOCK;

    #32- Laken Tomlinson, OG Intelligent prospect, no position change starting at OG, able to understand the system, better size, more power blocking, and maybe the best pass blocking Olineman in te draft.
    #64- Loranzo Mauldin, OLB A very underrated player with Hightower type skills, nice size 6’4″ 260lbs. Stepping into a rotational LB position, seeing how quickly he can understand the system.
    #96- Grady Jarrett, DT A quicker inside Dlineman, like Mike Bennett, underrated, a rotational DT in the Patriots system.
    #97- Kenny Bell , WR BEST WR fit for the Patriots IMO, speed, great blocker, intelligent good size/hands. GREAT value here IMO.
    #101- Davis Tull, OLB I’m double dipping on OLB , because the value is there. Tull is a GREAT fit into the Patriots system, VERY intelligent, hard worker, good size/speed, very strong spiecal teams player day one. Limited rotational OLB, but a future prospect with a GREAT up-side.
    #131- Adrian Amos, S I see Amos as very underrated, and great value here. A future guy to replace Chung in 2016. Has alot of experince, has played in the slot some. Intelligent prospect needs work in stopping the run game, but tackles well in open space.
    #177- Mark Glowinski, OT/G Nice size 6’5″ 310lbs, open many eyes at the Combine, saw lots of playing time at West Virginia. A solid back-up year one, better OG than at OT.
    #219- Karlos Williams, RB/S Played both Offence and defence, speed/size, some red flags in his past. Kick returner, maybe better prospect at S than RB, at 6′ 230lbs 4.4 40yd.
    #253- Benard Blake CB nice size at 6’1″ 190lbs with speed, developemental prospect, may start year on P-Squad.

    • acm says:

      Don’t think Mauldin is a LB in the NFL. An on-line OLB/DE yes but not off-line LB – too big and cumbersome for that role, lacks agility, change of direction and I think also instincts for that position. Hightower is big but carries his weight well; Mauldin not well enough to drop off the line.

      I think Glowinski has improved his draft stock significantly; doubt he is there in the 6th and that would be too late to look for OL depth in quality, which is one of the Pats biggest needs entering the draft imo.

      Not sure I see the point of drafting someone like Williams – how does he make the roster? Think he has upside as an athlete but don’t think he’s enough of a football player, be at RB or S, to warrant a pick. I think he ends up going undrafted in the end.

  3. acm says:

    Great job as usual, Mike G.
    Don’t think some players – Tull, Rush, Hodges – belong on this list though
    Tull, in particular, is an off-the-line NFL LB (has the instincts, athleticism and nose for the ball), not an edge player, where as you said he’d be very much undersized. Playing a situational pass rusher – like Ayers for example – would be just an extra cherry on that cake.
    Similarly with Rush – very much a BB type player, although not as athletic as Tull. Have him as a 6rnd option for the Pats if they need LB depth.

    Regarding Hodges, I get why he looks like a Pats player but think he lacks short area quickness and agility; straight-line speed if fine. Add to it the level of competition and I am not as high on him, tbh.

    As for the rest, I don’t really have anyone on my Pats board. Maybe Max Vales could be a consideration late in the draft but more of a 7th rounder for me.

    Don’t think Dupree falls anywhere near the Pats in the 1st.

    • Mike Gerken says:

      Good post ACM, but I have to disagree with you on Tull and Rush. I could see Hodges playing more off the ball, but I think he comes into the NFL as a pass rusher with a skillset he can develop to play elsewhere.
      As for Tull, I didn’t see any tape that led me to believe that he could play in space. We are talking about a lower level guy making a big adjustment. Compounding that by asking him to do something completely new sounds like a recipe for disaster.

      Same goes for Rush. He wins with his electric first step and his ability to bend at the edge. He does a good job against the run as well, but I certainly don’t see traits that would make me ask him to drop into coverage.
      Mauldin didn’t do a whole lot for me on tape. I just didn’t see it and he will be drafted long before I would, so he didn’t make the list.

      The beauty of all this is that we all see things a little different and we won’t be 100% right on all these guys.

      • MM-II says:

        IDK, Mike. How much of a “disaster” these guys may or may not turn out to be kinda depends on when they’re drafted, doesn’t it? Taken in the 6th round, or even in the 5th, they might at least latch on to the PSQ if they show some development over the summer. Even if they fail, it wouldn’t be an enormous catastrophe.

        BTW – My fantasy scenario is that Goodell announces that the Jets and Pats will swap 2015 1st round picks and the Pats take Dupree.

        • Mike Gerken says:

          I didn’t mean a disaster in terms of perception of the pick. I was speaking more a perspective of the player having the best chance to succeed. These guys who get drafted late have an uphill battle as it is and I feel if you take them out of what they did to get drafted in the first place, their chances of success go down exponentially.

        • MM-II says:

          Mike –

          Well, we both know that many fans WILL think it’s a “disaster” if a 6th-rounder fails, as in “Why did Belichick waste a perfectly good draft pick on THAT loser?!!”

          I see what you were saying, though.

          The thing is, guys who the Pats take in the 6th or later are available at that point at least partly BECAUSE their game had limitations coming in. And, all those guys are expected to try very hard to expand their capabilities. The late-round draftees (and UDFAs) themselves are almost certainly expecting to be coached in other aspects of the game that maybe they haven’t done much with previously, perhaps even be asked to change positions. I’m certain they know that they’re going to need to get very good at special teams work very quickly if they hope to even make the PSQ.

          I’m sure the Pats are looking for extremely high levels of personal commitment and coachability from any player they sign to the roster, and that probably goes double for the late-round draftees.

          If the guy doesn’t make it, it is what it is, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a disaster for anyone concerned. And I don’t think the Pats would take a guy with limitations if they didn’t believe that there was a significant chance he could develop and expand his skill set.

  4. Russell says:

    Nice Article Mike Gerken! I’m the poster who set you onto Davis Tull, back in Oct. he’s a great prospect, a walk-on who works hard, on/off the field VERY intelligent prospect, who “fits” well in the Patriots system. I think a 3d rounder, maybe sooner, depending how the Draft Board plays out early.
    I also would add Loranzo Mauldin to your list, he checks most of BB boxes, solid prospect with “Hightower” type numbers, strong leadership, heady player. Also 3 round maybe sooner.
    Kyle Emmanuel, fits a similar mold as Davis Tull, smaller program, intelligent, good size, played mostly DE, would be better at OLB. Could go sooner but I think late 4th-5th.

    • acm says:

      Yeah, Mauldin probably belongs on this list – a lot more suited to be rusher in the NFL than off-line LB; too big to play off-line on a consistent basis, imo.

      Emanuel I’d say is more of an off-line LB than a rusher, like Tull.

    • Mike Gerken says:

      Sorry I wasn’t able to give you the proper credit Russell, but you really do deserve a ton of credit for bringing him to the forefront.
      Since you were the first on him, what is your exact take on Tull. Do you think he can play a more off the ball role like ACM suggest or see him as a pass rusher?

      • Russell says:

        I agree with acm, I see Tull as a OLB. I’m not worried about him ajusting to a slightly differant postition.(Played DE in College) Tull see’s plays unfold very well, chase’s well with good angles. (most teams on tape ran away from him, and doubled him with a TE Chip.) Tull was a walk-on, hard worker, VERY intelligent, so much like Laken Tomlinson, he will learn/understand role, and learn defence’s well. I see alot of Collins/ Ninkovich/ Mayo type prospect. A super spiecal team player day one, team player, High character, student of the game. Next to Tomlinson and Erving, Tull is the highest rated prospect on my Patriot board, and I would gladly go 2nd pick to get him, but 3d is more likely. At 246 lbs He is to small to rush agains’T NFL OT’s every down. Tull’s quickness will help him in coverage, which he will learn quickly. He has all the tools to be Luke Keckly,(IMO) just needs time to develope.

        • Mike Gerken says:

          Ok, maybe I misunderstood ACM’s original post, if so, my bad. I do see him playing a Ninko role. When ACM said he thought he belonged in the off the ball category, I was thinking he envisioned his role like a Paul Dawson or Shaq Thompson type guy. That is where I was making my argument that I disagreed.
          I like him coming downhill and going after the passer. I think he has the athleticism to drop into short zones on occasion (like Ninko) and he certainly has the tools to stack against the run.
          So maybe we are closer in opinion on his role than I first thought.

        • acm says:

          Mike G,
          I think Russell and I are very much saying the same thing about Davis Tull’s role in the NFL but you seem to be reading something quite different 🙂

      • Russell says:

        If your looking for another interesting Prospect, who will most likely go undrafted, DE Dezmon Johnson ,Duke. Highly intelligent prospect, with LB size 6’4″ 260lbs. would be beter as a LB will just need tme to develope.

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