The Patriots made a high-profile addition to their stable of edge defenders when they traded a second-round pick to the Panthers in exchange for Kony Ealy and a third-rounder, but there is still some work to be done in terms of bolstering that spot on their roster.
PHIL PERRY'S PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS DRAFT PREVIEW
- DEFENSIVE ENDS: Basham's power, effort would fit on the edge
- DEFENSIVE TACKLES: Look to the SEC
- CORNERS: Griffin's athleticism makes him intriguing
- SAFETIES: Sure tacklers from Florida, Michigan look like fits
- LINEBACKERS: McMillan, Anzalone make sense
- SLOT CORNER: King's agility, toughness, seem ideal
- MOCK DRAFT: Version 1.0
After losing Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long to free-agency, the Patriots have three experienced players ready to shoulder some of the edge load in Ealy, Rob Ninkovich and Trey Flowers. While immediate help would be beneficial, long-term help appears to be imperative with both Ninkovich and Ealy going into contract years. Flowers is locked up through 2018.
By all accounts, this is a particularly deep draft when it comes to pass-rushers, and even if the Patriots don't pick until the third round at No. 72 overall, they could have a talented piece land in their lap. Below are a few of the names we're keeping an eye on as potential Patriots targets because of their size, athleticism and college production against both the run and the pass.
We're now at the midway point with our Prototypical Patriots series, as this is our sixth. To see the others we've pegged as good fits in New England thus far, head here for boundary corners, here for slot corners, here for linebackers, here for safeties, and here for defensive tackles.
Derek Barnett, Tennessee, 6-foot-3, 265 pounds: It came as some surprise when earlier this month Pro Football Talk reported that Barnett had worked out privately for the Patriots. The reason? He's one of the most productive sack artists in the history of the SEC, and many are predicting that he will be selected in the top half of the first round. Should the Patriots land a pick on Day 1 of the draft, Barnett seems like their kind of guy based on his instincts, his uncanny ability to get to quarterbacks and his strength against the run. Physically -- though not in the same class as projected No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett -- Barnett stacks up somewhat similarly to Sheard (6-3, 265). Barnett's arms (32 inches) are shorter than Sheard's (33.5), but they have the same size hands (10 inches) and tested similarly at their respective combines. Barnett had the better broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Sheard had the better 40-yard dash time, vertical leap and 10-yard split.
Jordan Willis, Kansas State, 6-foot-4, 255 pounds: One of the most physically impressive edge players in this year's draft class, he had the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds) of all front-seven players at this year's combine, the second-best vertical (39 inches), the fourth-best three-cone (6.85 seconds) and the 10th-best broad jump (125 inches). He has the motor and the ideal arm length to be able to hold the edge, and he was the second-most productive edge player in college football last season, per Pro Football Focus (80 total pressures). His athletic traits and impressive senior season could get a team to bite at the bottom of the first round.
Tarell Basham, Ohio, 6-foot-4, 269 pounds: Should the Patriots find Basham is available at No. 72, they'll have an opportunity to bolster their rotation on the edge with a player who resembles Ealy in many respects. Both check in at 6-foot-4 and about 270 pounds. Both have 34-inch arms. Both tested similarly at their respective combines in the 20-yard shuttle and the jumps. Basham is not yet a polished pass-rusher, but he's a max-effort guy who earned himself Defensive Player of the Year honors in the MAC. When given an opportunity to play better competition -- against Tennessee during the season and then at the Senior Bowl -- his explosive power to get into the backfield and set a strong edge continued to stand out. The Patriots recently had Basham in for a visit, and Bill Belichick worked him out at Ohio University earlier in the pre-draft process.
Deatrich Wise, Arkansas, 6-foot-5, 274 pounds: If the Patriots are looking for a longer player on the edge for the foreseeable future, they could do a lot worse than Wise. His height, weight, arm length (almost 36 inches) and hand size (10.5 inches) all stack up well with Chandler Jones (6-5, 266, 35.5-inch arms, 9.75-inch hands) when he was coming out of Syracuse in 2012. Jones may have had the edge athletically -- he ran a 4.87-second 40 compared to Wise's 4.92, and he jumped 35 inches comparied to Wise's 33 -- but like Jones, Wise seems to understand how to use his long levers. Not a full-time player in either of the last two seasons, Wise was still very productive when on the field, recording 15 sacks, 23 hits and 44 hurries in 227 pass-rushing snaps over the course of the last two seasons, per PFF. It's worth wondering why he didn't see the field more often for coach Bret Bielema.
Ryan Anderson, Alabama, 6-foot-2, 253 pounds: An under-the-radar player on Nick Saban's star-studded defense, Anderson may be undersized, but in many respects he seems to fit the mold of what the Patriots often like in their edge defenders. He has strong hands that help him handle tight ends and tackles in the running game, he's relentless as a pass-rusher, he has experience dropping into coverage, and he has a nose for the football (five forced fumbled in 2015 and 2016). Plus, coming from 'Bama program, he would understand the demands of a professionally-run organization. Anderson doesn't quite stack up to what the Patriots normally want to see in their draftees athletically. He ran an adequate 4.78-second 40 at the combine but jumped just 28.5 inches at his pro day, which was about four inches fewer than Sheard, six inches fewer than Ninkovich and 10 inches fewer than Flowers. Still, his experience under Saban, his advanced technique and his football IQ could make him an intriguing fit in the draft's middle rounds.