By Tom E. Curran
Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran plans a series of looks at potential Patriots draftees. Today's player: Ryan Kerrigan
Ryan Kerrigan, 6-4, 267DEOLB,Purdue
Havoc-causing defensive end in Purdue's 4-3. Had 32.5 sacks in past three seasons for Boilermakers and tied the NCAA DivisionIrecord for forcedfumbles in a career (14). Kerrigan is probably the player most often ticketed to go to the Patriots in mock drafts this spring. There's a lot of reason for that. He's a football junkie and carries himself with the kind of professional air that says nothing matters more than football. Additionally, he's terrifically productive in a high-profile program and has played well against top Big Ten competition. It's not clear yet how well he'll operate in a 3-4 alignment. Whether or not he can drop into coverage on first and second down is the main question. But when the Patriots go 4-3 in passing situations, he's a beast on the edge going forward. Meanwhile, I keep reading about his lack of explosivenessand athleticism in scouting reports. I'm not getting it. Seems more than athletic and explosive than people give him credit for.
Gotta Have Him:
Tully Banta-Cain had a big investment sunk into him last offseason as a free agent by the Pats but he had a shaky 2010. His pass-rush production is under investigation. Jermaine Cunningham, who's operating over the right tackle most of the time, would seem to be the future over there. Rob Ninkovich - like Kerrigan, a Purdue product - is the first and second-down linebacker on the other side. There's a need and Kerrigan can fill it.
Don't Need Him:
Our buddy Wes Bunting at National Football Post thinks Kerrigan is really overvalued. "He gets the stereotypical 'he's white so he's a hard-nosed pass-rusher, blue-collar player and tough against the run," says Bunting. "I just don't think he's that tough against the run and that he'll get blown away in a 4-3 by tackles. In the 3-4, he's going to have to drop (in coverage) and he's too stiff-hipped to get in and out of breaks." Bunting says that spending a first-round pick on a guy who maybe a run-stoppingliability and could struggle with 3-4 OLB responsibilities is a gamble.
The need is there when it comes to adding a guy who can bring consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And the players are there in this draft to fill that need. Kerrigan is one of several excellent players the Patriots can go with and we'll get into the rest. But if Kerrigan is as overvalued as Bunting says, there's no way New England spends its 17th pick on him and he will not be there at 28. If, however, the team has determined that he can do the unique things they demand - and he can mentally master them quickly - he could be their man.
Patriots Draftability: 8