NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is holding a conference call today and it didn’t take long before the Patriots were a topic of discussion. Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald asked Mayock for his assessment of what the Patriots might do with their first-round pick (22nd overall) and three second-rounders:
“I think what they do really well is they understand the players that fit what they want, what type of players fit the Patriots system. To me, they have to get younger and more athletic on the back end [in the secondary]. It started last year with [Pat] Chung and [Darius] Butler. They need somebody who can rush the quarterback, and I think that has to be a priority, you have to find an edge rusher who can get to the quarterback. So I think the evaluation of all these 3-4 edge rushers become really important to the New England Patriots.”
Mayock explained how scouts can tell if a college defensive end that projects to outside linebacker is a good fit.
“There are an awful lot of what I call the conversion guys this year, which is good for the 3-4 teams, because there are more 3-4 teams than ever. So a bunch of these college 4-3 defensive ends that need to stand up and show whether or not they can play, I believe you can see most of what you need to see, even in a pair of gym shorts. If you have determined that a kid is a tough kid, and a good football player with his hand in the dirt in the 4-3 system, and from a size and speed perspective you want to see if he can stand up and rush and can drop back in coverage – what it really comes down to is whether or not he is as comfortable going backwards as he is forwards.
“I’ll give you an example – Trent Cole from Cincinnati. Philadelphia drafted him. He was a 4-3 defensive end. As soon as I saw him at the Senior Bowl and combine, I knew he was too tight in the hips to open up and move and be able to drive backwards. But he was really effective coming forwards. So even though he was undersized, he was going to have to stay at defensive end. That’s what you can see with these kids – when you see them drop in pass coverage, they force them to open their hips in all these drills and it’s pretty easy to see the guys that are athletic enough that have the fluid movement skills to open their hips, to drive, to bend, to move, to catch the football, and the guys where you say ‘uh-uh, that is not going to work.’”