Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is a player whose expertise matches one of the Patriots' greatest needs -- pass-rush explosion. Kerrigan totaled 25.5 sacks, 42.5 tackles for a loss and 12 forced fumbles over the past two seasons. Scouts and draft analysts often refer to him as relentless.
Kerrigan primarily played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at Purdue, but at 6-foot-3 7/8 and 267 pounds, he wouldn't be a defensive end in the Patriots' base 3-4 defense. He'd project to outside linebacker, and that's why the Patriots and other teams running the 3-4 closely watched him closely in linebacker drills this morning.
Here is how Todd McShay of ESPN's Scouts Inc. viewed Kerrigan's linebacker-specific work (Insider content):
"Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan did not perform as well as hoped during the week of the Senior Bowl, when he lined up at outside linebacker, and he doesn't have elite athletic ability. However, he did a better job of moving in space on Monday, and teams looking for help at outside linebacker late in the first round should take note of his improved body control in space."
While it's dangerous to read too much into one Combine drill, if Kerrigan shows signs of progress in this area in the weeks to come, he's a prospect to keep on the radar for the Patriots.
In addition to Kerrigan, ESPN's McShay shares his thoughts on some other defensive ends/outside linebackers in his morning blog entry.