Continuing our scouting report series with a look at the first of two Patriots seventh-round picks, defensive end/outside linebacker Michael Buchanan.
Alignment: Buchanan was used as both a defensive end and stand-up linebacker for Illinois. In the Fighting Illini's base defensive package, Buchanan played as an end, either with a hand in the dirt or standing up in a two-point stance. In some of their sub packages he was used as a stand-up linebacker in a bubble alignment (roughly 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage).
Build/athleticism: Buchanan is a long, wiry player on film who appeared thicker in person when we met him at the start of rookie minicamp. He's a smooth, nimble defensive lineman with good hips and good quickness. He has the ability to torque his body and bend the corner as a rusher and shows good closing ability as a backside run defender.
Skills/traits: Buchanan was regarded by many as more of a pass-rushing defensive end than a run-stuffer, and though his production was down from the 2011 to 2012 season, he still flashed quickness off the snap and a developed arsenal of rushing techniques to generate pressure. He shows a good two-hand shiver to fight through an opposing offensive tackle, though he has room to develop more counter pass-rush moves when he gets caught up against a tackle. Buchanan slithered around too many blocks as a run defender (this hurt him on occasion when defending read-option plays in college) and needs to work on squaring up and taking on blocks. He showed sufficient in-line strength to stack a tackle or tight end.
Projection: There's a mixed bag of thoughts relating to Buchanan, as he has impressive movement skills for a player of his size and enough pass-rushing ability to project as a possible factor. But he needs to become a more consistent run defender and put on some weight to hold up against bigger tackles. When we scouted Jamie Collins, we mentioned the possibility of the Patriots' using him as a stand-up outside linebacker in some 3-4 fronts. If the team were to implement some of those fronts for 2013, Buchanan might be an option to play on the edge as well. As is the case with many seventh-round picks, Buchanan will need to contribute on special teams, and he has the athleticism to do that early on in his career.