After months of studying the NFL draft, we'll start our list of "10 perfect Patriots", narrowing down the list of prospects to a select group that we feel would be ideal (and realistic) for the New England Patriots, while adding a few draft-related thoughts:
Player: DaQuan Jones
School: Penn State
Position: Defensive tackle
Listed height/weight: 6-foot-3 3/4, 322 pounds
Scouts Inc. rank: 6th (scouting profile)
Draft projection: Third round
Why he’s on our list: His combination of size, upside, scheme versatility and intangibles come together to make him one of the "safest" picks at the position. Though there are more talented defensive tackles in the class, some have lingering questions about inconsistency and others have injury concerns. Jones looks clean in most areas, and he potentially has three-down value because of his strong work against the run and ability to rush on the interior. An added benefit is that he played under former Patriots assistant Bill O'Brien, providing clear-cut evidence of how he would project to a hard-driving program like New England's.
A feel for the defensive tackle class: Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio called the overall defensive line class (tackles and ends) one of the depth spots in the draft, pointing out it's filled with prospects with different styles of play. The Patriots generally value size on the interior, and those types of big bodies often command big deals if they reach free agency (e.g. Linval Joseph in Minnesota this offseason). There aren't many with Jones' type of physical makeup.
Recommended link: Anna Orso of "The Collegian" profiled Jones, the silent leader who has overcome adversity. "He’s a fantastic kid,” O’Brien said in the piece. “You talk about a guy that’s overcome the odds in the classroom, overcome the odds on the football field.”
Key stat: Shed 15 pounds entering the 2013 season and finished with 11.5 tackles for a loss.
Workout stat: Totaled 25 repetitions on the bench press.
Draft strategy: The split between the Patriots' late second-round pick (62) and late third-round pick (93rd) is wide to the point that if the Patriots were indeed interested in Jones and there were no unknown medical questions, it would be risky to let Jones pass by at the end of the second round.