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: Demarcus Lawrence
School: Boise State
Listed height/weight: 6-foot-2 7/8, 251 pounds
Scouts Inc. position rank: 5th-OLB (scouting profile)
Draft projection: Late first round/early second round
Why he's on our list: Lawrence is one of the best pass-rushers in this year's draft and he plays with an edge ... and on the edge. He had multiple suspensions at Boise State, which gave me pause in putting him on the list, but not every prospect is going to have a clean résumé and there is a projection that he could thrive with the guidance of Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Will Smith and others in the sturdy Patriots' locker room. Lawrence's 11-inch hand size and long arms are part of the package that makes him an intriguing prospect, assuming the off-field questions are not viewed as a deal-breaker by the team. With the Patriots playing the majority of their snaps in sub defense in recent years, having a surplus of pass-rushers is becoming more of a necessity.
A feel for the defensive end/outside linebacker class: Analysts have called this position light, but multiple-front teams like the Patriots and Steelers have disagreed.
Recommended link: Greg Kreller of the Idaho Press-Tribune writes on Lawrence drawing a crowd at his pro day, with almost every NFL team represented.
Key stat: Totaled 20.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks last season.
Workout stat: His 4.31 time in the 20-yard short shuttle was among the best at his position.
Draft strategy: Lawrence has the physical tools to be considered at 29 but the Patriots, assuming there are no deal-breakers with the suspensions, would probably feel more comfortable with him in the second round. Given the premium placed on pass-rushers in today's pass-first game, Lawrence probably wouldn't be there at 62. So if the Patriots trade back from 29 into the early to middle parts of the second round, Lawrence is a prospect we'll be keeping an eye on for them.