Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Nawrocki talks Pats, rushers

By Mike Reiss

Draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly held a media conference call Wednesday, and he was asked about the Patriots as it relates to this year's draft.

The Patriots have the 27th, 31st, 48th and 62nd picks within the first two rounds and Nawrocki touched on the defensive side of the ball when looking at those selections for the club.

"The one position that really stands out is the outside linebacker position. I think the Patriots have had a difficult time filling that, both in free agency and the draft," he said.

"You look at Adalius Thomas and how he performed there. I think that's an area they've tended to stay away from early on [in the draft], and I think they'd like to find someone to plug in, someone young. They had Andre Carter and they just lost Mark Anderson and I think they have a big need there. There are a number of players they could plug in and would fit in very well at that position.

"You look at this year's draft, I think [Clemson's] Andre Branch has the prototype. I'm not sure he has the instincts you'd like at that position, but obviously he has all the physical tools. They really prefer length at that outside linebacker position in New England, and he has it. [Alabama's] Courtney Upshaw likely will be off the board by then; he's another outside linebacker and he brings more power to the edges, more of a leverage rusher. He's definitely another one that will receive early interest as an outside 'backer. I would expect them to put a lot of attention on that position and try to get better defensively, also on the back end."

Nawrocki was then asked how the position rates to past years.

"It's OK. There are a good number of rushers," he said. "I don't know that there is an elite rusher, like we've seen in recent years with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. There is no true standout in that category, but there are enough of them.

"I think [South Carolina's] Melvin Ingram could get looks as an outside linebacker. His arms measured very short and I think that would be a concern to a team like the Patriots. Even Chandler Jones, from Syracuse, I think he has ideal prototype size measurements for that position. I think he's another one who would fit the scheme in New England very well.

"There a couple others -- Bruce Irvin from West Virginia and Shea McClellin from Boise State, Nick Perry [of USC] and Whitney Mercilus [of Illinois] -- they can all get looks at that position."