By: Derek Havens
With just a little over two months until the annual NFL draft, the college scouting and evaluation process is in full swing. The NFL combine event will be held Thursday, Feb. 24 through March 1st at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
More than 300 top prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft will be invited to participate at the event. Hopefully, these evaluations will give all fans some ideas of who to focus on at each position of need. Be sure to comment and let me know who you might be interested in.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Need Ranking: 1st
Top 5 Prospects –
- Von Miller: 6’3 – 240 (Texas A & M) – Miller is an explosive player that could run a 4.5 40 at the Combine according to Texas A & M sources. He has exceptional top end speed but could be a little small for Belichick’s standards. He is a three down player with excellent tackling ability and strong pass rush capabilities. He plays with terrific pad level but can be over powered by bigger offensive lineman because of his size.
- Robert Quinn: 6’4 – 260 (UNC)- Ideal size 6’4, 260 lbs for the Patriots system. Quinn, who was suspended for the entire 2010 college season, is a natural pass rushing monster. He has an unreal motor along with all the intangibles for the position. He can over power blockers but does play a little high at times. He could rocket up draft boards during the pre – draft process.
- Akeem Ayers: 6’4 – 250 (UCLA) – One of the most complete 3 – 4 prospects, Ayers can do it all. He is an underrated pass rusher but is fluid enough to drop into coverage. Great tackling ability and very well rounded. While his pass rushing ability did not show up in the statistic column, he does have the capability to get to the quarterback.
- Aldon Smith: 6’5 – 260 (Missouri) – One of the many 2011 NFL draft gambles. He truly defines the term risk – reward prospect. Deemed by many any athletic “freak” he is this years Jason Pierre – Paul. He has superior pass rush ability and explosiveness. He might be a bit raw and need some development but, has the potential to be the next DeMarcus Ware.
- Justin Houston: 6’3 – 258 (Georgia) – A dynamic multi-faced edge rusher who has experience as 4 – 3 defensive end and 3 – 4 outside linebacker. He does a great job wrapping up when tackling (110 tackles last season) and has the speed / athleticism to play from sideline – to – sideline. Houston can simply so it all and could be a greta option for teams late in the first, early in the second round.
* Da’ Quan Bowers not mentioned because he is a top 3 pick *
My Favorite Prospect: Robert Quinn – Quinn is my favorite prospect because he is a pass rushing beast with the size Belichick loves to have at the OLB position. This Patriots team needs a dynamic edge rusher who can get after the opposing quarterback and I believe Robert Quinn could be that guy.
Sleeper Prospect: Brooks Reed (Arizona) – Brooks Reed is a prospect that could shoot up into the early second round range after the pre- draft process is complete. He is slated as a mid third to late second talent as of now, but that could change in the coming weeks. Described by NFL Analyst Pat Kirwan as “The next Clay Mathews”, Reed will be a well known commodity after the combine. His size, relentless motor, and ability to locate the ball carrier is exceptional. I believe this could be a prospect worth keeping an eye on before April’s draft.
Analysis: Outside Linebacker is far and away the highest need for the Patriots this off – season. This team has searched high and low for a pass rush threat for nearly three seasons. Not only does the team need help rushing the quarterback, they also need a three down player. Hopefully for patriots nation, this will be the season Bill Belichick and the scouting department can finally land their man this April.
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