With only a few weeks left until the NFL draft, fan and media speculation is running wild. Hundreds of college prospects are visiting and working out for teams. The visits, workouts, and rumors leave many people with a ton of unanswered questions. To help decipher these questions, DraftCountdown‘s Shane Hallam stops by to talk all things draft in this Q & A.
In this years draft, there seems to be no consensus at the top of the draft. In your opinion, does this speak more to the prospects coming out or the teams needs at the top of the draft?
I think it shows the weakness at the top of this draft. Generally we have a clear-cut #1 quarterback or dynamic pass rusher or offensive lineman who are close to sure picks. This year, that doesn’t exist. You either have players at positions that aren’t premium (Patrick Peterson, AJ Green) or massive weaknesses among the premium positions (Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Robert Quinn, Tyron Smith). This leads to a lot of uncertainty, but could prove very valuable for teams picking from 5 through 10 in this draft.
If you had to classify the Patriots top needs in this draft, what would they be and why?
Front 7 needs to be addressed with subpar pass rushers and very little depth at the 5 technique position. With their high volume of picks, the Patriots will have an opportunity to address this with multiple picks over the first two days of the draft. With this being such a great draft for defensive linemen and pass rushers, the type of player the Patriots like to bring in for these positions is plentiful. Pick #17 could provide a bounty of 5-technique defensive ends like Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt could still be on the board for them to get great value. In the second round, a LB conversion project like Brooks Reed or Jabaal Sheard could be an ideal fit for the system.
The vast majority of Patriots fans and analysts would agree that Outside Linebacker is a top need. Who are your top 3-4 outside linebacker prospects?
My top player is Von Miller out of Texas A&M, a legit top 5 pick. Someone more in the Patriots range is Aldon Smith out of Missouri. He has some work to do in terms of rushing off the edge, but he provides a lot of versatility and raw ability. I wouldn’t count on him being available for the Patriots at 17 and if they want him, they may need to move up. Finally, I am a big fan of Brooks Reed and Jabaal Sheard making the conversion as 2nd round picks.
In your mind, is there a player entering the draft that deserves more national attention?
I still believe Eastern Washington RB Taiwan Jones deserves more attention. He has rare explosiveness and acceleration that is unmatched in this draft class. If healthy, he can be a primary runner who provides a versatile threat to catch out of the back field, return kicks, and take long runs to the house. He can be a Brian Westbrook type of player at the next level, which almost any team would love to have. If he checks out medically and has a great pro day, the 2nd round is a possibility.
Robert Quinn is my favorite prospect in this draft, what are your thoughts on him and his possible transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker?
I think he can do it, but it isn’t his best fit. I would be weary of putting Quinn out in space against big offensive tackles, plus pass coverage could definitely be a liability. His speed off the edge is exceptional though and in the right system, he can be a 10-12 sack a year player. I’d prefer to keep his hand down myself and have him rush the passer that way to utilize his full skill set.
What do you see the Patriots doing in the draft? Do you see there draft style staying the same or do you envision more of a aggressive style in order to select more quality players?
The Patriots are consistent in their drafting ways and that won’t change. #33 will be a highly coveted pick and they may use it to trade down and pick up future selections as they always do. There always seem to be rumors about the Patriots moving up in the draft but I am unsure if it will happen this year. Standing pat and taking players that fit their system has worked well for New England, it should not change here. Grabbing players with NFL pedigrees like Cameron Jordan or Cameron Heyward would be right in line with their thinking. Also, the positions we expect them to address early (pass rush, etc,) may not be addressed until a bit later as it seems the Pats never quite do what we think they will.
Da’ Quan Bowers stock seems to be slipping. What has attributed to this and would you take him early in the first round?
I gladly would take Bowers in the early first. A microfracture is a serious injury, but Bowers has a very consistent game. He can be a 6-8 sack a year player who is incredible against the run. He is much safer than some of the other high first round picks, so I would take a chance on him if I could redshirt him for a year to rehab. His fit only being in a 4-3 system does limit him to certain teams, so that could be a reason for his fall too.
I watched Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed the past couple of years. He seems to have a tremendous upside as a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. What are your thoughts on him?
I have been a huge fan for awhile. Back in October, I actually wrote a blog about him and teammate Ricky Elmore (http://draftcountdown.com/draft-blog/2010/10/dynamic-pass-rushing-duo/). Reed has been on the rise since because of his non-stop motor and tremendous athleticism. Making the conversion to LB would be a difficult one for him, but he has shown some great effort in trying to learn the new position. The use of his hands is violent, but he does have an injury history and there some uncertainty about how he will shed blocks at LB.
Do you believe NFL general managers will change their drafting philosophy because of the labor situation?
I don’t. It has been cited that without free agency or without offseason workouts GMs will take less chances on players or opt for premium positions like quarterback. GMs are going to draft as if there is an NFL season and as if free agency will occur. This will lead to some teams with big needs to not draft them as early as we anticipate but instead go after the best possible players they can.
If you had the number one overall pick, who are you taking and why?
I would take A.J. Green number 1. Safest player with huge upside. Though not the biggest need or flashiest position, I would not want to set my franchise back by chancing a quarterback at number 1 who I don’t feel can be a franchise player. Green has hall of fame potential and adding a weapon for Jimmy Clausen could actually help his development. Go defensive heavy later in the draft and grab an impact weapon that teams must account for.
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