Interesting article from the Globe today on NO DE Will Smith, who went #18 to the Saints in the 2004 draft out of Ohio State:
Pats were high on Smith in '04 draft - Patriots Blog - ESPN Boston
Some interesting tidbits: " 'He was certainly a guy we had a lot of interest in,' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. 'He's a big guy who can run, rush the passer, pursue well, strong player at the point of attack, athletic, plays on his feet.
He's got a group of skills, plays hard, been productive. I think he's been the player people thought he would be.' ... Thinking back to 2004, when Smith was coming out of Ohio State, Belichick didn't view him as an outside linebacker/defensive end type hybrid for the Patriots. Belichick compared the situation to Julius Peppers, saying that while he could probably play outside linebacker, a team wouldn't want to drop him into coverage because it would take him away from doing what he does best -- rushing the passer.
Belichick was asked if it would be accurate that Smith was one of the few players he had in mind as a possibility for the Patriots in the first round of that 2004 draft. 'Yeah, sure,' he said. 'Any team I'm coaching, if you can get a good defensive lineman, you'd consider it.
I don't care where it was, what the situation was, how many of them you might think you'd have. You really can't have too many of those guys if they're good.
Thinking about the 2010 draft, there are a ton of defensive linemen potentially coming out who have those kind of size and skills: big guys who can run, rush the passer, pursue well, strong player at the point of attack, are athletic, and play on their feet. These include:
- Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. 6'4" 268#. Unstoppable rushing the passer, plays the run just as well. Can probably drop back into space too.
- Carlos Dunlap, Florida. 6'6", 270-290# athletic freak. Upside is another Peppers.
- Greg Hardy, Mississippi. 6'6" 265#. A force when healthy, somewhat reminiscent of Jared Allen.
- Jason Pierre-Paul, USF. 6'6" 265#, 81" wingspan. Reminiscent of Jevon Kearse with his freakish athletic ability.
- Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh. 6'5" 265#. Incredible strong, like Morgan a force both rushing the passer and playing the run.
- Everson Griffen, USC. 6'3" 280# bull who runs like a deer, with very long arms.
- Austen Lane, Murray State. 6'6" 260#, has drawn comparisons to Jason Taylor.
- Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma. 6'3" 260#. Former linebacker. Has produced 58 tackles, 8 sacks and 1 INT this season.
I really see BB focusing on these kind of guys much more than DE/OLB "hybrids" like Sergio Kindle or Jerry Hughes, Eric Norwood or Ricky Sapp. They aren't guys who you would drop into coverage a lot, because it would take away from their skills up front, but they certainly have the athleticism to do it from time to time.