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The case that we will not take an OLB early in the draft

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Ice_Ice_Brady, Mar 2, 2011.

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  1. Ice_Ice_Brady

    Ice_Ice_Brady In the Starting Line-Up

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    Every organization has a philosophy about the draft. It appears the Patriots do not draft speed-rushing outside linebackers with high picks. It is possible that circumstances have just not fallen into place and that they haven't been very excited about recent prospects. However, the 2009 draft boasted several huge prospects at the position, including Clay Matthews, who many draft pundits had the Patriots picking. They traded down.

    Also, I believed a few years ago that the Pats would not spend a high pick on a cornerback and was proven wrong last year. So, this is definitely speculation.

    Now for the case.

    The Patriots have frequently passed on edge rushers in the early rounds of the draft, despite projected fits from experts. The reason is likely because this position has a very high bust rate, with very little film on players in a 3-4 OLB role. Many have said this is the most difficult position to transition from college to the pros. Despite all the rave before each draft, the last few years have not really produced a lot of talent. For every DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews, there are plenty of busts.

    You can check out the draft history here.

    National Football League: NFL Draft History - by Position

    The Patriots current roster is highlighted by Jermaine Cunningham, a third-round pick, and Tully Banta-Cain, who was drafted in the seventh round.

    Around the NFL, some of the best at the position did not exactly come heralded. And remember, every year there are five guys who excite scouts, yet there are certainly not many guys who have come into the NFL and established themselves as elite 3-4 pass rushers.

    James Harrison- Came into the NFL undrafted in 2002. Was shipped to Europe to play for the Ravens team there. Didn't make an impact until 2007, five years later.

    Cameron Wake- Also undrafted in 2005. Like Harrison, he did not make the roster and played in the CFL. It also took him five years to finally break through.

    Jason Taylor- Third round pick. And also, Taylor could be a classic case of not being able to transition to a 3-4, although age could have been a factor as well.

    Joey Porter- As much as I hate the guy, he was an elite pass rusher. Another third round pick taken 73rd overall (same as Taylor.)

    Shaun Philips- Third round pick.

    Anyway, if you look at the hyped players drafted near the top, you find a lot of players that make you say "who is that guy?" With the exception of Suggs, Matthews, and Ware, there are very few impact players taken near the top at this position, and a lot of huge, monumental busts like Gholston.

    Yes, you can make the argument that this is true with all positions, but it is much more statistically true at this one.

    As for the Patriots, they have rarely drafted players at this position. Since Belichick took over, here is the breakdown:

    Skill positions (QB, WR, TE, RB)-32
    Offensive line- 18
    Defensive line- 16
    Secondary- 14
    Linebackers- 12*

    *Cunningham is the only OLB drafted in the first two rounds, near the end of round two.

    This is pretty amazing when you consider how important the linebacker position is in a 3-4 defense, and it shows that the Patriots do not really trust the hype at this position. Here is where some of the impact players landed:

    Rosevelt Colvin- Fourth round pick
    Mike Vrabel- Third-round pick, dumped by Pittsburgh
    Adalius Thomas- Sixth round pick
    Willie McGinest- Fourth overall pick, so he breaks the trend, although Willie played defensive end quite a bit as well.

    It's not that this position is not valuable. I think the contracts given to Colvin and Thomas, two high-priced free agents, show that it is. But we know that Belichick hates taking crapshoot risks, and all moves are calculated with high-reward. That said, history has shown that successful linebacking pass rushers are typically developed over a long period of time in the league, with high bust rates at the top, and plenty of surprises near the mid to late rounds (or undrafted.)

    This is probably not what many people want to hear, but don't be surprised AT ALL if the Patriots do not take a DE/OLB in the first round (or 33.) I expect they might take two 3-4 DE/DTs.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2011
  2. Sciz

    Sciz PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    If the Pats don't get Aldon, they're not taking one in the first 3 rounds. Calling it now :cool:
     
  3. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Thats a lot of analysis.
    But I think you are missing the most important factor.

    BB drafts a player. He doesn't draft a stereotype (speed rusher, run stopper) he drafts the best football player he can get.
    I think this makes it questionable to make statements such as BB doesnt like to draft OLBs early, and the fact he passed on Clay Matthews may be evidence.
    I think its much more simple than that. He drafts the best football player he can get.
    I think the trends that people like to think are there for the most part are not trends they are circumstantial evidence. "BB would never draft a G in the first round" "ILB isnt a round 1 position for BB" "BB never picks corners in the first round" are all statements that were considered fact around here at one time.

    The reason BB is unpredictable is that everyone wants to put a label on each player then use BBs reaction to that label as an indication of how he feels about everyone you would put that label on.

    BB would take an All-Pro OLB in round 1 if he saw one there.
    When Clay Matthews was on the board, that wasn't what he saw, and frankly unless you are hypnothized by sack statistics (which even probowl voters are ironically) thats not what you should see either. The flash isnt what BB is drafting even if fans and commentators look no further.
    Personally, I do not think BB would choose Mathews if he could redraft that year, but thats just my opinion of his overall play, not just the flash.

    I think the best case you can make for us not taking an OLB in round 1 is that it seems that it is very rare for BB to see one that he feels is 1st round caliber. That is a viable possiblity because there are few positions that harder to assess a college player transitioning to than 3-4 2 gap OLB.
    There basically are none of those in college football, so the risk is higher.
    If I have all of the potentially excellent players available at pick number 28 and some of those have shown the skills in college doing almost exactly what they need to do in the NFL is a much safer pick than projecting a guy to be able to succeed doing things and playing techniques he never did in college.

    The draft record on OLBs, IMO, is much more about that uncertainty of transition than an indication that BB places little value on OLB.
     
  4. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #24 Jersey

    OP--nice analysis, and legwork. You certainly make a decent case for how BB may view the position, with the high percentage of non-impact players etc.

    That said, the prospects of selecting a player at this position still is decent in the mid-rounds, and anyone can step up and pleasantly surprise us.

    I agree that with a deeper DE draft, that may be where a likely choice or 2 lies--at least with the top 3 rounds.

    It's a guessing game, and that's why I never attempt to make a mock draft etc, b/c we do not have 1/10th of the information/scheme planning and knowledge of the specifics that BB has.

    FWIW--I certainly believed that McKenzie was always projected to be an ILB here too.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2011
  5. supafly

    supafly PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #24 Jersey

    That's an excellent point right there, and is a good fact that sometimes many (including myself) has tended to overlook. At the end of the day I always trust the experts, and I certainly consider Belichick an expert. I really could care less who he takes, the thing I love is that he puts the team in a great position to succeed in the draft, and his percentage of hits is much better than misses.
     
  6. zimmy

    zimmy On the Game Day Roster

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    It is revisionist history to claim, as you do, that Clay Matthews was a huge can't miss prospect. I actually recall people saying Green Bay had over drafted him. He was a one year starter in college with very little production, who at 6ft 3, 245lbs was also too small to play OLB in our system. He was about the same size as Gary Guyton, who has no chance of playing OLB.

    I would like to know who these can't miss OLBs that BB has passed on in the first round the last few years are? Those type of guys go high in the draft and we don't get the opportunity to select them

    From the first round, Bill wants good football players who are able to play all three downs. He is obviously wary about taking a projection player early in the draft. Maybe this is the year things change.
     
  7. patsfan-1982

    patsfan-1982 In the Starting Line-Up

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    IMO this draft class is not that deep at OLB at less not that many with first round grades... Von Miller, and Robert Quinn, will both be gone in the top 12 picks Aldon Smith, could be gone by pick 17 and im not sure the pats will take him after that i dont think there are any OLB's that will go in the first round, Justin Houston and Ryan Kerrigan, i think they have shown that they are both more of 4-3 DE's and not OLB's
     
  8. kurtinelson

    kurtinelson In the Starting Line-Up

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    I'd say that this is one of the deepest 3-4 OLB draft classes in history.

    All of these players project to be drafted in round 1:

    R. Quinn
    A. Smith
    V. Miller
    A. Ayers
    J. Houston
     
  9. serifyn

    serifyn Third String But Playing on Special Teams

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    the great part about this draft is that there is alot of depth in the earlier rounds at practically every position the patriots need help at.

    DL, OLB, OT, WR, RB and if the patriots see a player they really like, they have all of the currency to go and get them, the patriots with 7 draft picks in the first 4 rounds have done a great job over the years of rebuilding their team and restocking talent, now they have the opportunity to to fix whatever holes are left on a 14-2 team.
     
  10. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    To each his own, for example, from your list only Miller is someone I consider a 3-4 OLB. I believe Smith to have the athleticism, as does Ayers, but I have other concerns for them which preclude me considering either in the first round. Quinn and Houston both showed themselves to be good straight-line athletes at the Combine, but neither demonstrated the movement skills I require in an OLB. Players whom I consider first round prospects and OLB prospects besides Miller: Bowers, Kerrigan ... beauty is in the eye of the beholder as it were.
     
  11. Don Kipines

    Don Kipines On the Game Day Roster

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    I think this is a pretty sound analysis. This position is a little bit like the quarterback position in that it's very hard to evaluate the players coming out because they so rarely have done in college what they will do, schematically, in the pros.

    My sense of BB's strategy with the front 7 is to find impact players at the nose and the two DEs, and then manufacture a pass rush with versatile and proven players around the DLs. Hence the drafting of three first-round D-linemen and the constant reliance upon low-round picks and free-agents at the OLB position.

    I think what we saw with Crable last year was symbolic of the whole situation. It looked to me like Crable wasn't half bad at generating pressure, but he was lost when he had to drop and so he couldn't get on the field. Crable was an outstanding college pass-rusher who played against good competition and tested very well; to watch what happened to a guy like that when he got to the NFL would certainly make me hesitant to go after another Big Ten DE with a stellar pass-rushing record like Ryan Kerrigan.

    I'd bet the Pats' pass-rushing problems will dissipate a lot once they start getting better play from their front three. If you bring Ty Warren back and put someone more athletic than Gerard Warren or Brandon Deaderick opposite him, you'll see whoever is playing OLB get a lot more lanes to the quarterback. How many times did Vrabel get sacks or hurries because Seymour was drawing double-teams? Their big problem it seems to me for the last two years is that they've been short and undersized at DE, particularly RDE; when the two guys to the right of Wilfork on the line are Mike Wright and Tully Banta-Cain, that's a definite weak spot in the defense.

    If I'm BB, I'm targeting someone like Watt or Cam Jordan or Cam Heyward in the first round, then looking for linebackers from the second or third group, from guys like Ugo Chinasa and Chris Carter. Maybe even add two of those latter guys. If they pick up a legit five-technique to play opposite Ty Warren, I think they can get by without impact players at OLB -- just get some guys like Cunningham who have a little bit more size and speed and athletic ability.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2011
  12. Sean Pa Patriot

    Sean Pa Patriot Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    Im amazed, that people are talking about a draft that is going mean squat.. after today and tom morning, the leauge is shutting down... no ifs ands or buts unless some miracle..... Yes there is going to be a draft, but what can you trade??? nothing there can be no trades, i think your stuck in the slot you are... and then the players wont be able to go to camp.. so this rookie class willl mean squat... some somber news.. David Cornwell was just on espn , and what is going to happen is its going to court but leauge will shut down and games will be missed.. 2011 looks right now is going to be a waste of a season....
     
  13. IllegalContact

    IllegalContact Pro Bowl Player

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    2001 DL,OL
    2002 TE,WR
    2003 DL,WR,CB
    2004 DL,TE,DL
    2005 OL
    2006 RB,WR
    2007 S
    2008 LB
    2009 S,CB,DL,OL .... Ok Chung was picked 34, but close enough
    2010 CB,TE,LB,LB

    I would say the trend would be to go back to the trenches......

    17 Wilkerson
    28 pouncey
    33 either smith or carimi .... One will be available here.
    64 BPA....could be an OLB......don't much care if they aren't ready to cover as long asnthey can get after the QB

    Take a flyer on romeus
     
  14. Defsoul

    Defsoul On the Game Day Roster

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    Teams won't be able to trade players for picks, but they will be able to trade picks. The Patriots could still deal a 2011 second round pick for a 2012 first round pick although I think that teams would value their 2012 draft picks more in case of a lockout.

    But like you said, there would be no rookie mini camps and no OTAs and maybe even no training camps in case of a lockout. The rookies would have no chance to come in, get to know the system, learn the playbook and prepare themselfs to contribute in their first NFL season.
     
  15. Sean Pa Patriot

    Sean Pa Patriot Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    exactly, the rookies are goin to be a waste this year... if there is no deal they cant come in a learn the system... That is why i didnt care about the combine, until i know there is football the draft means nothing... As most pats fans though , one of the main reasons we were 14 -2 was the steller play from our rookies... with a chance to be a great player in the draft this year ,but with no football on the horizon, this draft could be a waste for 2011....
     
  16. RxJock1120

    RxJock1120 Third String But Playing on Special Teams

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    Jermaine Cunningham and Jason Taylor were both second round picks NOT THIRD. I think there are a lot of great players picked in the first round who you're missing. Brian Cushing....etc.

    I really do not think the Pats specifically not draft OLB because of a general philosophy, but more of a person assessment of prospects they were in position to draft.
     
  17. DW Toys

    DW Toys In the Starting Line-Up

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    Two words:
    Tom Condon
    DW Toys
     
  18. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    The reality is "pass rushers" are the current in thing in the NFL.

    Some is a response to SB XLII and the current rules governing the secondary.

    The reality is the Packers have a superior secondary but Matthews get the pub for coverage sacks. However, some would argue Matthews makes the Packers secondary great.

    In the end, the question you have to answer is, do you want a "pass rush" or do you want a "pass rusher". Answer that and you can prioritize.
     
  19. AQPE

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    Great post, well-written and I agree 100%.
     
  20. Seneschal2

    Seneschal2 In the Starting Line-Up

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    IMHO the DE/OLBs are difficult to evaluate than some other positions. If we're talking about not drafting one "early", such as #17, I think the reason may be based on them not being as sure a thing as other positions due to their necessary transition. As I've stated many times, that #17 slot would be reserved for the prospect with fewest questions. By no means does this infer that BB would never select the position early.

    Consider the words of Pioli:

     
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