Patriots Draft Preview: Edge

Divisional Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots

Current Roster: Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Jr., Derek Rivers, Eric Lee, Keionta Davis

Positional Overview: Just in case you’re not aware, the term “Edge” came into common draft nerd usage about three years ago. And it appears to have some staying power, in the way “hardo” has become part of the lexicon but “darty,” sadly, hasn’t. It works as a general term to save us from differentiating between the very similar positions of 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. Since the line between them is so blurred now with so many teams playing base nickel, and being game plan specific, the two have basically crossbred and become one species.

Almost every draft, the vast majority of the Patriots press corps says Edge is their top priority. Put your Football Cliche Generator app on “shuffle” and pick any one that pops up. They need a pass rusher. Someone who can move the quarterback off his spot. Help the secondary by making the ball come out faster. Don’t let them get comfortable back there. But the Patriots don’t do rush specialists. Ever. Anyone who’s to be trusted on the outside is going to have to rush, sure. But also set the edge against the run, move inside on occasion, drop into coverage when necessary. And above all else, remember the rule of 6-4, 4-6. Shorthand for how their “type” is 6-foot-4 or bigger, 4.6 or faster. Rob Ninkovich was the rare exception at 6-3. And James Harrison was the kind they would never swipe right for, but they were in a desperate situation.

They’ve addressed the position in the last year. Derek Rivers was their first pick (83rd overall) last year but spent his rookie season on IR. Deatrich Wise came with the 131st pick andI think he was relied on more than they were hoping to before all their Front 7 depth evaporated. And my 2011 draftcrush at this position Adrian Clayborn was a nice addition. But it’s crucial they develop someone they can count on long term opposite Trey Flowers as an every down solution that opponents have to gameplan for. As I’ve been saying in these previews a lot more than I care to, this is not a great draft class to have a need at this position. It’s not like last year when you had a Myles Garrett and a TJ Watt. But there’s nuggets to be found.

The Unanimous Best in Show:

Bradley Chubb, NC State. 6-foot-4, 269 pounds, 4.65 40-time

Chubb is not only the best Edge player in this draft, he’s the best defensive player, period. And on a lot of boards he’s considered the best player at any position. His Chris Berman nickname should be “Gives Me a” because after putting on 50 lbs over his college career, his body type is perfect for a 4-3 DE and his production looks like a Barry Bonds 2000 stat line. He was second in the FBS with 26 tackles for loss, had 10 sacks, 2 passes broken up and 3 forced fumbles while facing elite level offensive tackles. And yet as much of a disruptor as he is, Chubb is also the best run defender of the bunch. He plays from both ends of the line. Makes tackles coming from the back side or deep down field because he plays to the whistle, and once in a while draws 15 yards because he plays after it. The only thing that will keep him from going in the Top 5 is if there’s a run on quarterbacks like the release of new Air Jordans.
Compares to the leading brand: Khalil Mack

Mortal Lock 1st Rounder:

Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio. 6-6, 264 lb, 4.58
Davenport also put on weight in school, adding 30 lbs to his tall drink o’ water frame. He ran well at the Indianapolis Kennel Club Show and has powerful hands but as Belle sang about the Beast, his game is coarse and unrefined. He tends to play upright and let blockers get under his pads. Which at 6-6 isn’t all that hard I suppose, but will get you playing in the spring league in a hurry. Still, he used the acceleration in his rush arc to have beaten Brian O’Neill of Pitt at the Senior Bowl for a sack of Baker Mayfield. Then added a scoop-and-score fumble recovery for a 25 yard TD. Play actions are still the Enigma Code to Davenport. But there’s so much length, speed and point-of-attack strength that he’ll probably be drafted in the teens.
Compares to the leading brand: Brian Orakpo

Not the Patriots Type, But Definitely Somebody’s:

Harold Landry, Boston College. 6-3, 252 lb, 4.64


The worst thing that happened to 2017 Harold Landry was everyone comparing him to 2016 Harold Landry. Harold the Younger finished Top 5 in the nation in sacks, TFL and FF and seeing how Luke Kuechley has dominated the league coming from the same program, he probably could have been a borderline 1st rounder if he had declared. By 2017 he was making 3rd Team All-ACC. That might be due to injuries, but it’s still not the ideal look. He was among the fastest in his group in the Lucas Oil Derby and brings that off-the-ball quickness as a 3-point stance edge rusher. What Davenport lacks in his ability to bend under blocks to get around the corner, Landry has. He’ll probably go to a team willing to make him a pass rush specialist while he develops the strength to play more on run downs.
Compares to the leading brand: Carl Lawson

More Red Flags Than The Country Club of Beijing:

Arden Key, LSU. 6-6, 238 lb, 4.74
Everything good you hear about Key comes with qualifiers. He can be a great edge rusher, when he’s focused. He has outstanding traits, they just don’t always show up on tape. He looks like a 15-sack player, when he’s in rhythm. He’s got all the tools, unfortunately he IS a tool. Etc. He had an underproductive final year that included suspensions and injuries, which might have been due to his questionable conditioning. He missed games with a finger injury, which I don’t want to question since I sit at a laptop all day. But when Shaquem Griffin is making himself into a pro prospect with one hand, it’s fair to ask why he couldn’t just tape it up and wear a glove. He also took a 4-month sabbatical for reasons that might be legitimate. But ask yourself if you want to invest a pick in an underachiever who might’ve decided to go on a Walkabout before his final year of school.
Compares to the leading brand: Leonard Floyd

Best Names:

Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State. 6-1, 254 lb, 4.76

This junior out of Hawaii is the prototype of the undersized, quick-twitch, sudden burst-type DE whose production far outweighs him. He was routinely giving away 70 lb. to the tackles and still ended his career with 47 TFL and 22.5 sacks. He even played inside quite a bit, but would have to stay outside in the NFL, if not be moved off the line altogether like another smallish, overachievier who lived in the backfield in college then won three Super Bowls as a second level linebacker.
Compares to the leading brand: Tedy Bruschi

Josh Sweat, Florida State. 6-4, 251 lb, 4.76
Granted he’s not former legendary New Hampshire senator Dick Sweat, but he’ll do. He projected as a solid pro and a Day 1 or 2 pick prior to having knee surgery to repair a discolation that was scary close to turning into an amputation. Assuming he’s healthy, he could be a mid-round steal based on his size/speed combination, powerful hands and his get-off. His ceiling is somewhere in the Van Allen Belt. But he’s one fat guy rolling on his ankle from being out of football.


The Perfect Patriot:

Sam Hubbard, Ohio State. 6-5, 265 lb, 4.76

As you go through the virtual home inspection on Hubbard, you find yourself checking basically every box on your punch list. Beginning with him being personally recruited by Urban Meyer while on a visit to Archbishop Moeller. Prior to that, Hubbard was going to go Notre Dame on a lacrosse scholarship. After redshirting, he started the first game in place of a suspended Joey Bosa and played well enough to earn a role as a reserve, good for 28 tackles, 8 TFL, 6.5 sacks, an interception and a FF, capturing Freshman All-American honors. While adding 70 lb to his frame, he converted from safety to Joker linebacker (stacked behind the D-linemen) and eventually moved to the outside. As you can probably imagine from a former lacrosse player and safety, he’s got great lateral movement and athleticism, though he’s not a guy with a sudden burst. And he’s learned hand-fighting techniques and how to keep his pad-level to leverage blockers as he’s gained experience playing up on the LOS. As a sophomore he made first team All-American Academic honors with a 3.61 in Finance, and interned at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. So if the fact he’s the right size, an Urban Meyer Guy, went to a Pats feeder program, has position versatility, is a lax bro and is really smart doesn’t convince you, consider his 6.84 in the 3-cone, good for second best at the position. Telling Belichick a guy had a sub-7.00 3-cone is like telling Hef “She’s bleach blonde, has huge fake cans and is not very bright.” Hubbard was meant for this team.
Compares to the leading brand: Ryan Kerrigan

Who The Pats Will Draft:

Hubbard. The mocks are projecting him anywhere from the late 1st Round to as low as 103rd overall. I see them pulling the trigger with one of their 2nd rounders. Even though I admit I’ve been wanting Belichick to block Meyer’s since sometime between Aaron Murdnandez or Brandon Spikes slamming into someone’s car in his street rocket at 3AM while claiming he hit a deer. It’s Sam Hubbard to New England. Book it.

Earlier previews:


Offensive tackle

Tight ends