One of the NFL draft's hottest risers might be on the Patriots' radar. Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard rose to prominence during a sensational senior season, but he has picked up even more steam late, causing him to flirt with the first round.
If the Patriots are interested in converting Sheard to outside linebacker, they should have a chance to make a play for him.
The 6-foot-3, 264-pounder had 52 tackles, nine sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a senior in 2010.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
The 2010 Big East Defensive Player of the Year has improved with each season, and he had a surprisingly strong campaign as a senior after fellow defensive end Greg Romeus went down with an injury. Teams like to see how players react when they become the opposition's primary focus, and Sheard really passed that test. Sheard is a talented pass rusher who has a good motor, and he could add that dynamic to a defense that needs a little more burst off the edge.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Sheard has burst up the draft board in the last few weeks, and that's always a little curious this late into the process. He might creep into the first round after he was considered as a mid-second- to mid-third-round prospect, and he has built his momentum during the personal workout portion of the pre-draft process. So, you've got to wonder where it's all coming from. Also, Sheard would convert to outside linebacker in New England's system, which means he'll face a tough transitional period. Bill Belichick tends to stay away from those prospects high in the draft.
Potential Impact in 2011
Sheard would be a rotational player at outside linebacker with Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich and Tully Banta-Cain, and his playing time would be determined by his usefulness on all three downs.
What The Locals Are Saying
Sheard went through an emotional senior season.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Sheard?
It's not easy to project a player who soars up the board this quickly at this point in the process, but it seems unlikely the Patriots would use one of their first-rounders on him. He could be an option at No. 33 or a few spots later if they trade down.
Every day through April 28, NESN.com will spotlight one player the Patriots could draft with one of their first three picks.
Friday, April 1: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
Saturday, April 2: North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn
Sunday, April 3: Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward
Monday, April 4: Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
Tuesday, April 5: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
Wednesday, April 6: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
Thursday, April 7: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
Friday, April 8: Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey
Saturday, April 9: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
Sunday: April 10: Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker Justin Houston
Monday, April 11: Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers
Tuesday, April 12: Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt
Wednesday, April 13: UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers
Thursday, April 14: USC tackle Tyron Smith
Friday, April 15: Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor
Saturday, April 16: Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod
Sunday, April 17: Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith
Monday, April 18: Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure
Tuesday, April 19: Villanova offensive lineman Benjamin Ijalana
Wednesday, April 20: Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson
Thursday, April 21: Purdue defensive end/outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan
Friday, April 22: Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin
Saturday, April 23: Colorado tackle Nate Solder
Sunday, April 24: Baylor guard Danny Watkins
Monday, April 25, Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget
Tuesday, April 26: Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn
Thursday, April 28: Arizona defensive end/linebacker Brooks Reed
Photo via Flickr/Ron Pradetto