Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward might be the defensive prototype in that regard for the 2011 draft class. There's almost no chance he'll get taken in the top half of the first round, and that means his future team will get a bargain on talent. It's just unclear how he'll put that talent to use.
The Patriots will have a decision to make on Heyward — at least once, if not three times, early in the draft — because he'll surely be there when they're on the clock. Since they have a need at defensive end, Heyward will be an intriguing option.
The 6-foot-5, 294-pounder finished his four-year career with 14.5 sacks, 34 tackles for loss and 157 total tackles.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Heyward could play defensive end in the Patriots' 3-4 scheme, and he could also play inside on four-man fronts in substitution packages. He can be a tenacious player, and he could single-handedly take over big games for Ohio State. Heyward probably should have been the Sugar Bowl MVP, as his tenacity at the line disrupted Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett's rhythm all game. More impressive, Heyward tore an elbow ligament in the second quarter in the Sugar Bowl, and his play never suffered.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Heyward's work ethic has been criticized, and he doesn't bring it every play. There is no doubt that Heyward has the talent to be a top-10 pick, but he doesn't play at that level often enough because of his desire.
Potential Impact in 2011
Heyward might get off to a slow start in camp while he continues to recover from elbow surgery, but when he gets to full strength, he's got the ability to be a menace every week in the NFL. The problem is that teams don't know what they'll get from him. With the right coaching and leadership — the Patriots have both — Heyward could turn out to be a very valuable player from the start.
What The Locals Are Saying
Heyward believes he's back after undergoing Tommy John surgery in January.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Heyward?
The Patriots could take Heyward at No. 17 if they wanted, but after that, it's completely unclear. Heyward would fit with seven teams between Nos. 18-27, so there's no telling whether or not he'll be around when the Patriots are next up at No. 28. Those percentages would suggest otherwise, but it's hard to tell how teams perceive Heyward, who could even fall into the second round.
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
Monday, April 4: Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones