If the Patriots have any intentions to trade into the top 10, it might be for a guy like Robert Quinn, a North Carolina product who played defensive end in UNC's 4-3 scheme but would project to outside linebacker in New England's system.
Quinn has been viewed as one of the draft's two or three best pass rushers, and while those players aren't typically on Bill Belichick's radar, it's not unreasonable to think he might tinker with his approach.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder was suspended for the 2010 season, but he had 11 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and 15 quarterback pressures during his sophomore season in 2009.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Quinn is a phenomenal talent who might have the ability to reshape an entire defense. And after seeing what a combination of great pass rushers did for the Packers and Steelers last season, it's obvious how valuable they can be for a team. The NFL has obviously made the transition to a passing league, and defenses have struggled to keep up. The presence of an elite edge player can be a major tool, and it should prompt Belichick to consider altering his philosophy. Quinn would also be of great service in a four-man front when the Patriots are in sub packages.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Building on that last point, Belichick has never been keen on drafting players who aren't always useful on every down — remember, he spent a lot of time last year selling Devin McCourty on being a four-down player when many questioned the purpose of drafting a cornerback — and Quinn will have to learn how to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. That factor will likely carry more weight with Belichick than Quinn's suspension, which was the result of receiving more than $5,000 in improper benefits from an agent.
Quinn will also come with a high price (more on that below).
Potential Impact in 2011
Quinn figures to make an instant impact as a pass rusher, and it wouldn't be out of line to expect him to reach 10 sacks in 2011. His pass drops will be an issue in a 3-4 scheme, though, and that would make him a liability in coverage, which will limit his snaps.
What The Locals Are Saying
Quinn overcame a brain tumor in high school to tear up the ACC.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Quinn?
Quinn could go between Nos. 4-8, and it really doesn't seem possible that he'll slip past Tennessee at No. 8. Add Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers' poor pro day into the mix, and there will be an even greater demand for Quinn. If the Patriots are really interested, they'll have to package at least their two first-round picks to move that high into the top 10, and that would be an unprecedented move for Belichick.
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
Sunday, April 3: Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward