Inside linebacker Luke Kuechly is one of the best defensive prospects to come out of Boston College in years, and he's got the on-field ability and leadership style to take over an NFL unit for the next decade.
The Patriots have shown plenty of interest in Kuechly, too. They interviewed him at the scouting combine and sent at least two scouts to watch him during his pro day. While inside linebacker isn't a position of need, the Patriots don't use that as a reason to rule out promising players when they're available at their draft slot.
While it's unlikely Kuechly lands in New England, we'd be remiss if we didn't include the Boston College star in this pre-draft series.
Kuechly is the focus of the 12th installment of a 26-day series that will highlight draft prospects who could land with the Patriots at the end of April. Maybe the prospect fits perfectly in the range of their 27th and 31st picks. Maybe he's intriguing enough for them to make a rare move up the board. Or maybe it's a player who could be available in the mid-30s, causing the Patriots to, gasp, trade down.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder finished in the top two in the country in tackles during all three of his seasons as a starter. In those three seasons, he racked up 516 total tackles (293 solo), 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, seven interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Kuechly is a tremendous player with great instincts, leadership and tackling ability. He's a smart player who has performed well in BC's zone defense, and Kuechly is athletic enough to excel in the NFL. It's also unlikely the Patriots would trade up for him, so he'd provide outstanding value at the bottom of the first round.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
They've already got a pair of very good inside linebackers in Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. And there's a good chance Kuechly is off the board in the top 20, which would all but certainly remove the Patriots from contention.
Potential Impact in 2012
Head coach Bill Belichick would find a role for Kuechly, and due to his success in the zone defense, he could at least spell Spikes on passing downs, which would give the Patriots a formidable duo.
Likelihood Kuechly Is Available at No. 27
If Kuechly slides past the Chiefs (No. 11) and Seahawks (No. 12), he could be around for a while. There are teams that could use Kuechly, notably the Jets (No. 16) and Steelers (No. 24), but he could still plummet to the Patriots. The greatest unknown is if a team sees him fall and throws their needs out the window to jump on the most talented player available.
Each day in April, NESN.com will spotlight a player the Patriots could take with one of their first-round picks.
Wednesday: Nebraska outside linebacker Lavonte David
Friday: USC defensive end Nick Perry