Boise State outside linebacker Shea McClellin already shapes up as one of the draft's best edge players, and he should get some bonus points in the Patriots' eyes for trying to model his game after Mike Vrabel. McClellin has told reporters that he admired Vrabel's playing style because of the value his versatility can bring to the defense.
The Patriots will have the opportunity to add McClellin to their own defense this week at the NFL draft.
McClellin is the focus of the 23rd 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, 260-pounder had seven sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, one forced fumble and 50 total tackles in 2011.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
McClellin has great burst around the edge and a tireless motor. He's a well-respected leader with a strong work ethic, and he's got good football instincts. McClellin can play on the edge in either front, and he has displayed the ability to drop into coverage, even doing so as a nickel linebacker.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
McClellin needs to improve his strength and athleticism because he can get swallowed up at the line, which could hurt him as a 4-3 defensive end. McClellin should be a solid player, but if the Patriots don't believe he can be elite, they could view him as a reach late in the first round or early in the second.
Potential Impact in 2012
McClellin's versatility should put him on the field in a lot of situations, which will make him a valuable asset. Therefore, McClellin might get starting-caliber reps, and if all goes according to plan, he should be one of the Patriots' best pass rushers off the edge.
Likelihood McClellin Is Available at No. 27
It would be a stunner if McClellin got taken before the Patriots' first pick. Even though McClellin is attending the draft — the Idaho native will be visiting New York City for the first time — he's admitted he doesn't expect to get taken in the first round.
Each day in April, NESN.com will spotlight a player the Patriots could take with one of their first-round picks.
Sunday: UConn defensive tackle Kendall Reyes
Tuesday: Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry
Photo (Facebook/Shea McClellin)