Because the Patriots have so few holes on their starting depth chart, this could be the year when they get aggressive for an edge rusher early in the draft. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio has said twice recently that the strength in this year's draft class is in the front seven, so it should be expected that the Pats target that area.
If the Patriots miss out on the first wave of defensive ends, they might use a later pick on Marshall's Vinny Curry, who has a special knack for making plays in the offensive backfield but needs work to grow as a three-down player.
Curry is the focus of the 24th 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, 266-pounder had 11 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles in 2011.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Curry is a playmaker who performs with a high motor, and he can get after the quarterback. He's also a solid tackler when he can get his hands on the ball carrier. If the Patriots don't address the defensive edge in the first round, Curry would be a good fallback option in the second. He's also considered a project, so the chance to work with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson should be a positive.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Curry doesn't have great instincts, and he can struggle to get off blocks in the running game, so he'd be a situational player. Because head coach Bill Belichick has proven he won't over-draft pass-rushing specialists, other teams might have higher grades for Curry, which would take him off the board before the Patriots could be willing to select him. And because Curry is raw, at least in terms of his overall game, each team's projection is important in terms of his draft stock.
Potential Impact in 2012
Curry would play defensive end in passing situations, and he'd be tasked with getting after the quarterback. His reps would be dependent on that performance.
Likelihood Curry Is Available at No. 27
There's no doubt he'll be there. Curry is a second-round prospect who would be an option if the Patriots miss out on the draft's better edge players with their earlier picks.
Each day in April, NESN.com will spotlight a player the Patriots could take with one of their first-round picks.
Wednesday: Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill
Photo via Facebook/Vinny Curry