The New England Patriots could be in the hunt for another starting linebacker after trading away Jamie Collins during the 2016 season.
The Patriots certainly could get by with Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin next to Dont’a Hightower, but if the right three- or four-down player is available when New England is drafting, the team could take him off the board.
The Patriots ask a lot of their linebackers. They must be able to rush the quarterback, fill rushing lanes, drop back into coverage and set the edge. Here are nine players who fit their typical measureable and testing criteria.
Round 3, 72nd Overall Pick: Alex Anzalone, Florida
This might be viewed as a slight reach based on Anzalone’s injury history with the Gators, but he has everything the Patriots look for in a linebacker. He’s 6-foot-3, 241 pounds and ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash with a 6.88-second 3-cone and 4.25-second short shuttle.
He was a highly productive pass rusher, generating 13 pressures on 42 pass-rush snaps in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. He also rated well in coverage.
Round 3, 96th Overall Pick: Vince Biegel, Wisconsin
Biegel mostly played on the edge in college but is a prime candidate to move off the line in the NFL. He’s 6-foot-3, 246 pounds and ran a 4.67-second 40-yard dash with a 6.92-second 3-cone and 4.21-second short shuttle.
He generated 46 pressures on 232 pass-rush snaps last season. He also rated well as a run defender, making 17 stops and missing just three tackles on 199 run snaps, and has experience in coverage.
Round 4, 131st Overall Pick: Carroll Phillips, Illinois
Phillips played as a pass rusher in college but might have to move to standup linebacker at just 6-foot-3, 242 pounds. He ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash with a 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump and 7.06-second 3-cone.
Phillips recorded 38 pressures on 255 pass-rush snaps in 2016.
Round 5, 163rd Overall Pick: Marquel Lee, Wake Forest
Lee was a better run defender than pass rusher at Wake Forest. He made 46 stops and missed just seven tackles on 381 run snaps last season.
Lee ran a 4.33-second short shuttle at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds.
Round 5, 183rd Overall Pick: Jordan Evans, Oklahoma
Evans surprisingly wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He shined at his pro day, running a 4.51-second 40-yard dash with a 38.5-inch vertical leap, 7.01-second three-cone and 4.18-second short shuttle at 6-foot-3, 232 pounds.
He only rushed the quarterback on 12.4 percent of pass defense snaps in 2016, so he has plenty of experience in coverage.
Round 6, 200th Overall Pick: Ben Gedeon, Michigan
Gedeon is another big linebacker who ran an excellent 3-cone at the combine. He’s 6-foot-2, 244 pounds and ran a 6.98-second 3-cone and 4.13-second short shuttle. He’s one of the top run-stopping linebackers in the draft.
Round 7, 239th Overall Pick: Harvey Langi, BYU
The Patriots could select Langi much higher, but this is where he’s ranked on internet draft boards.
He’s 6-foot-2, 251 pounds with ideal athleticism for a Patriots linebacker. He’s a solid pass rusher and strong run defender who also has experience in coverage.
Undrafted Free Agent: Samson Ebukam, Eastern Washington
New England reportedly hosted Ebukam on a visit Tuesday. He’s another player who could selected higher, but this is where he’s currently ranked.
He’s a freak athlete, running a 4.50-second 40-yard dash with a 39-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds. He was fantastic in coverage last season, based on Pro Football Focus’ ratings.
Potential First-Round Pick: Haason Reddick, Temple
Reddick is undersized at just 6-foot-2, 237 pounds, but his skill set compares to Jamie Collins’.
He’s nearly as explosive as Collins with better speed and agility scores. He’s better as a pass rusher and run defender than in coverage.
Other fits include Houston’s Tyus Bowser, Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt, Florida’s Jarrad Davis, Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan, Utah’s Pita Taumopenu and Cincinnati’s Eric Wilson.
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