The Patriots used a variety of players last season in Richard Seymour’s old spot at defensive end. While Mike Wright played well and Jarvis Green and Derrick Burgess had their moments, it was apparent the Patriots lacked a certifiable defensive end to legitimize their pass rush. It seems certain they’ll address that position in next week’s NFL draft, and that is where Florida’s Carlos Dunlap comes in.
The 6-foot-6, 277-pounder registered 19.5 sacks, 26 tackles for loss, eight pass deflections, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four blocked kicks during three seasons in Florida.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
The Patriots have a real need for a big-time player at this position, and Dunlap has the potential to be a star. He’s been compared to guys like Julius Peppers and Mario Williams, and Dunlap has the size, strength and pure speed to wreak havoc on the edge. Bill Belichick doesn’t typically design plays to spring defensive ends, but Dunlap has the tools to reach the backfield on his own. Dunlap was the defensive MVP of the 2008 BCS Championship Game and possesses the talent of a top-10 selection.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Oh, if it were only about talent. Dunlap, who turned 21 in February and left Gainesville after his junior season, has been criticized for playing in spurts and looking disinterested at times. Belichick has already been through that drill with Seymour, and the head coach might not want to go that route with a similar player again. If Dunlap is unwilling to set the edge for the linebackers, he might get a little bored with the system. The hulking defensive end was also charged with DUI after police found him passed out behind the wheel at an intersection four days before the 2009 SEC Championship, and Florida head coach Urban Meyer subsequently suspended Dunlap for the biggest game of the Gators’ season.
Potential Impact in 2010
Dunlap would have a pretty good chance to earn a starting job on the Patriots’ line, and he has the talent to make immediate contributions. If Dunlap’s head is right, he could be a star in the NFL, perhaps right away.
What the Locals Are Saying
Here is a look at Dunlap from last August, when Florida’s strength coach said Dunlap could pick up a car if he was angry enough.
Likelihood Dunlap Is Available at No. 22
There is a very high chance Dunlap is around when the Patriots are on the clock. With a bevy of talented defensive ends and hybrid pass rushers on the draft board, Dunlap could get passed over by teams looking for more maturity. If the Patriots want him — Belichick’s friendship with Meyer should indicate there is some level of interest — they’ll have a good shot at getting him.
NESN.com will spotlight players the Patriots could take with their first-round pick.
April 12: Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham
April 14: Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant