It’s no secret that the Patriots will be targeting pass rushers in this draft, and that will likely come from both outside linebacker and defensive end positions. They’ll likely take the best-player-available approach with the 22nd selection, and if there is an early run on these hybrid rushers, the Patriots could be looking at TCU outside linebacker Jerry Hughes.
The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder had an NCAA-best 26.5 sacks in 26 games over the last two seasons. He also registered 36 tackles for loss.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Hughes played defensive end in college, but he is being labeled as an outside linebacker in the NFL due to his smaller size. He would fit an obvious need as a pass rusher, and Hughes’ motor, speed and strength indicate he’ll be a good one in the league.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
It wouldn’t be overly high for Hughes to go 22nd overall, but it might be a slight reach. Plus, he’ll be learning a new position as a linebacker, and that curve could take away from his immediate effectiveness. Since the Patriots need a no-doubter at this position in the draft, they might choose to go after someone who is a little more ahead of schedule.
Potential Impact in 2010
For reasons previously listed, Hughes figures to be a situational pass rusher who might get caught up in the middle of the depth chart. He’ll certainly have his opportunities to earn playing time, but if he becomes a liability in pass coverage (the Pats can’t become predictable and use him strictly as a north-south rusher), Bill Belichick might opt for more well-rounded linebackers in key situations in the game.
What The Locals Are Saying
Hughes, who entered TCU as a running back, wasn’t the program’s first player to successfully switch sides.
Likelihood Hughes Is Available at No. 22
This is almost a certainty. While Hughes’ name has been dangled around among teams picking in the middle of the draft, it’s very hard to imagine him going off the board before the Patriots’ first selection.
NESN.com has spotlighted players the Patriots could take with their first-round pick.
April 12: Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham
April 13: Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap
April 14: Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant
April 15: Michigan defensive end/linebacker defensive end Brandon Graham
April 16: Clemson running back C.J. Spiller
April 17: Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle
April 18: Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews
April 19: Clemson outside linebacker Ricky Sapp
April 20: Florida offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey
April 21: Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick
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