Patriots head coach Bill Belichick loves building depth on the defensive front, evidenced by the 20-plus linemen he had in training camp in 2011. Even though they appear to be set in the middle of the line as they gear up for 2012, the feeling is the Patriots won't settle at that position.
Enter LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who is the latest Tiger to emerge from the front line. His draft stock has been all over the place during the last few months, but he should be someone who would draw interest from the Patriots.
Brockers is the focus of the first 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-5, 322-pounder had two sacks, 10 tackles for loss, one interception, one blocked field goal and 54 tackles as a redshirt sophomore last season.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Brockers has a ton of potential, and he's still growing into his frame, which means he still doesn't have the exact awareness of how to attack opponents with the best utilization of his size and explosion. He's a project, but he really broke out last season. Brockers is only 21 years old, too, so again, there's plenty of room for improvement, and he could turn into a front-line staple for his NFL team.
Brockers has the positional versatility to play anywhere in a three-man front, so he'd fit into whatever scheme the Patriots run with in 2012. And because they've stocked up on defensive linemen, there wouldn't be any pressure for Brockers to step in right away as a rookie. The Patriots would have enough time to develop him.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
While Brockers showed plenty of potential last season, he also disappeared at times. Therefore, his draft stock is tied into the way each team projects him, more than most anyway. If the Patriots like him, he might be a steal at the end of the first round. If they don't, no biggie — there's going to be plenty of talent available at that point in the draft.
One other thing, which isn't completely related to Brockers: There's a good group of interior linemen who should be available in that area of the draft. If the Patriots grade Brockers similarly to other prospects, they could address a thinner position with the 27th pick and simply hope he's still there at No. 31. If that's the case, it might not be an intention of simply staying away rather than maximizing their value with two close picks on the board.
Potential Impact in 2012
Brockers will make his plays, but he'll also get exposed due to his lack of experience. Again, the Patriots can afford that type of luxury more than other teams because they've got a good group of interior linemen. If the Patriots take him, he'll show up enough as a role player during his rookie year to create more excitement about his potential in 2013.
Likelihood Brockers Is Available at No. 27
The group of defensive tackles looks cloudy, so it's still a guess at this point. Less than three months ago, Brockers looked like a rock-solid top-10 pick, but that poor combine performance dropped him down the latter. If Brockers is the third defensive tackle off the board, he probably won't last to No. 27. But as the fourth or fifth? Yeah, he could definitely be there.
Each day in April, NESN.com will spotlight a player the Patriots could take with one of their first-round picks.
Monday: Alabama safety Mark Barron
Photo via Facebook/Michael Brockers
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