Fighting through injuries for much of the season, Jones established himself as a force to be reckoned with off the edge for much of the season. He managed 45 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles in just 14 games and was absolutely dominant when healthy.
The Patriots are always looking for defensive line help and could use another talented defender to improve their middling pass rush. Texas defensive end Alex Okafor could be just the player to help fill that void.
Okafor enjoyed the most productive season of his four-year career with the Longhorns in 2012, piling up 12.5 sacks (good for ninth best in the nation) and constantly bringing pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He’s not the quickest pass rusher in this draft and does have limitations in the run game, but overall he’s a very solid defender who fits best in the 4-3 style defense that the Patriots run.
Editor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots draft prospect every day from March 26 up until the start of the NFL Draft on April 25. Okafor is the fourth installment in that series.
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 264 pounds
40-Time: 4.91 (at Texas Pro Day)
Bench Press: 21 reps
Okafor didn’t become a consistent player until his sophomore season, but really began to shine as a junior. He racked up 178 tackles, 22 sacks and eight forced fumbles during his four-year career in Austin, most of which came during his junior and senior seasons. The highlight of Okafor’s career came in his final game, too, as he piled up career highs with six tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in Texas’ 31-27 Alamo Bowl win to cap off a terrific senior season.
The Patriots drafted Chandler Jones in the first round last year and were impressed with how quickly he was able to make an impact. Okafor has the potential to make similar strides upon his entry to the NFL, but may need more time than Jones did to flourish. He has the ability to be a double-digit sack guy eventually, but will need good coaching and the right system, which the Patriots do play, to shine.
Likelihood he’s around at No. 29:
Very high. Okafor is a talented pass rusher and excelled during his senior season with a career-high 12.5 sacks, earning him first-team All-Big 12 honors. His lack of speed and inability to adapt to 3-4 systems should see him fall to at least the end of the first round. He’s got a lot of potential and was very productive at Texas, but the Patriots may even have an outside chance at him with their second-round pick (No. 59.)
Game Tape breakdown:
Strengths: Okafor uses his size and length quite well to establish position when rushing the passer. He takes good angles to get to the quarterback and is able to get low to cut down running backs at the line. He also plays with lots of energy and never gives up on the play.
Weaknesses: A lack of speed will force Okafor to remain on the line in 4-3 sets, not allowing him to be versatile in different systems. He can get stuck on face-up blocks and sometimes struggles to shed blockers on runs.
Scout Okafor for yourself below.
Sunday: Terrence Williams, WR, Baylor