The New England Patriots’ approach to drafting linebackers is quite simple: the bigger, the better.
The average NFL linebacker comes into the league standing under 6-foot-2 and weighing 241 pounds. The Patriots have drafted 13 linebackers since Bill Belichick was hired as coach in 2000, and they stand, on average, half an inch taller and nearly eight pounds heavier than the NFL standard.
Here are all 13 linebackers drafted by the Patriots:
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— The player who stands out most is Jamie Collins, the only player who broad-jumped over 118 inches. He shattered that mark with a 139-inch broad jump, then an NFL Scouting Combine record. He also recorded a 41.5-inch vertical leap, which is eight inches greater than the Patriots average. Recently retired Jerod Mayo recorded a 40.5-inch vertical leap.
— T.J. Turner, at 273 pounds, is the heaviest linebacker the Patriots have drafted, while Matthew Wells, at just 222 pounds, is the lightest. Wells didn’t make it through his rookie training camp last summer before being traded to the Chicago Bears.
— Brandon Spikes has the worst straight-line speed of Patriots drafted linebackers but also was one of just two players to record a sub-7-second three-cone.
— The Patriots have spent two first-round picks and two second-round picks on linebackers in the NFL draft.
Here’s how the Patriots’ linebackers stack up against the NFL averages:
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— The 40-yard dash is the only athletic mark better than the NFL average. It’s clear the Patriots value size and length over athleticism when it comes to drafting linebackers.
— The Patriots are near the NFL averages on hand size, 40-yard dash, 10-yard dash, bench press and broad jump. The Patriots value agility at other positions, but it’s clear that’s not a pre-requisite when drafting linebackers.
— Current Patriots linebackers Jonathan Freeny, Dane Fletcher, Jon Bostic and Darius Fleming also came into the league weighing between 245 and 250 pounds.
Mayo announced his retirement Tuesday night, and Hightower and Collins’ contracts run out after the 2016 season, so the Patriots are going into this year’s draft with linebacker as a major need. We’ll have a better sense of which players they’ll be interested in selecting after next week’s NFL Scouting Combine, but Alabama’s Reggie Ragland, Missouri’s Kentrell Brothers, Arizona’s Scooby Wright, Ohio State’s Josh Perry and Wisconsin’s Joe Schobert fit the Patriots’ size profile.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Jan 16, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) heads off the field after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in a AFC Divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports