The New England Patriots have used their top pick on defensive tackles in two consecutive NFL drafts. Could they make it three in a row?
The Patriots are going into another offseason with a need at defensive tackle because Akiem Hicks is an unrestricted free agent, so it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
The NFL Scouting Combine ended Monday, so we now have a better sense of which prospects the Patriots could select based on the team’s draft trends and the players’ measurables. The Patriots value length and explosion over size at defensive tackle, so here are the potential fits.
Chris Jones, Mississippi State
6-foot-6, 310 pounds
Projected round: 2 to 3
Jones put on a show at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 5.03-second 40-yard dash with a 7.44-second three-cone drill and 4.62-second short shuttle.
It’s debatable whether Jones will still be available when the Patriots are picking 60th overall. He had 8.5 sacks in three seasons at Mississippi State before declaring early for the NFL.
Maliek Collins, Nebraska
6-foot-2, 311 pounds
Projected round: 3 to 4
Collins is the same weight as Jones but two inches shorter and also ran a 5.03-second 40-yard dash. He also ran a 7.53-second three-cone and 4.52-second short shuttle while recording a 29.5-inch vertical leap and 9-foot, 1-inch broad jump.
Collins also declared for the NFL after his junior season. He had eight sacks at Nebraska.
Willie Henry, Michigan
6-foot-3, 303 pounds
Projected round: 5
Henry checks every box for a potential Patriots defensive tackle. He ran a 5-second 40, 7.57-second three-cone and 4.53-second short shuttle. He also recorded a 30.5-inch vert and 9-foot, 2-inch broad jump.
Henry had 9.5 sacks in three seasons with the Wolverines before declaring for the draft.
Connor Wujciak, Boston College
6-foot-2, 291 pounds
Projected round: 7
The Boston College product is undersized compared to Jones, Collins and Henry, but he destroyed the combine with a 4.91-second 40-yard dash, 9-foot, 9-inch broad jump, 7.32-second three-cone and 4.27-second short shuttle.
Wujciak had 21 tackles for loss and seven sacks in four seasons at BC.
Joel Heath, Michigan State
6-foot-5, 293 pounds
Projected round: Undrafted
Heath began his career at Michigan State as a defensive end before adding weight and converting to defensive tackle as a senior.
Heath, like Wujciak, is undersized, but his measureables fit the Patriots’ prototype. His 33-inch vertical leap, 9-foot, 5-inch broad jump and 7.44-second three-cone were among the best at his position at the combine.
Check out how every defensive tackle at the combine fared against the Patriots’ typical standards.
Thumbnail photo via Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Feb 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Mississippi State defensive lineman Chris Jones speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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