The New England Patriots grabbed a defensive tackle high in potential but low in production late in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Nebraska’s Vincent Valentine was taken surprisingly high, with many draft analysts projecting him as a sixth- or seventh-round pick. It seems he was much more highly regarded in NFL circles, however.
An NFL scout told NESN.com that Valentine could be the Patriots’ best value in their 2016 class. The scout called him a “starting nose tackle” with speed and quickness for a “very, very large man.” Valentine has “rare playing strength” but “needs to work on giving a consistent effort,” according to the scout.
The scout also said Valentine “has length to effortlessly press and shed” and “can play with violence” but doesn’t do it consistently enough.
Valentine had six sacks in his final 19 games at Nebraska, and the scout believes he could keep his pass rush prowess in the NFL “if he develops a counter move when rushing.”
Valentine was a space eater during his time at Nebraska, mostly playing either nose tackle or one-technique defensive tackle. He didn’t exactly pile up the tackles in college, and at times it seemed he didn’t have a nose for the football. He has good height and length for a nose tackle, but he could be pushed out when his effort went down and his pad level went up.
Valentine is a freak athlete for his size, and he has the potential to do damage in the run and pass game. He ran a 5.19-second 40-yard dash with a 9-foot, 2-inch broad jump and 4.59-second short shuttle at 6-foot-4, 329 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine.
He recorded 20 total pressures in 231 passing snaps in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s above average for a nose tackle. He ranked last in PFF’s run stop percentage metric, making just five stops in 146 run snaps while battling through an ankle sprain. He didn’t miss any tackles.
Valentine will have a chance to grow and learn for a year behind Patriots defensive tackles Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and Terrance Knighton. He has the potential to take over the Patriots’ nose tackle role as he improves.
Thumbnail photo via Caylor Arnold/USA TODAY Sports Images