Leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, which runs from April 26-28, NESN.com will do a New England Patriots draft fits series. We’ll continue it with edge defenders.
The New England Patriots were plagued at the edge defender position in 2017, so they’d be smart to add a few more bodies this offseason. There are plenty of intriguing fits in the 2018 NFL Draft.
After losing Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long in free agency and Rob Ninkovich to retirement, the Patriots hoped to replace those three vets with rookies Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise and Harvey Langi and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. When Rivers, Langi and Hightower all suffered injuries, the Patriots eventually had to go to the street, acquiring Eric Lee and James Harrison to line up across from starter Trey Flowers.
The Patriots now head into 2018 with Flowers, Rivers, Wise, Langi, Lee, Adrian Clayborn, Keionta Davis and Geneo Grissom as edge options. The Patriots also could line up Highower, Kyle Van Noy and Marquis Flowers as pass rushers.
Trey Flowers is a free agent after the season, and the Patriots could use a boost to their pass-rush production in 2018 regardless. Here’s who New England could pick with each of their eight selections in this week’s draft.
Round 1, 23rd Overall Pick: Harold Landry, Boston College
Landry very well could be gone by the 23rd overall pick, but NFL teams also could be scared off by his dip in production as a senior. He had 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 12 games as a junior and five sacks and no forced fumbles in eight games while dealing with an ankle injury in 2017.
He’s a bit undersized at 6-foot-2, 253 pounds, but his athleticism makes up for it.
Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard is another potential fit here if Landry isn’t available.
Round 1, 31st Overall Pick: Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
Carter is a hybrid edge defender, capable of playing defensive end and outside linebacker. He only rushed the passer on 65.3 percent of his passing snaps in 2017 but still generated 32 total pressures, per Pro Football Focus.
He ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. That’s freaky.
Round 2, 43rd Overall Pick: Rasheem Green, USC
At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds with 33 3/4-inch arms, Green has the ideal length and bulk to put his hand in the dirt and play defensive end for the Patriots.
Round 2, 63rd Overall Pick: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
Okoronkwo, at 6-foot-2, 253 pounds, is another hybrid edge player. He has long arms for his stature, which helps on the edge.
He generated 46 total pressures in 2017 and dropped back into coverage on 25 percent of snaps.
Round 3, 95th Overall Pick: Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
Lewis has become a bit of a forgotten man behind Ohio State’s other defensive ends Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes. At 6-foot-3, 269 pounds with 33 3/4-inch arms, a 4.69-second 40-yard dash, 7.2-second 3-cone, 4.34-second short shuttle, 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump, 35.5-inch vertical leap and 1.57-second 10-yard split, Lewis is an ideal fit for the Patriots based on measurables.
Lewis could play at defensive end on early downs and kick inside to rush from defensive tackle on third down.
Round 6, 198th Overall Pick: Kylie Fitts, Utah
Fitts, at 6-foot-4, 263 pounds, has ideal size and athleticism for the Patriots. He ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash with a 6.88-second 3-cone and 4.19-second short shuttle. He generated 20 pressures and did most of his work from the left side in college.
Round 6, 210th Overall Pick: Garrett Dooley, Wisconsin
Dooley’s another hybrid player who can run or drop back into coverage. At 6-foot-2, 248 pounds, he’s undersized.
Round 7, 219th Overall Pick: Trevon Young, Louisville
Young’s a late-round flier, but he’s a perfect fit for the Patriots from a measurable perspective. He posted a 6.99-second 3-cone drill and 4.78-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4, 258 pounds. He generated 40 pressures in 2017.
Trade-up option: Marcus Davenport, UTSA
There’s a lot to like about Davenport, who’s 6-foot-6, 264 pounds and just misses out on the Patriots’ typical 3-cone and short shuttle standards with 7.2- and 4.41-second times. He ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash, so he’s definitely a good athlete.
He generated 49 total pressures in 2017, per Pro Football Focus and ranked third in their pass-rush productivity metric. He’s the 16th ranked prospect in the draft by DraftScout.com, so the Patriots might need to move up a few spots to get him.
Mid-round option: Dorance Armstrong, Kansas
Armstrong is another big, long edge defender with plenty of athleticism. He did his best work as a run defender in college.