The New England Patriots currently are lacking one more starting-caliber defensive tackle, and that need ideally will be filled through the draft.
Consider Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel and Adam Butler locks to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster. Beyond those three players, however, the Patriots only have Frank Herron, Ufomba Kamalu and David Parry at the defensive tackle position.
The Patriots have used 17 first-round picks in Bill Belichick’s 19-year tenure as head coach. Five of those 17 first-round picks have been used on defensive tackles. So it would be entirely unsurprising if New England selected another big body in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Leading up to the draft, which runs from April 25-27, we’ll go position by position and draft a player who fits the Patriots in each round. We tackled quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, the offensive line, linebackers and cornerbacks last week. Now we’ll look at defensive tackles.
Picks: No. 32
Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
If Tillery’s there at No. 32 overall, the Patriots should jump all over the opportunity to draft him. At 6-foot-6, 295 pounds, he has the size to line up all over the defensive line. He’s a solid run defender and pass rusher and should be able to play on all three downs.
If Clemson’s Christian Wilkins starts to slip in the first round, we like the idea of the Patriots trading up for the dominant defensive tackle. Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence is another possibility with the 32nd overall pick.
Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons, who tore his ACL early in the pre-draft process, is another intriguing fit. Former Patriots front-office executive Mike Lombardi considers him the best player in the draft. He was videotaped punching a woman in 2016, however, and pleaded no contest to simple assault. Between the ACL tear and the assault, it would be a tough look to make him your top pick. If he falls into the beginning of the second round, perhaps the Patriots could make a move up and make him their second pick in the draft.
Picks: Nos. 56, 64
L.J Collier, TCU
Collier is more of an interior disruptor at 6-foot-2, 283 pounds. He could line up outside on early downs and kick inside to rush the passer on third down.
Picks: Nos. 73, 97, 101
Renell Wren, Arizona State
Wren has rare size and athleticism at 6-foot-5, 317 pounds with a 5.01-second 40-yard dash. This pick would have more to do with projection than past production, however, as he didn’t flash at Arizona State. Vincent Valentine, a Patriots third-round pick in 2016, was a similar player.
Picks: No. 134
John Cominsky, Charleston
Cominsky is an unbelievable athlete. At 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, he ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash with a 7.03-second 3-cone and 4.38-second short shuttle. Those times would be great for a tight end or linebacker, let alone an interior defender.
Greg Gaines, Washington
He’s slightly undersized at 6-foot-1, 312 pounds and has short arms, but Gaines is just a solid overall player. He’s a fantastic run defender who can contribute as a pass rusher.
Picks: No. 205
Albert Huggins, Clemson
Huggins was just a rotational player behind Wilkins and Lawrence. There might be some untapped potential there given his lack of playing time. The third Clemson defensive tackle is probably better than the No. 1 at the majority of college programs.
Picks: Nos. 243, 246, 252
PJ Johnson, Arizona
Johnson was a one-year wonder, but there’s promise here at 6-foot-3, 321 pounds. He’s worth a late-round flier given his size, athleticism and upside.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images