DE DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky

6’3” – 243 lbs. – 4.54

Very gangly, high-cut edge; looks more like a wide receiver on tape. Fifth-year senior who was highly productive as a four-year starter in Conference USA. Took snaps both standing up and with his hand in the dirt. Shows the flexibility teams look for in a pass-rusher. Some ability to work inside moves to generate pressure. Gets his hands up to contest passing lanes. Heavily reliant on his natural athleticism; doesn’t appear to have any sort of rush plan or idea about how to set up blockers and use his hands. Gets glued to blocks when his first move doesn’t work. Limited ability to convert speed to power. Doesn’t shy away from contact, but currently has poor gap discipline and awareness in the run game; hunts for big plays instead of handling his responsibilities as an edge-setter. Needs to do a better job of keeping his head up and locating. Shoulders get turned too regularly. Still learning to use his length to lock out opponents. Struggles to protect his legs. Could develop into something over time because of his range and radius. Also has some experience dropping into coverage. Tested very well pre-draft, but is really raw for a fifth-year senior. Classic boom-or-bust prospect with one of the lowest floors in the draft, but there’s a lot to mold if a team has the coaching, strength program, and patience to help him reach his potential.

LB Terrel Bernard, Baylor

6’1″ – 224 lbs. – 4.59

Team captain who has been starting for the past three years. Undersized linebacker with sideline-to-sideline range and execllent intangibles/leadership skills. Despite his size, play style is more of a between-the-tackles, downhill type than someone who flows sideline-to-sideline. Has the short-area quickness and footwork to slip past some opponents, but also takes on blocks better than anticipated when playing between the tackles, with active hands and good extension. Generates some pop on contact, especially when he lines up opponents in space. Fast enough to carry backs out of the backfield and match receivers on crossing routes in zone. Surprisingly effective blitzer who times his rushes well, shows impressive contact balance for his size, and closes fast when he finds a lane; picked up 15.5 sacks over the past three years, with escalating production. Plays aggressively, which leads to false steps when working against misdirection/play-action, negating his athleticism. Loses track of defenders in zone coverage too often. Lack of coverage experience on special teams might limit his early snaps relative to some of the other linebackers in the class, but has the makeup/athleticism of someone who could become an asset there. Has dealt with some injuries in school, which could be a concern given his lack of ideal size. Draft status will depend on how much teams fall in love with him during pre-draft interviews/background, but looks like more of a third-day pick based on his game tape alone.

DB J.T. Woods, Baylor

6’2” – 195 lbs. – 4.36

Started five games in 2019 and took over a full-time starting job the following year, with escalating production and good on-ball production the last two. Tall, lanky defensive back whose track background carries over to his on-field play, with plenty of range to offer. Typically played well off the line of scrimmage. Shows sound fundamentals in terms of balance/footwork when backpedaling into high zones. Should be fast enough to work in Cover-1 at the pro level, but usually had another high safety dropping in college. Looks really fast driving on a spot, with the ability to come up and make tackles underneath or in the run game, or to get into position as a help defender on deeper throws. Length gives him an impressive tackling radius and allows him to make plays on the ball in coverage. Could p otentially play closer to the line of scrimmage as well, but is still learning to protect his frame from blocks and sift through traffic to get to the ball. Would like to see  him play with a more conservative temperament in coverage; can get caught peeking into the backfield and let opposing receivers get behind him when shaded over the slot. Ability to process route combinations isn’t there yet; could be exploited if he plays too early at the next level. Didn’t see him do a lot of work in straight-up man coverage, but has the tools to potentially do that. A nice high-upside defensive back in need of a little bit more seasoning.

WR Velus Jones Jr., Tennessee

6’0” – 204 lbs. – 4.31

Started his career at USC, where he spent four years including a redshirt season; transferred to Tennessee in 2020 and enjoyed his breakout season offensively this past year. Will be a 25 year-old rookie. Essentially a gadget player who usually lined up in the slot at Tennessee, but would often be motioned pre-snap to create confusion (jet, orbit, etc.), typically dressing up inside runs with a fake option. Dynamic athlete who is very dangerous with the ball in his hands, and consequently returned both kicks and punts for the Volunteers as well. Runs with a lot of power and toughness, and is capable of making defenders miss in space. Fights his way through arm tackles. Receiving skills are more limited. Runs a very simple route tree, mostly on short patterns like hitches, screens off of RPO, ins, slants, and other patterns of that nature. Did a lot of his work as a receiver underneath off-coverage and on manufactured touches like rub routes, with the team wanting to give him a chance to do his thing in space. Has rare speed to challenge deep but isn’t a particularly nuanced route-runner, relying more on speed and acceleration. Shows some ability to mix up speeds at the line with his release, but didn’t work too much against press during the games reviewed. Doesn’t present quarterbacks with a particularly big target due to his lack of size/length. Can be a little bit chippy as a blocker, but doesn’t stay connected consistently.

DE Alex Wright, Alabama-Birmingham*

6’5″ – 271 lbs. – N/A

Tall, long-limbed defensive end who has all of the physical tools teams look for in an edge rusher; arms measure at least 34 inches. Development trajectory is favorable, having started for two years but really breaking out this past season with a solid year. Shows pretty good flexibility in his body. Has the length and power to potentially control blockers or walk back blockers as a pass-rusher. Motor looks pretty solid, and offers range in pursuit due to his relatively smooth movement skills and effort in pursuit. Flashes the ability to dig in at the line of scrimmage and make tackles while engaged as a run defender; length gives him an impressive radius. Was asked to play closer to the interior of the line at times and shows a pretty physical temperament. Doesn’t consistently utilize his length to lock out defenders. Plays high and can get jolted by punches as a pass-rusher. Contact balance is iffy. Needs to do a better job of keeping his shoulders square to the line. Run fits lack discipline. Can struggle to locate the football. Workouts were not really what teams were hoping for. Pure project who’s far away from being able to contribute but could make sense as a third-day pick for a team willing to give him time to develop. Would have really benefited from returning to school for his senior year.

DE Sam Williams, Mississippi

6’4” – 261 lbs. – 4.46

Well-built defensive end who has started at least six games in each season, breaking out last year. Played on a lot of three-man defensive lines, taking snaps from both sides, usually out of a four-point stance. High-effort rusher who is explosive from wide techniques, with the first step to threaten the edge. Active with his hands, and varies his approach enough to keep opponents guessing. Closes fast when he finds a lane. Very nice two-gap run defender whose contact balance is impressive. Shows the ability to lock out defenders and locate the football in the run game. Sheds at the appropriate time to make stops at the line of scrimmage. Clearly has a lot of natural power, as his frame is somewhat linear and high-cut and he struggles to play with consistent leverage, but managed to hold his ground. Get-off can be inconsistent as a pass-rusher. Doesn’t seem to have the best flexibility to bend a smooth arc without gathering; will wipe out periodically when trying to turn the corner. Would like to see him incorporate a more consistent power element to his rushes. Had excellent pre-draft workouts, but doesn’t look quite as explosive on tape. Teams will have to look into his 2020 suspension to make sure they’re comfortable with his character. Looks like a potential strong-side defensive end on an even front which asks their linemen to read and react in the run game.

DB Nick Cross, Maryland*

6’0”, 212, 4.34

Started eight games over his first two seasons before taking over the full-time starting role last year. Thickly-built free safety who played a lot of single-high and Cover-2. Plays with a relatively conservative temperament and adequate discipline on the back end, but can occasionally creep up a little bit, forcing him to rely on his speed to recover and get back in-phase; with only one full season of starting experience under his belt, instincts are still a work in progress. From an athletic standpoint, clearly possesses the speed/range to get out to the sidelines and provide help over the top. Processes and closes smoothly on underneath routes and can deliver thudding hits to jar balls loose or set the tone defensively. Has the athleticism to work in man coverage, getting his head around to locate and make plays on the ball; nice production last season. However, can get caught up in congestion when facing bunches, and might struggle against quicker receivers. Maintains outside positioning when playing down in the box to funnel ballcarriers back inside to help defenders. Not afraid to stick his nose in, bringing desired physicality to the game as a tackler. Has shorter arms, which can negatively impact his tackling and ball skills at times. Core special teams player at Maryland.

OC Cameron Jurgens, Nebraska

6’3″, 303, 4.92

Was recruited as a tight end, only becoming a full-time center in 2019. Thickly-built center who brings a high level of intensity. Has the short-area quickness to execute pulls and climbs. Able to chip and reach a second-level defender. Keeps feet churning after contact, working hard to sustain through the whistle. Very active with his hands; keeps his head on a swivel. Powerful shove as the help blocker. Plays with adequate width in his base in pass protection. Lack of ideal length and aggressive play style leads to a lot of balance issues. Guilty of some waist-bending, and frequently falls off of blocks by playing outside his frame. More athletic in a straight line than he is laterally quick. Somewhat penalty-prone. Could theoretically fit in any sort of offensive scheme.

DB Jalen Pitre, Baylor

(5’11”, 198, 4.46)

Started at linebacker as a freshman, but then served as a backup and redshirted the next two seasons, respectively, before converting to the Star position. On the lanky side for a defensive back, but was asked to do a little bit of everything, often playing downhill from the box/slot. Instinctive defender who times the snap count well and looks explosive when defending the run; made a ton of stops in opposing backfields over the past two years. Shows impressive quickness to slip past would-be blockers, but is active with his hands when he has to take on opponents. Excellent closing burst when he finds a lane to the ballcarrier. Likes to stick his nose in and uses wrap technique, but can be a little bit of an ankle-grabber. In the passing game, often plays off-coverage from the slot and shows nice clean transitions when planting and driving. Fast enough to carry opposing slot receivers down the seams, with pretty loose hips to turn and run; very little wasted motion. Squeezes routes appropriately at the stem. Can play aggressive, but usually backs it up with his play/route recognition skills. Would have liked to see him do more work in deep coverage, as some teams may consider him as a potential free safety. Teams looking to keep him as a nickel defender may have durability concerns given his physicality and thin frame. Offers additional value on coverage units.

Patriots Draft Pick Sketches

I didn’t have time to convert all of my hand-written notes into sketches or reports this year, so I focused mostly on players I was confident would be going pretty high on draft day. Here are the notes I wrote about the players New England has picked so far!

WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor

Relatively tall, long-limbed receiver who has simple, efficient releases with his feet at te line and uses his hands well. Has legitimate speed which opens up opportunities for him to break off routes at the intermediate level. Route tree was very basic but shows some snap at the route stem. Catches away from his frame. Very nice tracking/adjustments to throws downfield. Shows good body control and sideline awareness. May struggle to get off the line against physical pro defensive backs. Gets swallowed by physical coverage and struggles to stack defenders on deep routes. Has trouble working through congestion and shielding defenders. Lacks physicality after the catch. Poor blocker with wide hands, iffy effort, and balance/positioning issues. Probably more of a third-day pick.

OG Cole Strange, Chattanooga

College left guard who was asked to handle some difficult assignments in school. Has the athleticism to execute pull blocks or get out in space and lead in the way in the screen game. Was also asked to pull in pass pro. Chippy player who works hard through the whistle and plays with some nastiness. Impressive contact balance. Needs to be more consistent with his hand placement. Wins too many of his reps late after being overwhelmed early. Not much of a knee-bender; plays pretty upright. Struggles to stay connected at times. Will occasionally lower his head into contact. Anchors early at the line against power, with a sufficiently-wide base. Punch comes on time. Keeps his head on a swivel in pass pro and likes to help out. Overall athleticism is much more impressive than his understanding of positioning at this point. Looks like an interesting gap blocker who could find his way into the second day after nice pre-draft workouts.

CB Marcus Jones, Houston

Undersized corner who played a lot of off-zone from the boundary but will work from the slot in the pros. Pretty quick feet and decent technique on his backpedal. Good athlete with nice transitions to planting and driving on a spot, closing fast. Solid reaction times to breaking routes. Fast enough to carry opponents down the sidelines. Flips hips very well. Really struggles to process route combinations from zone; out of position often during the games reviewed. Looks like he had several communication issues. Grabby at the route stem. Can be boxed out by opponents. Gets engulfed by blockers. Turns down opportunities to play with physicality when other defenders are in the area. Has big-time value as a return specialist. Looks like a mid-rounder.