Until the NFL and the players put aside their difference and realize how much the game means to fans, the players will be locked out and free agency is on hold. Today was the first NFL business day where players were locked out. The draft will take place no matter what, but hopefully there is a new CBA before then. In the meantime, I’ll evaluate each position on the Patriots’ current roster and look at potential draft picks or free agents (should a new CBA be in place) that could be brought in to improve the position or add depth. Today’s position audit looks at the defensive line position. Check out the position audit for QB here, the position audit for RB here, the position audit for WR here, the audit for TE here, and the audit for offensive line here.
Current Players on the Roster:
- Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Mike Wright, Marcus Stroud, Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Landon Cohen, Darryl Richard, Kade Weston, Marlon Favorite
Possible Free Agent Pick-Ups:
- Gerard Warren, Shaun Ellis, Jacques Cesaire, Nick Eason, Marcus Spears, *Ray Edwards, *Matthias Kiwanuka, *Adewale Ogunleye
Possible Draft Picks:
- J.J. Watt (Wisconsin), *Cameron Jordan (California), Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple), Stephen Paea (Oregon State), *Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), *Aldon Smith (Missouri), *Chris Carter (Fresno State)
*Indicates player could play DE or OLB
Defensive line is a position on the Patriots where there is good depth and good players, but no real impact player outside of Vince Wilfork. Ty Warren missed all of last season with injury and Mike Wright missed most of the end of the season due to a concussion. Outside of them, there are several young, promising, but unproven players. None have to been able to step up and hold onto the defensive end position, and there were several opportunities to do so last season. Ron Brace seemed like he started to come on, but then he got injured and fell off. Therefore, the hot topic in New England is the drafting of an impact player at the position, or one who could be a hybrid DE/OLB.
The Pats already signed Marcus Stroud as a depth move, and he could force out Gerard Warren, who filled in admirably last season on early downs and will be a free agent. Shaun Ellis has experience in the 3-4, as does Cesaire, Eason, and Spears. Edwards, Kiwanuka, and Ogunleye would all look to be DE/OLB should the Pats go in that direction. Ogunleye was brought in for a workout last offseason but signed with the Texans. It’s not know if he was offered a contract but opted against it.
The most likely route the Pats will go to improve depth will be through the draft. J.J. Watt from Wisconsin is the highest-rated player that could be in the Patriots’ draft range, and is also seen as one who could do well in a 3-4 defense. Many of the other prospects tied to the Pats are hybrid, or project to be hybrid defensive ends/outside linebackers. Cameron Jordan from Cal is an interesting prospect who could be used either as a 3-4 DE or possibly an OLB due to his speed and athleticism. Fresno State’s Chris Carter has been training with former Patriot Willie McGinest in making the transition from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB.