NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi posted five items he is thinking in terms of the upcoming NFL Draft, and two of them are related to the Patriots and their draft plans. First, he discusses the runningback position, comparing Alabama RB Mark Ingram and Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas in terms of value.
I think Alabama’s Mark Ingram is a good back, not a great back, and Daniel Thomas of Kansas State might be a better value in the draft. If a team in the first round picks Ingram, it better be sold on his ability to pass protect and stay durable.
Next, he discusses the transition college defensive linemen must make to play the 3-4 defense, run by the Patriots and many other teams, once in the NFL.
I think when teams draft one of these linemen for their 3-4 defense they better make sure the player can play in space. ‘Backers in the 3-4 must drop, must play in space and must tackle in the open field. If they can only rush, then the defense is not a 3-4, but a high school 5-2, which does not work in the NFL.
How do these notes relate to the Pats?
First, both Ingram and Thomas have linked to the Patriots. Several mock drafts have had the Pats selecting Ingram with either their 17th overall pick or the 28th overall pick. There doesn’t seem to be much consensus on where Mark Ingram, lauded as the draft’s best back, will go. Other mocks, and other analysts, have linked Daniel Thomas to the Pats in the second and third round. Mel Kiper has the Pats taking Thomas with their first second pick in Round Three Two (60th overall), and WEEI.com has two posts mentioning Thomas as a possible Patriot. Interestingly enough, in an article posted last April after the 2010 NFL Draft, Todd McShay had the Patriots selecting Daniel Thomas in the first round with their second first-round pick (which he projected to be 22nd overall). If Thomas has the word “value” attached to his name, that’s a bell-ringer when talking about the Patriots in the draft. You can watch a video on Daniel Thomas from Patriots.com by clicking here.
Lombardi’s remarks about projecting players to a 3-4 defense highlights one of the main issues 3-4 teams face when scouting players. Without the tape to see them running a 3-4, they have to project a player to the position, be it 3-4 end or outside linebacker. The hardest projection comes at projecting a 4-3 end to 3-4 OLB. Whereas a 4-3 end plays with his hand on the ground and is a pass rusher, 3-4 OLBs rush the passer and drop back into coverage, especially in Belichick’s 3-4. The best thing scouts have to look at are the individual drills to see if the player has the athleticism to drop into coverage, focusing on the fluidity of the hips in transitioning to coverage. Even then, it’s a tough projection. That’s one of the main reasons why you see so many different players linked to the Pats to play DE/OLB. Scouts outside of the organization just don’t have the inside knowledge to see what Belichick is particularly looking for in a player making the transition. When (if) one of those players are called on draft day, we have to assume that it’s one of teh players the team has best projected to make that transition. Is it the correct projection? We, and the team, won’t know for sure until the pads come on in the summer.