The New England Patriots have made it through three rounds and seven times on the clock without addressing their biggest need: an outside pass rusher. Instead, they have selected an offensive tackle, a corner, two running backs, a quarterback, and made two trades. The moves have left many fans upset that the most glaring need, and one that has been there for a few years now, hasn’t been addressed. The Pats have had opportunities to take players like Jabaal Sheard and Brooks Reed, but decided to pass. We’re now about halfway through the fourth round on the last day on the draft, and there still some opportunities to draft a linebacker to help the defense. Here are two names to watch for.
The first name is one that many New England fans will know very well: Boston College’s Mark Herzlich. Herzlich was a top 10 linebacker until he was diagnosed with cancer. However, Herzlich beat cancer, and while he missed his junior season, he was able to return and play well his senior season. That is an incredible feat, and he is a personal favorite of Patriot great Tedy Bruschi, who overcame a stroke to return to the football field. Herzlich’s a high-character player and is one that could turn into a phenomenal NFL linebacker the further removed from chemotherapy he is. The selection of Herzlich may make fans that are upset with the Patriots’ draft right now feel much better.
The second name to look for is Greg Romeus, a defensive lineman from Pittsburgh (same school as Jabaal Sheard) who would project to play outside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4 defense. Romeus has the prototypical build of a Bill Belichick OLB (6’5″, 264 lbs) and would have been drafted already if not for injuries which limited his playing time this past season. His strength is rushing the passer but he also plays the run very well. The Pats hosted Romeus during the pre-draft process. Barring a trade, the Patriots have two fifth-round picks (138th and 159th overall), a sixth (193rd overall) and a seventh (219th overall). Here is the pre-draft scouting report on Greg Romeus:
Romeus missed nearly his entire senior year dealing with back and knee injuries, but he has excellent size and the athleticism to contribute at the next level. He is a powerful rusher with good speed that will be even more effective once he adds more counter moves to his repertoire. He is very strong and difficult to move in the running game and shows the agility to make tackles from the backside. He lacks the fluidity to make plays in space, but he has a very high ceiling and should be a middle round pick in spite of his injury concerns.