The New England Patriots selected Illinois Fighting Illini hybrid defensive end and linebacker Michael Buchanan with their first seventh-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. A space linebacker and DE, Buchanan reminds me of Rob Ninkovich in that he is a hybrid player at both positions. The Patriots seem to be putting an increased emphasis on getting players who can play at both DE and LB, as their first pick in the draft was Jamie Collins of Southern Mississippi. Could this be the next NFL trend? After all, the Patriots are usually a step ahead in the innovation department, so we’ll see how these guys fit in.
Buchanan is another Patriots draft pick with all the tools but coming off of a disappointing statistical season. Wide receivers Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson also fit this description, and Buchanan recorded just 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss last season for Illinois. The 2012 season was supposed to be a big year for Buchanan, but he didn’t perform up to standard.
The 6’5″, 255 pound DE is like Collins in that he has good length, and that also seems to be a trait the Patriots are fans of right now. Buchanan has the ability to be an asset in run defense and in coverage underneath, but Buchanan has technique issues, needs to get stronger so he doesn’t get pushed around as much on run defense at the line of scrimmage, and he isn’t nearly as explosive as Collins. Buchanan was projected as a 3-4 OLB, so he is going to be some kind of a hybrid space linebacker in the Patriots scheme, likely operating in a Ninkovich role.
The Patriots will give Buchanan an opportunity to quickly make an impact on special teams and as a sub-package player as a DE or an LB. That versatility will greatly aid the Patriots, and I think this draft has made them a lot more flexible on the defensive side of the ball at all positions.
Michael Buchanan has the chance to be an impact edge rusher as a backup for the Patriots, and I think the Pats got a very good deal with Buchanan in the seventh round. I had him graded as a late fourth or early fifth round guy, and I think his ability to get outside contain, do the things a linebacker can do, do things a DE can do, and help out in coverage are all key assets for the Patriots. He won’t be a starter, but he’s going to be a quality backup to have.
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