Tonight the New England Patriots played their final preseason game before they kick things off against the Buffalo Bills week one of the regular season, against the hated rivals the New York Giant. While there were a lot of backups looking really good, one player on defense really stood out to me, and guaranteed himself a slot on the 53 man roster, DE Michael Buchanan.
Buchanan got himself the start over guys like Marcus Benard, Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis, and really showed some amazing promise. Buchanan is a rather big man, standing 6’5 and weighing 255 pounds with impressive strength and athleticism, something you always look for out of a prototypical defensive end. In 2011-12, he lined up opposite future first round pick of the Houston Texans, Whitney Mercilus at Illinois, and at times looked even better than him. Many scouts had Buchanan pegged as a late first rounder to early second rounder in the 2013 NFL Draft, but a broken jaw in an off-field altercation. This caused him to lose weight, and strength which were the big keys for him to being a first rounder. With all this happening, he plummeted off drafts boards with a very disappointing final season in Illinois, going from potential first rounder to maybe not being drafted. But in April, the New England Patriots and their excellent scouting department (not including cornerbacks and receivers) picked up Buchanan in the 7th round and 226th overall.
Buchanan throughout camp, and most of the preseason was considered on the bubble, people wondering if he was NFL ready enough to contribute right now. Finally he got his shot to really shine against the Giants number one offensive team, and did he ever produce. He had three tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a pass deflection, and most of this production was against the Giants starters on the offensive line, and Eli Manning. This was a very encouraging to see that Buchanan can produce against good offensive line, against all the starters. The strip fumble showed one of Buchanan’s greatest strengths, his awesome length. As already noted, he’s 6’5, and has 34′ arm length, meaning he can make plays without actually getting a sack. He also showed this on his one pass deflection. The knock on Buchanan was that he didn’t have the strength to be truly effective, and was too raw. I feel as if Buchanan answered these questions very well showing that again he can produce against an NFL offence, and also was bullied against the Giant lineman.
In Musket Fire’s latest roster projection, which you can find here, you’ll find that I gave Buchanan a roster spot over the likes of Jermaine Cunningham, and would’ve even placed him ahead of Jake Bequette, another player who may have played his way onto the 53 man roster. He has shown great promise, and while he may never be a full time starter in the NFL, he can easily outperform the 7th round label that is on him. Michael Buchanan could become a very nice sleeper player for the New England Patriots.