Bitonio in Draft Thoughts
In four days, the New England Patriots and 31 other NFL teams will try to grab hold of their future stars in the 2014 Draft. The Patriots have several immediate needs, starting with, one could argue, defensive tackle and tight end.
However, first-rate offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired, leaving New England’s wonderful O-line play in slight question. Incorporating new blockers into the squad before Brady leaves could lend towards a better offense in the future, when a fresh quarterback takes over.
Joel Bitonio, the 6-4, 302 pound tackle out of Nevada, may fit the young, promising lineman build. He’s projected in the late first round, early second round, courtesy of ESPNBoston’s Mike Reiss. New England could either snag him with the 29th pick, or trade up for him in the 2nd round.
Fit, Strengths and Weaknesses
Bitonio’s most eye-catching strength is his versatility, allowing him to play any position on the line. From the Patriots’ perspective, this attribute alone should draw the appeal for the Californian’s signature. Realize how the Pats’ O-line runs off of several guys filling in at several different positions. Marcus Cannon is a solid model of an above-average Patriots’ lineman fulfilling any duty that’s asked of him.
Bitonio could serve a similar purpose, and possibly exceed those expectations. He’s a cerebral player, one that goes out looking to cause controlled havoc with an laudable football persona and character. Bitonio is quick, too, seizing the best 10-yard and 20-yard splits of any offensive lineman at the combine.
On the downside, Bitonio isn’t hugely gifted from a technique viewpoint. Sometimes, his explosive nature gets the best of him, and his hands will drift too wide on a block giving the defender the power to muscle past him. This weakness is definitely coachable by new O-line coordinator Dave DeGuglielmo, nevertheless.
A NFL.com draft profile sums up Bitonio:
BOTTOM LINE An undersized college left tackle who projects best to the inside in the pros. Displays the tenacity, leg drive and mean streak that is highly coveted by OL coaches and could drive up his draft status. Could require some initial patience moving inside, yet possesses the skill set, intelligence and desire to successfully convert.