Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Ends

Defensive End
The date was September 6th, 2009- the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I was sitting at a diner in Hyannis with a group of friends recounting ridiculous stories of the past weekend (people falling off docks and into the harbor for a late night swim, girls kicking through glass doors to get into the hotel, etc) when my phone rang. It was Papa O. I assumed it was the standard call to make sure I was still alive after a weekend adventure with the idiots I call my friends. Nope.
“Did you hear the Pats traded Seymour” he asked. Whaaaaaaa? I shared the news with the table and started getting chewed out as if I was the one who traded him. So much for don’t shoot the messenger. How could they trade Big Rich? One of the unquestioned leaders of the team; a 5 time Pro Bowl selection (and 3x 1st team All-Pro); was gone? You know it’s bad when even the girls at the table are upset that a Defensive End was traded. I can’t even think of the male equivalent to that – being upset over what dress Jessica Biel wore to the Oscars? Outraged at which golddigger got voted off of The Bachelor? I don’t know, think of something funny and laugh. Anyways-
After finding out the details – a 2011 first round pick (from the Raiders!! #1 overall???), and the unlikelihood that Rich was going to re-sign – I felt a lot better about the trade. But since that day, there has been a MASSIVE (6’6”, 310lb.) hole at RDE. Gerard Warren and co. played well last year, but there is an obvious need evidenced by the fact that NT Vince Wilfork was forced to move to DE against certain opponents. And now Warren is a Free Agent. Our other Warren –Ty - is coming off of hip surgery and has seen a decrease in production the past few years. Jarvis Green was forced to leave via Free Agency to make sure there were enough letters for BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ jersey. While there is good depth along the D-line, it’s time to find a top-tier anchor so Vince can stay at nose and the linebackers can roam free.
Position need: Moderate
Prototype: A behemoth (6’3”-6’6”, 290+ pounds) who can take on double teams and effectively two-gap when in the Base 3-4. Ideal player can move inside to DT (both for 3 and 4 man lines) on passing downs and pressure QB from inside/collapse the pocket.
Draft Depth: Analysts are raving about the depth of DE’s in this years class, but keep in mind that many of those players are in the 250-280lb range. Players of this size would play OLB in the Pats base 3-4 and will be covered later. I don’t see much depth for the above prototype. Belichick will either be selecting a DE with one of the two 1st round picks, or wait for developmental prospect in the mid-late rounds.
Guys likely to be gone: It’s unlikely that Belichick will trade up in the first round, so don’t get your hopes up for these guys who should be gone before #17- J.J. Watt (Wisc), Cam Jordan (Cal)
Fit but not the pick: Mo Wilkerson (Temple)- The 6’4”, 315lb. beast has the ideal physical make-up the Pats target and is very athletic for his size. Team Captain in 2010. Has experience playing both DE and DT. Excellent run defender and can effectively rush the passer from both DL spots. However, there are concerns about his work ethic in the weight room.
I was ready to pencil Wilkerson in as my pick until I started reading pre-Combine reports. He was projected as a late 3rd-early 4th round pick. The Pats never seem to go for these “fast-risers”, and judging by most mock drafts, they’d have to take him at #17, which seems a bit rich for a player with some developing ahead of him.
Mid-round Option: Allen Bailey (It’s all about The U)- A 6’3”, 285lbs. physical freak. He grew up on an island off the coast of Georgia, with a population of 80 people. I know that isn’t football related, but what the hell? He also once killed an alligator with a shovel- badass, sign him up.
Belichick was at Miami’s Pro Day and most likely spent time reviewing film with him. He was a Team Captain and scouts rave about his work ethic. Played both DE and DT in college, and is stout against the run. Has less than average instincts, evidenced by slow play diagnosis. Lacks great hand technique. If Belichick passes on taking a DE early, look for Bailey in the late 3rd round.
The pick: Cameron Heyward (THE Ohio State University)- 6’4”, 295lbs.. Sound run defender, with the size and strength to take on double teams and anchor on the outside. Good, not great pass rusher but relentless worker and can play DE or DT. Great instincts/play recognition. Read the following Scouts’ Inc. description for Heyward under “Intangibles” and tell me if it sounds familiar:
Humble leader that deflects praise to teammates. A pace-setter both on game day and during practices. Was awarded Jack Stephenson Award (outstanding defensive lineman) by coaches in 2009 and team's outstanding first-year player on defense in 2007. Father is former NFL RB Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward.”
Sounds like a Patriot to me.

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