For years it seems, fans of the New England Patriots have been clamoring for Head Coach Bill Belichick to draft a pass rusher, yet time and time again, when the opportunity to draft one presented itself, he passed it up, over and over again.
However, last night in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft things were different, as Belichick finally found what he’s been looking for in an outside linebacker, taking not one but two in the same draft, with picks 21 and 25, respectively.
New England was originally slated to pick at 27 and 31, but Belichick, ever the master of the board, made a couple trades to move up to 21 and 25, trading away their third and fourth round picks in this years draft to do so.
When the 21st selection rolled around, the Patriots finally decided to address their inadequate pass rush by nabbing Syracuse defensive end/outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who stands 6’5 266 pounds and gives a strong resemblance to former Patriot pass rush specialist Willie McGinest.
Jones is still raw as a player but extremely talented. In three seasons at Syracuse, he registered 11 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. He’s a rare player, who is big enough to play end in a 4-3 alignment, while also being athletic enough to play outside linebacker in the 3-4. Does that remind you of someone Pats fans?
Belichick loves players with that kind of versatility and length on the edge, meaning he will find plenty of ways to unleash Jones unique skill set on opponents.
If the Patriots had only picked Jones it would have been a good draft, they needed a pass rusher and they got one, yet one wasn’t enough.
When Belichick saw Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower still on the board at no.25, he quickly made a trade with Denver to move up from #31 to #25, in order to add the versatile defender.
Hightower is not your prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker but the Patriots are not prototypical in anything they do on the football field. They are revolutionary, meaning Hightower is coming to the team to rush the passer and in general to wreak havoc in the offensive backfield, something he proved he can do at Alabama. In his senior season, he posted 85 tackles, 11 for loss and also sacked the opposing quarterback four times.
Hightower is simply a playmaker, that’s the bottom line. He may not be a typical 3-4 outside linebacker but he makes plays all over the field and can be a very solid pass rusher off the edge. Furthermore, he’s a sure tackler and can hold his own in coverage. He’s an all-around good football player with rare versatility, which makes him all the more appealing and all the more likely to succeed with the Patriots.
New England still has two picks to work with today in round two, so we’ll see how Belichick continues to build his team, but as far as Pats fans are concerned, the 2012 NFL Draft has already been a resounding success.