INDIANAPOLIS -- The Patriots have a saying, "The more you can do..." What it means is that the more versatile you are, the more value you have to the team.
Potentially no prospect in this draft offers more Patriot-like versatility than Cincinnati defensive end/outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who is drawing comparisons to Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel because of his ability to play on both sides of the ball.
Barwin was a tight end for his first three seasons at Cincinnati -- he caught 31 passes for 399 yards and two touchdowns as a junior -- before the Bearcats switched him to defensive end as a senior.
He responded by leading the Big East in sacks with 11.
Teams see Barwin, who also blocked three punts last season, as a player who like Vrabel can be a defensive starter and then moonlight as a tight end in short-yardage or goal line situations.
"The question you get asked a lot is, 'Who do you emulate your game after?' " said Barwin. "I don't emulate my game after anybody; I think you pick up things here and there, but the one player that you guys have heard that I get compared to a lot is Mike Vrabel, just because of the size and playing defense and then being able to catch touchdowns in the red zone as a tight end. That's the one obvious comparison that I hear about so far."
Although Barwin was a 4-3 defensive end in college, some teams see him as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
"I'm very confident I can play [linebacker]," said Barwin. "It's very intriguing that a lot of teams see me rising in the draft at that position because that's the one I haven't played. It's exciting for me to think about playing that position, knowing my own personal skill set."
Barwin said he met with Patriots tight ends coach Shane Waldron yesterday, but hasn't had a formal sitdown interview with the team yet.
Like Vrabel, Barwin is a straight shooter who isn't lacking for confidence. When asked what he would say if teams asked why they should draft him, he responded:
"The obvious thing that I think is that I am, if not [the best], one of the best athletes in this draft," said Barwin, who played two years of college basketball for the Bearcats as well. "I don't know too many guys that can compare their value with what I can do. I think right away no matter what situation I'm in, I'm going to contribute on special teams, which I hear from every NFL team is a huge concern. I know a lot of guys that are here haven't played special teams, but I've played them throughout my whole career."
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