Finding the right rusher

In my April 11 Sunday Notes, we touched on this year’s draft class (scroll down a little in that link to find it) and how the hype surrounding it is getting just a tad out of control.

It’s a good group, to be sure. But to hear some people talk, it’s as if there are dozens and dozens of can’t miss prospects. Which just isn’t the case.

Anyway, the exec I talk to in that piece said the draft is loaded with defensive linemen (particularly 3-technique tackles) and d-backs, but is seriously lacking at the offensive skill positions. And so I asked him about the hybrid end-of-the-line edge rusher types, and he hedged a bit. There are numbers, he said, but there’s not a standout in the group.

“There are quite a few of them, but there’s not a lot of legitimate, proven pass rushers there,” this veteran exec, whose background is in college scouting, told me. “But you do have guys who flash that ability. The problem is there’s not a lot of production, sack-wise, that you’d be looking for. Going against average talent, you want some of these guys to come up with double-digit sack seasons, and that’s not there.

“But a lot of them show the characteristics, and it intrigues you enough, and then you get into the dangers of over-drafting them. You’ll see a run of them. The group, say, of 3-techniques in a lot more solid, but there are some Brandon Graham-type of players that you get scared of missing on.”


This, of course, relates back to the Patriots because of their glaring need for one of these outside end/rush linebacker types. And the glut here of iffy prospects could be tricky for the team on draft day. How many of these guys do you have conviction on? Do you have to move up to get them, for fear that the next guy might just be average?

Those are questions New England — and a whole lot of other teams — are likely sorting through now. There’s not a DeMarcus Ware or Shawne Merriman in the group, where the ability to get to the quarterback jumps off the screen consistently.

“I’d say that of these six or seven guys, you probably have two or three that are going to legitimate NFL pass rushers,” the exec said. “Which ones? That’s what’s tough, this year, to figure out.


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