With Trey Flowers departing in free agency and Adrian Clayborn getting released after one disappointing season, the Patriots are on the hunt for defensive line help. We already examined some of their options at edge defender. Now we'll take a look at some more traditional defensive ends. These players will usually be bigger than edge defenders, centered more on the line of scrimmage than out in space as linebackers.
With a deep defensive line draft, New England could find some solid options at this position.
- Rashan Gary, Michigan:
The chances of Gary falling into New England's range are extremely thin. Some mock drafts have him going as high as fourth overall. However, the NFL is nothing if not unpredictable, and Gary could find himself in some sort of precipitous fall. If so, the Patriots would be lucky to have him.
Gary's combination of size, strength, and motor could allow him to develop into an elite pass rusher. His biggest issue right now is a lack of finesse. He needs time and coaching to improve on his pass rush moves, particularly with his hands. However, if he can learn to control his NFL-ready body, he will be a beast for defenses.
- Clelin Ferrell, Clemson:
Ferrell is another prospect who may not fall to the Patriots at 32. However, it is not impossible; in STL's NFL Mock Draft, New England was able to select the Clemson standout. Ferrell had a productive career for one of the best team's in the nation over the previous half-decade. He recorded 27 sacks and 166 tackles (including 50.5 for a loss) in his three main years with the Tigers.
Ferrell would be a fantastic option for the Patriots because he is one of the most complete defensive end/edge prospects in the draft. He has solid pass rush skills and has developed into a brilliant edge setter against the run. Ferrell may not produce blinding sack numbers in the NFL. Similar to Trey Flowers, his edge pass rush is gradual which could be a hindrance against quarterbacks who release the ball quickly. In addition, he is not an ideal match to drop into coverage or make great open field tackles. However, Ferrell is a complete defender who would instantly make the Patriots defense better. His strength, athleticism, and football IQ could allow him to quickly fill the role that Flowers left empty.
- LJ Collier, TCU:
Potentially a second or third round option for New England, Collier could present a high reward challenge for New England's coaching staff. The former Horned Frog never wowed anyone with his athleticism, but certainly made waves with his toughness and grit. He is a large prospect at defensive end, measuring in at 283 pounds. This, however, has helped him become an impressive run defender. His size and violence at the point of attack have made him a fantastic edge setter.
Collier would not provide the Patriots the versatility they prefer out of their defensive ends. He lacks the athleticism to move around as much as other defensive ends or edge players. However, his motor and grit could make him intriguing for New England. They could find a way to use him as a hybrid defensive end/defensive tackle who can defend the edge against the rush, and create an interior pass rush.
- Zach Allen, Boston College:
The former BC Eagle could be a solid Day 2 pick up for New England if he falls to the late second or third round. What he lacks in size and athletic deficiencies he makes up for with burst, strength, and intelligence. Allen has shown an impressive ability to create a rush through his power alone. He also has a great burst off the line that is especially effective in the interior.
Allen's main issue is that his athleticism and length will not match some of the offensive linemen that he will face in the NFL. However, a high football IQ, combined with a ridiculous work ethic, could make him an ideal prospect to rotate through Bill Belichick's defensive line.
- Joe Jackson, Miami:
The former Hurricane is a physical specimen, maintaining NFL-ready size and strength. He had a solid career at the U, finishing with 22.5 sacks and 129 tackles in three seasons of play. Jackson is a developmental day two or three prospect who could intrigue New England.
Jackson's strength is phenomenal, allowing him to hold at the point of the attack against even some of the most powerful offensive tackles. This makes him particularly effective against the run. Jackson's biggest issue is really just a lack of developed pass rush skills. He needs to improve his hand usage to create separation and get off of blocks. His instincts would also do well to improve. However, his size could make him a great mid-round candidate for Bill Belichick to mold.
- Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M:
A mid-round projected pick, Keke has an impressive combination of athleticism and functional strength. His pass rush numbers don't jump off the page, with only 12.5 sacks in his collegiate career. However, he was still a productive defender, having managed 150 tackles.
Keke has the athleticism and strength to play both inside and on the edge of the defensive line. This gives him similar versatility to Trey Flowers. He needs to make strides in his violence as a rusher, as well as his burst upfield. Nonetheless, Keke could be someone that Belichick looks for to play multiple roles when needed.