INDIANAPOLIS – The Patriots could be in the market for some help along the defensive line, and that just might be the deepest spot in the 2019 draft.
Depending on how edge players are viewed, various prognosticators estimate as many as 13 first-round picks along the defensive front. That could be good news for the Patriots, based on the pending free agency for Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton and John Simon, as well as the possibility that veteran Adrian Clayborn could be a possible cap casualty.
If New England is indeed interested in an early defensive lineman, they might not have to look very far. Boston College's Zach Allen has the kind of versatility and production that will likely be attractive to Bill Belichick, and some experts believe he could go as high as late in the first round.
"I had a lot of different roles during my time at Boston College," Allen said. "I played in a lot of fronts – 4-3, 3-4, overs, 5-technique … pretty much everything. At BC we did it all. I'm fine with whatever helps the team. I'm open and willing and don't really have a preference."
The 6-4, 285-pound Allen had a very productive career at BC, racking up 100 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a junior before a foot injury limited him to 61 tackles and 6.5 sacks this past season. The idea of playing for the Patriots is attractive to the Connecticut native, and he met with them during the Senior Bowl.
"Obviously they're the Super Bowl champs," he said. "They know how to win. The city of Boston was really good to me and my family, and being in the locker room with the greatest of all time, both the quarterback and the coach, would be special."
Allen had a penchant for batting down passes at The Heights, finishing with 14 for his career including seven as a senior. He said he watches tape of Houston's J.J. Watt every Friday, and that he learned a lot of technique work from Paul Pasqualoni, the Eagles defensive line coach in 2016-17 and current defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions.
"It's about keeping your eyes on the quarterback and being taught different ways to affect the game," Allen said. "I played some tight end in high school – I guess I just wanted to find ways to get the ball in my hands."
Allen has been compared favorably to Denver defensive lineman Derek Wolfe. He believes the Broncos 3-4 system is similar to the one he played in at BC, and that he has a similar blue-collar-type of work ethic. "I respect the hell out of a guy like that.
"There are a lot of players like that I like to watch. Joey Bosa, Carlos Dunlap, Melvin Ingram, Ryan Kerrigan, DeMarcus Lawrence … I feel like if I can take a piece or two from players like that from everyone's game that's huge. I'll I'm really looking for is an opportunity to play. Special teams, whatever."
Allen's teammate, Wyatt Ray, is considered a possible late-round pick but has some ability to get after the passer. The 6-3, 255-pounder is more of an edge threat and finished 2018 with 9 sacks.
"I'm comfortable with anything that's been asked of me," said Ray, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florida, the same program that produced James White and Phillip Dorsett. "I like to wreak havoc and I am comfortable playing rush end, or even WILL and SAM [linebacker]."
Allen and Ray are two of the school-record seven prospects at the Combine for Boston College this season. Perhaps one or both will be making a short trip to Foxborough to continue his career.