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Draft Spotlight: Could Hurricane defenders give Patriots the edge?

Two potential first-round edge players highlighted the University of Miami's Pro Day.


Two of the top edge prospects in this year's draft were on display Monday afternoon, taking part in the University of Miami's Pro Day workout. Both Gregory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips are intriguing prospects and both are candidates to be drafted in the first round.

With Bill Belichick present for the workout, Rousseau and Phillips showed why they're both good prospects but offer different potential. Rousseau's measurements arrived with resounding Jason Pierre-Paul comparisons. His massive length with 34 3/4-inch arms would make him an attractive addition, especially for teams who run a similar scheme to the 4-3 defense Pierre-Paul has excelled in.

For the Patriots, they'll be measuring his versatility. Rousseau doesn't have a ton of game film, just 14 career games at Miami after opting out of 2020 and will turn just 21-years-old next week. He's already a projection as a player and is an even bigger one when figuring out his fit in the Patriots front.

Despite his size, coming in at 6'6" 3/4, and length, Rousseau had a lackluster Pro Day performance, measuring out as average-to-below-average in all the explosion tests, including a 30" vertical, which would put him near the bottom of his position group. His 7.5-second three-cone drill could be an indicator that Rousseau would best fit in a defense that kept him moving in one direction.

Phillips is probably the easier projection to New England, with ideal size, he's comfortable standing up and plays with a good motor with the necessary physicality to set the edge of the defense. Phillips electrified his Pro Day audience with a blazing 4.46 40-yard dash and 36-inch vertical, this after weighing in at 260 pounds.

Teams will have to weigh Phillips' previous concussion issues that almost ended his career while at UCLA.

The Patriots have addressed the edge position in recent seasons, with Chase Winovich, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings all still developing, but Rousseau and Phillips have some intriguing skills that make them worth considering.

Tar Heel twosome could intrigue Pats

With the depth chart looking a little light at running back past the 2021 season, the Patriots would be wise to keep an eye on the Pro Day performances of UNC backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. The duo are both tough runners who are also threats to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Carter's excellent 6.81 three-cone drill time could be something to keep an eye on. He's a balanced back who could be groomed behind James White, along with J.J. Taylor in 2021. Like Taylor, Carter is a bit undersized at 5'8", but doesn't play like it. He also adds kick return value and did not fumble in the last two seasons.

Williams is a bit more of a wrecking ball, also turning in an impressive three-cone time, 6.97, while weighing in at 212 pounds. The tough downhill runner, Williams can catch a bit too and is the more highly regarded of the Tar Heel twosome.

Both players could reinforce positions of need for the Patriots on offense, playing with the kind of balanced, tough style the team has sought out before for their backfield.


2021 Draft Prospect Highlights

Put your scouting cap on and watch collect highlights of the top prospects entering the 2021 NFL Draft.

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