With the 2018 NFL draft on tap next week, PFW will offer a capsule look at each position in the coming days. Today we look at defensive ends.
Position: Defensive end
Patriots need:The Patriots didn't have many positions with less depth than defensive end in 2017. Trey Flowers was the only legitimate starter all season, a fact illustrated by the free agent signing of Adrian Clayborn in the offseason. But strengthening the edge is still a major priority in the draft in order to eliminate the need for in-season pickups such as Eric Lee and James Harrison from a year ago.
High-end options: There are two talented prospects at the top of the heap on the outside and they are very different players. N.C. State's Bradley Chubbis the best of the bunch with a great combination of speed, quickness and strength. Those qualities, combined with his production, have most experts projecting him to go early - perhaps in the top five depending on how the quarterbacks shake out. The other is Texas-San Antonio's Marcus Davenport, a 6-6, 264-pound athletic freak. There are questions about the quality of competition he faced, and he struggled at the Senior Bowl, but he was truly dominant in game action and should be a first-round pick. Ohio State's Sam Hubbard has been tied to the Patriots in some mock drafts and could be an option late in the first round.
Mid-round value: LSU's Arden Key has generated a lot of attention during the spring after a tumultuous career with the Tigers. Some have him tabbed as a possible second-round pick but he lacks physicality to play the run and it would be hard to see a fit with the Patriots. Two players who make some sense in Day are Alabama's Da'Shawn Hand and USC's Rasheem Green. Both are 6-4 and have the size to set the edge and also provide some pressure on the passer, particularly Greenwho had 10 sacks a year ago. Ohio State's Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewisare also options in the middle rounds with Lewis providing more as a pass rusher.
Prediction: In terms of a true edge presence, the Patriots may be looking more at outside linebacker types than defensive ends unless they somehow got in position to trade up for Chubb. Green would make some sense on Day 2 while Lewis (23.5 career sacks) might be an option early in Day 3. Having played for Bill Belichick confidant Urban Meyer in Columbus, it would make some sense.