As an aspiring journalist and diehard football fan, there is nothing that I enjoy more than analyzing the NFL Draft.
It's not just about how a team fills their needs, but the job they do in bringing in football players who can help build success and stability in the long-term. It's also about establishing how players can fit into both a team's system and an organization's creed.
I didn't love New England's first three picks. As a Jets fan, that made me pretty happy. While Bill Belichick's drafting record hasn't been stellar since Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli left the organization, I still think that Belichick knows the real thing when he sees it.
I have my doubts about Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, and Tavon Wilson. My doubts don't stem from a talent standpoint, but how they fit into the Patriots defense—particularly Jones and Hightower.
If New England is moving back to a base 3-4 defense then I have to disagree with the Chandler Jones selection. Jones is long, built like your typical defensive end, and has a good motor. But he lacks refinement as a pass rusher and isn't naturally athletic enough to play linebacker. I seriously doubt Jones could drop into coverage.
In fact, with the type of frame Jones has, I'd almost suggest bulking him up and giving him a Shaun Ellis/Calais Campbell type role as five tech end with pass rushing upside. Either that, or Jones should be an end in base 4-3 defense. With his role uncertain, I didn't love New England trading up for him. Now I trust that the Patriots will get the most out of him, but not if he's set to play outside linebacker.
Dont'a Hightower is another concern. He's an overweight inside linebacker who the Patriots will likely try to play outside. While Hightower does have some pass rushing experience, it's not his forte. He's best used as an inside, downhill thumping linebacker.
This fit confuses me because I was under the impression that the Patriots had two solid inside backers already in the 3-4 in Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes.
The Patriots, inevitably, will figure out what role to play Jones and Hightower in. Whether or not they succeed is another story. I'm here to talk about Arkansas product Jake Bequette. I hadn't heard of Bequette coming into this season as I don't catch many Arkansas games.
But Jake Bequette caught my attention this year. He should have caught everyone's attention. In a lot of ways, I'm actually shocked he wasn't a first round pick. Bequette is an extremely high-motor defensive end listed at 6'5'' 274 pounds. He has the frame and size to set the edge in the running game and surprisingly diverse pass rushing moves as a rookie (so much so that Bill Belichick actually commented on it). One thing I noticed about Bequette on tape from his junior year was that he wasn't very coordinated. Much like Chandler Jones, he lost his balance easily in pass rushing and was easily neutralized in double teams.
Not the case his senior year. That should really get Patriots fans hyped, because that shows a serious commitment to improving, and improve Bequette did. Tallying the highest sack total of his career in a difficult SEC (10), Bequette seriously improved his lateral agility and change of direction.
He wound up scoring the second best 20 yard short shuttle dash (4.07) among all defensive linemen since 2006. Only Bruce Irvin graded higher in this mark, and Bruce is about 30 pounds lighter then Bequette.
Bequette's cone drill score of 6.90 was also impressive. It ranked third among all DL prospects this year (behind first round picks Bruce Irvin and Melvin Ingram) and ninth among all DL prospects in the last seven years. In fact, quick twitch pass rushers Whitney Mercilus and Andre Branch who went in the first and second round respectively scored far, far worse on this then Bequette, showing a surprising lack of lateral agility.
And while all the combine scores are great, Bequette also showed his mettle on the field. The high motor pass rusher looks like Jared Allen out there and hits like a mack truck. Just ask South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw. He sets the edge well as a run defender, plays with intensity, and now seems to be athletic enough to make those necessary adjustments to get a quarterback in the pocket instead of just forcing him to step up. He also has a nice counter move to the inside, though he uses it sparingly, often choosing just to bull rush.
Where Bequette needs help is improving his lower body strength and playing with more leverage as he sometimes comes out of his stance upright. Getting out of his stance quicker would help also, but he's shown he's athletic enough that coaching should help him in that department.
I had a first round grade on Jake Bequette. I've been extensively following the draft since 2005 and doing positional rankings, mock drafts, amateur scouting, etc. ever since. I had Bequette rated as a first round prospect and compare his playing style to Jared Allen.
Regardless of the roles of Chandler Jones or Dont'a Hightower, don't sleep on Jake Bequette. He could just be the diamond in the rough of the 2012 NFL Draft.
You can follow Alex on Twitter @HammeredBySpiel
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