This year, pundits have the Patriots looking at Curtis Lofton, Jerod Mayo, Dan Connor, and Keith Rivers (a true OLB) to help the aging, but still productive Tedy Bruschi and as of yet unsigned Junior Seau. Here are three reasons why none of these will be donning the Flying Elvii in 2008:
- With the exception of Rivers, the top LB prospects all have a tough time shedding blocks. In New England's 3-4, they are going to be taking on guards, and an ILB for Bill Belichick needs to shed the guard and still have enough strength to finish the tackle. While Lofton has shown better skills at this than Mayo and Connor, who really need to be protected to do their best, a la Ray Lewis, his lack of ideal size may inhibit him from doing so on Sundays.
- While it isn't their fault, nobody that is going to be picked in the 2008 NFL Draft has any experience in the NFL. The Patriots brass has shown time and time again that they prefer linebackers with experience. The linebackers make the majority of the pre-snap adjustments and their football IQ has to be off the chart -- something very tough for a rookie to do in the Patriots intricate system.
- If Belichick loves anything, it is value, and if the Patriots are drafting an ILB on day one, the value just isn't there. They have four accomplished linebackers that can play inside in Bruschi, Seau, Vrabel, and Thomas. Granted, each of them are on the wrong side of thirty and Vrabel and Thomas are better suited to play outside. Why pick the best LB in a poor class when there are two better prospects next year in Laurinaitis and Maualuga?
Don't be disappointed when your dreams for a fresh face lining up behind Vince Wilfork are dashed. Coach Belichick knows what he needs, and he doesn't need to reach for an ILB this year.