Is Tavon Wilson the starting strong safety of the future? Is Steve Gregory better suited for that role? Either way, the Patriots have questions on the back end of the secondary, and South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger could provide some answers.
He did not run a great 40-yard dash at 4.67 seconds, but with a top-10 finish in the bench press (17 reps), vertical jump (37 inches), broad jump (124 inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.11 seconds), and a top-five finish in the three-cone drill (6.7 seconds), his stock could be on the rise.
Swearinger has already garnered a lot of attention in this space as a fit for the Patriots. He met with the team at the combine (via BaltimoreRavens.com), so there's at least a sliver of interest. At the combine, he expressed appreciation for the Patriots' style of defense (via Christopher Price of WEEI.com):
I like the New England style of defense and I like coach Belichick and how he does things and how disciplined he is. They win championships, and I think I can help them be a part of that.
It's the playmaker mentality—teams want to see turnovers. They want to see you make plays. Just going in and securing the tackle and hoping to get a turnover at the same time. Just being a playmaker. It's a big risk, but that's why you have to secure the tackle first and then strip the ball.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compared him to 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, a player who the Patriots have targeted in the past. Although Goldson is a free safety, Miller told me he could see Swearinger playing strong safety, as well.
If the Patriots want to add another player with a knack for turnovers (six interceptions and four forced fumbles in his three years as a starter), then they should look to Swearinger. His value prior to the combine was somewhere between the second and fourth round (wide gap, I know), but with his strong showing, he might have moved up a bit.