In this year's Rutgers-centric draft for the New England Patriots, the final selection of Steve Beauharnais makes as much sense as their third-round selection of Logan Ryan. Both filled positions of need and will provide some valuable insurance.
All offseason, we've looked at athletic linebackers to help complement Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower, and Beauharnais fits that mold. He has elite quickness and even some ability to rush the quarterback.
Beauharnais immediately steps into competition with Mike Rivera and Niko Koutouvides at the backup linebacker spots. What Beauharnais has going for him is that he's probably the best athlete in space of all three players, and that's what the Patriots need most.
Perhaps, Beauharnais can push Dane Fletcher for the coverage linebacker specialist role, but he certainly wouldn't be the favorite to win that matchup as a rookie. Long-term, he could be an option at middle linebacker against pass-happy teams, but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. He's not sending Spikes to the bench just yet.
There's no question the Patriots needed to add more athleticism to their linebacking corps, and with Beauharnais and Jamie Collins, they've done just that. There's no question that Beauharnais' most direct route to making the roster will be on special teams. But clearly, the talent above him in Rivera and the veteran Koutouvides is not overwhelming.
Beauharnais is an excellent upgrade at the bottom of the roster and a player who could fill bigger needs down the road if he develops.
Beauharnais has added a unique skill set to the Patriots defense, and his experience with a handful of players he'll be playing with can only help his cause. If he takes advantage of the opportunity, he could be this year's seventh-round Pats pick that makes a contribution to the defense.
The way he can do it is hair-on-fire special teams play and great coverage against tight ends and the occasional slot receiver when he does get snaps on defense in practice. If he does those things, he could carve out a nice role for himself.
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