NFL Draft 2011: Is Mark Herzlich a Fit for the New England Patriots?

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NFL Draft 2011: Is Mark Herzlich a Fit for the New England Patriots?
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The New England Patriots are full tilt in scouting mode for the 2011 NFL Draft, attending Pro Days, interviewing prospects and holding private workouts left and right.

One of the players they have been in contact with is Boston College outside linebacker Mark Herzlich. According to NE Patriots Draft, the Patriots held an interview with Herzlich at the Senior Bowl.

The home grown prospect has been the buzz of Beantown fans and analysts, and has especially drawn interest for his inspirational story.

According to ESPN's Scouts, Inc. he overcame Ewing's Sarcoma, a type of tumor found in the bone or soft tissue, in his left leg. After being declared cancer-free in 2009, he was cleared to play again in 2010. He suffered a couple of injuries after that, which have raised questions about his overall durability even after being declared cancer-free.

In the very next breath, the scouting report reads off one of the Belichick commandments in regard to Herzlich. "Team leader with excellent work ethic." Anyone who has those traits has already come a long way in Belichick's book.

Throw in the courage he showed off the field in beating cancer and the tenacity he shows on the field, and it seems the Patriots could really use a guy like Herzlich.

All of that, however, doesn't take into account what Herzlich can or can't do on the field.

As an outside linebacker in the Patriots' 3-4 system, he would be asked to make plays in space effectively, something he doesn't do well.

There is always the possibility that the Patriots could draft him to contribute to to the sub package defense, which they were in 57 percent of the time in 2010. The sub package is essentially a 4-3 front.

In that regard, Herzlich can contribute. Scouts, Inc. says of Herzlich's third-down abilities, "Playmaker with big hands and excellent ball skills. Relentless pass rusher with active hands. Gets hands up when sees quarterback start throwing motion and can bat balls down."

"Fluid enough to match up with most tight ends in underneath man coverage but doesn't show great burst out of cuts and allow too much separation coming out of breaks."

Still, if Patriots fans are looking for someone to apply pressure off the edge in the NFL, Herzlich isn't your guy. He doesn't have great size or athleticism for the job.

That's not to say he wouldn't be worth the pick, but it might be a little less likely than some might like to think.

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