13 Days to the Draft: Clemson DE/OLB, Ricky Sapp

With the Draft fast approaching, it's time to start looking at some potential players for the Patriots. I'm going to put profiles of 2 players a day- one offense, one defensive- and gain a better understanding of the players in the draft.

Clemson DE/OLB Ricky Sapp projects to be an OLB with the Patriots. Most likely, if Sapp is selected, he'll immediately be taking the Derrick Burgess role- an OLB who tends to line up on the D-Line and is asked to run into the backfield. That's just my rookie year prediction because the sky is the limit for this 6-4, 252 lbs OLB with oodles of athleticism. He has the physical abilities to drop back into coverage, which is a skill that is sure to be developed. While he had trouble stopping the run in college as a DE, he has the size to stop the run as an OLB with more space to work with. He has the speed to disrupt the backfield. Sapp has the potential to be developed into an all-star OLB. Do the Patriots take the chance?

His measurements and some quotes after the jump.

Walterfootball.com Scouting

Height: 6-4. Weight: 252.
Projected 40 Time: 4.62.
Combine 40 Time: 4.61.
Benchx225: 23.

CBSSports.com Scouting

04/04/2010 - Ian R. Rapoport spoke with draft prospect Ricky Sapp on Thursday. The Clemson star, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who could provide a pass rushing presence as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, was worked out privately by the Patriots recently on campus. Sapp did not want to discuss the workout, because "as you know, the Patriots are a private organization." The linebacker has probably turned mum because he let too much information slip in his draft diary for the local paper, where he divulged that his workout lasted six hours. Sapp would allow that he convinced the Patriots that he'd be a worthy pick. "I think I answered every question about myself," said Sapp, who had a knee injury as a junior. "Meeting with the teams and just letting them see who the real Ricky Sapp is, my good character and show them my knee is 100 percent healthy. I think I answered every question. The only goal I have right now is just to get drafted." - Karen Guregian, Boston Herald

04/02/2010 - Clemson star Ricky Sapp is among a gaggle of defensive edge players being considered by the Patriots in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft. While Sapp's athleticism is without question, there are some concerns about his lack of experience as a linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. In a phone conversation yesterday, the 6-5, 240-pound Sapp explained the Pats' alignment is nothing new to him. "We got a new defensive coordinator that came this year, and he brought the 3-4 package to our defense," said Sapp, who was the subject of an individual workout by the Patriots. "I had a lot of experience with it. I stood up a lot this year in the 3-4 package. I (did) a lot of things. I rushed, I covered, I covered backs out the backfield." Tigers coordinator Kevin Steele learned his 3-4 scheme from Alabama's Nick Saban, who learned it from Belichick. That leads to familiarity. Sapp was asked about his surgically repaired knee, one that was "60 percent" for the 2009 season. "It's 100 percent now, though," he said. - Ian R. Rapoport, The Boston Herald

03/13/2010 - TOP RATED NFL DRAFT SCOUT OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: Ricky Sapp, Clemson, 6-4, 252, 2: Moved from defensive end to standup linebacker last year, he responded with career highs in tackles (60), tackles for loss (15) and sacks (five) to go with a forced fumble. Those numbers became even more impressive when he revealed at the combine that he played the season on a right knee that was at 60% strength, stemming from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in November 2008. Sapp had surgery to repair the injury. Whether Sapp plays outside linebacker in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 4-3, his promise is as a pass rusher. A high school track sprinter and basketball star, Sapp has an overall athleticism that is more striking than his football ability. If he learns to harness all his talent, he can become an elite pass rusher in the NFL. - Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange, NFLDraftScout.com/CBS Sports/USA TODAY

NFL.com Scouting

Sapp is an undersized, athletic defensive end who has growth potential. He is a competitive player but tends to be more of a finesse defender against the run. He shows good initial quickness off the line of scrimmage as an edge rusher with the ability to close well to the quarterback. Sapp is a solid reacter who has enough agility and quickness to stand up as an outside 'backer in a 3-4 defensive scheme. His size, versatility and athleticism should bode well as a special-teams contributor, as well as providing depth to a defense at the next level.

Strengths

Sapp has been a productive player during his career. Has the versatility to play defensive end in a 4-3 and outside linebacker in a 3-4. Is an extremely athletic front-seven defender who can get to the quarterback with the speed rush and is comfortable playing in space. Durable during his time in college. Plays with good instincts, including in coverage.

Weaknesses

At this point, Sapp is undersized and only possesses average power to hold the point of attack when teams run at him. Does have the frame to add bulk. Needs to be more consistent with his hand use and must do a better job disengaging from blockers.

Verdict: Yes. Sapp has been projected anywhere from the end of the first round to the end of the second. Everywhere you look agrees he's a phenomenal athlete. If he isn't selected in the beginning of the second round, expect him to drop to the middle where he can, and definitely should, be selected by the Patriots at 44th or 47th overall.

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