New England Patriots 2013 Impact Rookies: Michael Buchanan

USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at the 2013 Patriots Draft Class, one by one, and seeing what each player's role with the team will be for the upcoming season.

That Bill Belichick traded out of the first round of the 2013 Draft is no surprise whatsoever. What is surprising, however, is that Belichick decided not to do any wheeling and dealing to get himself a pick in the 5th or 6th round; after selecting Josh Boyce in the 4th round at 102, New England wouldn't make another selection until round 7. The final round of the draft is seen as something of a throwaway round by some, as many of the players selected either don't make it through the preseason or find themselves fighting for a spot on the practice squad. However, Belichick has a knack for finding value in the later rounds, and 2013 was no exception.

Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois (226th overall pick)

Strengths: Tall and long with excellent reach. Fast hands that can shed blocks and has the speed to chase ballcarriers downfield. Can play both end and linebacker, rush the passer and drop into coverage. Smart player who excels at timing snap counts, which makes him a tremendously effective blitzer. Flew under the radar at Illinois, as he played on a line with Whitney Mercilus, but Buchanan is a fierce defensive end when healthy.

Weaknesses: Has had off-field issues in the past; was charged with a DUI and was involved in a late-night scuffle that left him with a broken jaw. Because of that fight, Buchanan was forced onto an all-liquid diet and lost 20 pounds on what was an already lean frame. Lacks upper body strength and tends to tackle with his arms. Can get pushed off the line due to his leanness.

Roster Lock? 7th round draft picks are rarely roster locks, and Buchanan is no exception. However, Buchanan was projected to go as high as the second round before his altercation, as the skills and raw talent are there. To cut Buchanan in hopes that he clears waivers so he can join the practice squad is a risk, as there may be another team that snatches up the long-term project before New England can get a chance to bring him back. He's nothing but a special teamer at this point, but his long-term upside may keep him around.

Role for 2013: Buchanan, probably more than any other Patriots draft pick, could benefit tremendously from a red-shirt year to get his size and strength back. It's doubtful that he'll see much action this year, and if he does it's likely to be on the punt unit. The question, therefore, is whether or not the Patriots want to risk letting him clear waivers so he can land a spot on the practice squad, where I think he would be a perfect fit for this year. Another option would be for Buchanan to suffer an "injury" this preseason and land on IR for the entire year, much the way that Jeff Demps did. With a full year in the New England strength and conditioning program, Buchanan could come into 2014 an absolute beast; this year, however, it's unlikely Buchanan will see much playing time.

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