I'll admit to a little Search Engine Optimization (SEO) craftiness with this title. It appears that if I put mock and draft in the title, thousands of web hits will ensue. We've hashed this over for weeks now and y'all have been great with your predictions, prognostications, and educated guesses (I think all those mean the same, but might as well cover all bases).
At any rate, it's this blogger's opinion, as it was last season, that we desperately need a pass rusher. Remember the good old days when Mike "Mr. Everyting" Vrabel was in everyone's face? It's also this blogger's opinion that it'll be tougher than usual to get the guy we want. Why? Approximately 50% of the league is now utilizing a 3-4 defensive scheme, says Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio:
One of the reasons those ideals are so hard to find these days — no matter the body type — is that more and more teams are playing a 3-4 defense these days. Caserio estimated that "half the league is employing some 3-4 type of configuration."
"It is becoming more challenging," he said, "because there are more teams that are essentially looking at the same pool of players, so it kind of limits your opportunities, because you realize you’re really competing really with the rest of the league on that front."
Caserio goes on to discuss what might be a prototypical OLB, but other body types that could fit, as long as the player is a good rusher:
"I think that’s an interesting point, because the reality is that pool of players, the 6-4, 260-pound guys that run 4.6, there's not many of them," Caserio said. "Some of the small guys … like, I think Dumervil is a great example. A 5-11, 260-pound guy … maybe he's not the prototypical outside linebacker type, but he can rush the passer.
"There’s different ways to skin a cat. You’re looking for this ideal. The reality is that sometimes that ideal is hard to find."
Dwight Freeney, at 6-1 268 lbs, is not that tall. I know, he's a DE, but his job is almost always generating pressure. Part of the issue I have with "classic" OLBs in a 3-4 alignment is that they can be asked to do so many things: pass rush, hang back in coverage, tackle. What if we simply dedicated a guy to getting in the quarterback's face? Technically, that could be considered a 4-3 alignment, but who cares what it's called. IMO, our 2008-2009 defense looked so soft on the pass rush that we were ranked 25th in sacks. Yes, I know good pass rushing is also about RUSHING the quarterback and not just sacks, but you probably catch my drift; we were anemic at getting to the QB.
Just to summarize, it is my belief that we sorely need a premier pass rusher, be it DE, OLB, or something in between. I don't care what the label is. Let's get someone who will plant himself in the backfield on a regular basis and make quarterbacks nervous. Bill, are you listening? Take the shackles off of all the other duties you typically heap on an OLB and let him loose. Thanks.