Over at Mocking the Draft, our friends are hosting an NFL Mock Draft. Cameron O helped out and did a fantastic job. At #33 overall, Cameron and I were banking on players dropping. We decided to take our chances at #28 by letting the championship teams decide which of Cameron Heyward, Muhammad Wilkerson and Phil Taylor would be available at #33. I believe that those players are interchangeable in respect to "potential impact", although they all have extremely different styles of play.
Cameron Heyward - More of a one gap 3-4 DE, Heyward has the pedigree, but does he fit with the Patriots? Heyward can hold the point against double teams, but he won't be able to penetrate and push the pocket; he might even get pushed out of the play. He can bulk up, but he'd take a year or two before he would have the size to play the two gap 3-4 defense. At a low, Heyward would be like Jarvis Green and at a high, he would be like Richard Seymour.
Phil Taylor - Taylor has the size to play the two gap 3-4 DE position, as well as the NT position. However, he'll need to have his weight watched, just like Vince Wilfork. Taylor can push back double teams, he can stop the run, and he can play any spot on the 3-4 defensive line. However, he has character concerns and it's uncertain if he can continue to put everything together at the next level. At a low, Taylor would be like Brandon Deaderick and at a high, he would be like Haloti Ngata.
Muhammad Wilkerson - Wilkerson has the size to play the two gap 3-4 DE spot and could be a leading candidate. He can stop the run and he can rush the quarterback. However, he's not elite at either of those roles. He's probably the safest of the three picks, but he has the lowest ceiling. Consider him the "Derek Sherrod of defensive ends" in the draft. At a low, Wilkerson would be like Ron Brace and at a high, he would be like Ty Warren.
For me, the pick really came between Heyward and Taylor. Wilkerson is too similar to two other players on the roster to be given a look. (Un)fortunately, the Jets decided to snag Heyward at #30 overall, pretty much forcing the selection by the Patriots.
With the 33rd pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select:
Phil Taylor, Defensive Lineman, Baylor
Read the analysis after the jump!
The big man from Baylor! Let's do some analysis, shall we?
Point: He possesses NFL-ready size.
Counterpoint: He can get overweight. He'll need to monitor his size.
Point: He's a phenomenal run defender. He can spin of blockers while still focusing on the guy with the ball. He has tremendous lateral quickness to move across the line of scrimmage to help with tackles. Very few people run through him.
Counterpoint: He is untested at the five technique position. He may be able to thrive at the nose, but that doesn't necessarily translate to success at defensive end.
Point: He has the strength to push the pocket on passing downs, even while facing double teams. In fact, double teams are pretty much a requirement to stop him from getting into the backfield.
Counterpoint: He doesn't really do much when he's in the backfield. If he's engaged, he uses his strength to push back the pocket, but he doesn't have the quickness to gain fast momentum after breaking free from tacklers.
Point: It doesn't matter! If he can push the pocket against double teams, then that will allow the outside linebackers to make more plays. That's the Patriot way!
Counterpoint: That's true. But how long can he face constant double teams before he wears down? He needs to get in much better shape if he wants to stay on the field. He'll most likely need to be rotated until he improves his stamina.
Point: Yeah. I would like to say that even if he is tired, he'll still give a lot of effort. It won't be as effective, but he'll give 100% as long as he's on the field. That says something about the kind of player he is.
Counterpoint: So does the fact that he transferred/was kicked out of Penn State. He has some character concerns surrounding him. He also only had one great season at Baylor- what kind of player will the Patriots be getting?
Point: That's the risk that goes with all draft picks. I believe that Taylor has first round upside if he can continue to play at a high level.
Counterpoint: But what about the downside? What if he flops? He has the potential to just be another expensive rotational guy on the defensive line, filled with rotational guys.
There's a lot to weigh when evaluating Taylor. He has some of the best upside and the most NFL-ready body in the ready. However, is he the type of person who can keep everything together? Or is he a risk to throw it all away? I believe that Taylor can be surrounded by the right type of leadership where he can thrive on the defense. He has the bulk to stop the run and can allow other players to perform at a higher level. Pair Wilfork with Taylor and that's four offensive linemen who are already occupied. The big concern with the Taylor draft pick is that it requires an elite outside linebacker with a dominating final step. If the Patriots get Taylor and keep their OLBs who can't finish the pass rush, then there will be a lot of pressure, but few sacks. It's still great, but it's not the best possible outcome.
I could understand the selection of Justin Houston if he's paired with Taylor because Taylor would allow Houston to just rush at the quarterback in a straight line. Houston struggles when he's engaged with a tackle, but if Taylor occupies the tackle and guard, then Houston could beat the tight end or running back block every time. Other players to consider are Vonnie Miller (yes, he'd be a good pair with Taylor), Robert Quinn, and Aldon Smith. Ryan Kerrigan isn't a good pairing with Taylor- he would go well with Cameron Heyward because their skill sets complement each other.
If I had to reevaluate the first three picks of the mock draft, I'd say the Patriots came out pretty well. Unfortunately, in the mock draft all the top OLBs are drafted before the 28th pick, and so are all the offensive tackles. The only OLB available at #17 is Houston and I don't believe he's worthy of such an early pick, even if he's paired with Taylor. As a result, I'd stick with me adjusted draft from my last post:
17. Anthony Castonzo
28. Phil Taylor
33. Mikel Leshoure
What do you think of the Taylor pick?