We've looked at Nick Perry, Whitney Mercilus, Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, and Quentin Coples. There are a few other top tier OLB prospects to look at. The following players are expected to be off the board either in the last first or early second:
Clemson's Andre Branch:
Standing at 6'4, 260 lbs, Branch matches the prototypical 3-4 OLB size and he has the athleticism to develop into a do-everything linebacker.
Strengths: Able to set the edge. Great closing burst to reach the ball carrier in the back field. Great effort to disengage and make a play.
Weaknesses: Struggles to shed blockers (both tackles and tight ends) and can be stood up on the line. Raw as a player due to inexperience.
Syracuse's Chandler Jones:
Jones has a history of injuries, but has a lot of hustle. At 6'5, 265 lbs, Jones has great size for the position. His frame is a little on the long side, though, so he may struggle in space.
Strengths: Gives his all every single snap. Comes from a family of athletes. Violent with his hands. Stout defender who can set the edge. Has great strength to knock off blockers.
Weaknesses: Doesn't have a great speed move. Lacks great lateral athleticism. Raw as a prospect. Injury history. May not develop into an all-around outside linebacker.
Marshall's Vinny Curry:
Curry's draft stock might not have slipped, but it hasn't gained the support that other players have. At 6'3, 265 lbs, with a 4.65 40 yard dash, Curry has the athletic ability to play in the Patriots multi-front defense.
Strengths: Always disruptive and will get into the backfield. Relentless. Solid closing speed and is able to shed blockers to reach the ball carrier. Great locker room character.
Weaknesses: Not disciplined enough to be trusted to hold his gap. Considered to have played against lesser talent. May not have the strength to hold the edge against tackles.
Boise State's Shea McClellin
McClellin has seen his stock skyrocket and it's easy to see why. Originally picked as a late 2nd rounder, there's a chance he could be nabbed in the 1st round. At 6'3, 260 lbs, he models his game after Mike Vrabel and it shows on the field.
Strengths: Fantastic resume of on-field success. Played both linebacker and defensive end. High energy and effort. great nose for the ball. Able to defend against the run. Team player who will do whatever is asked so others can make plays on the field.
Weaknesses: Lacks the athletic ability that other pass rushers possess. Sometimes gets washed out of the play instead of holding his gap. Not always able to stand his ground against better tackles.
West Virginia's Bruce Irvin
Irvin is an explosive athlete at 6'3, 250 lbs. He ran a 6.7 3 cone drill and a 4.5 40 yard dash and has the athleticism to be elite at the position. He comes from a tough background, but has tried to pull it all together to make himself a success.
Strengths: Explosive athlete. Strong player who gives a lot of effort. Should do well as a OLB in all schemes (Rob Ninkovich). Special teams player. Gets pressure at all points. Breaks down well in space.
Weaknesses: On the small side to set the edge- might be best off asked to play Von Miller type role in a 4-3 defense. Extremely raw player due to inexperience. Lacks an elite first step.
All of these players have their strengths and weaknesses. Bruce Irvin is the best athlete, Chandler Jones has the largest size, Vinny Curry has the most production, Shea McClellin has the highest floor, and Andre Branch is possibly the most well rounded.
The Patriots like to spend their second round picks on players who showed flashes in college, but might not have put everything together. I see Irvin and Curry best fitting the mold as Patriots 2nd round picks- and since I see them playing different roles (Curry a 3-4 OLB and a 4-3 DE, Irvin a 3-4 and 4-3 OLB), they could do well complementing each other.
Out of all of the prospects in the first two rounds, I like Nick Perry the most because of his upside. However, the draft is weak at other positions which could force the Patriots to draft a different position in the first round (safety, defensive lineman). If that's the case, I would feel very comfortable with the Patriots taking one of the outside linebacker prospects who fall into the second round.
Rich's List of OLB Favorites:
1. USCal's Nick Perry
2. USCar's Melvin Ingram
3. Boise State's Shea McClellin
4. Marshall's Vinny Curry
5. WVU's Bruce Irvin