Name: Mario Edwards Jr.
School: Florida State
Size: 6'3, 280 lbs
Expected Round: 2nd
Strengths: Very athletic, with his tape matching his combine numbers. Strong, with a good first punch to establish the line of scrimmage. Good bull rush and has a good rip move to shed the blocker. Has sideline speed to force the running back to the sideline and prevent them from moving upfield. Aware to stay on his feet against cut blocks. Hands always active in the passing lanes. Hits like a truck. Will only be 21 as a rookie, with a lot of room for growth. Played 3-4 nose, end, and outside linebacker; played 4-3 tackle and end. Base experience dropping into coverage.
Weaknesses: Doesn't have a deep array of pass rush moves, and will get high in his stance and resort to just pushing the pocket if his initial attack doesn't work. Not fast and won't have the closing speed on quarterbacks around the edge. Savvy linemen will use his initial punch against him, allowing him to overextend with his head down, allowing the lineman to control and pancake. Please don't use him in coverage too much- his hips won't allow it. Lacks polish.
What is their role? Rotational defensive lineman, similar to how Dominique Easley was used as a rookie.
Will it change from year 1 to year 2? If he continues to grow he could have a set position on the offense where he lines up everywhere and allows the Patriots to be multiple on their front.
How many downs can he play? Every down player for FSU.
Which current player will he beat out? Chris Jones, Zach Moore, Michael Buchanan.
What's his ST value? Likely just on the field goal defense unit.
Does he have positional versatility? One of the most versatile in the draft. Plays literally every single position on the defensive line in any type of front, and also drops into coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Why the Patriots? New England could use reinforcements at both defensive tackle and defensive end- Edwards fills both needs. While he has a lot of growing to do, his ceiling could make him a Seahawks Michael Bennett-like presence on the defensive line. If the coaches believe that Edwards is committed to growing and puts some polish on his play, the sky is the limit.
Why not the Patriots? There is some growing talk that teams consider Edwards an option at the end of the first round, which sounds fairly costly for a player who is so raw. There are other defensive line options worth taking in the second round if New England would rather go in a different direction on the first day.
Fun fact, Florida State DE Mario Edwards' dad was drafted 19 picks ahead of Tom Brady.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) February 22, 2015
Edwards is an extremely perplexing prospect. Florida State used him to set the edge instead of rush the passer, similar to how the Patriots deploy Rob Ninkovich against mobile quarterbacks, which prevented him from racking up stats. That said, when given the opportunity to pin his ears back, he was more successful on the inside than on the edge.
He flashes ability, yet lacks consistency. He reminds of last year's Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame- a young, hybrid edge/interior player with a lot of room for growth, but questionable immediate impact. Edwards turns 21 on April 19th and his future could be extremely bright.
There is no question about his athleticism. Even though he weighs 15 pounds heavier than Chandler Jones, his 40 time, vertical jump, and broad jumps are almost equal (Edwards vs Chandler; 4.84 vs 4.87; 32.5 vs 35; 10' vs 10'). Jones has better change of direction speed, but Edwards is far stronger, which is why it's probable that Edwards' future is on the inside.
There is one main trajectory for Edwards at the next level: the multi-front jackknife, who can flex around the defensive front to apply pressure wherever needed. At his peak, he could be the next Michael Bennett. If he develops a little, he could be Lamarr Houston. If he doesn't grow, he's like Derek Wolfe. All three are quality players in the NFL that most teams would love to have on their team. It's just a matter of how much he will grow at the next level.
Remember how Dominique Easley lined up everywhere as a rookie? Edwards would offer that same type of value. Would he be redundant with Easley on the roster? Possibly, but Easley is far quicker, while Edwards is much stronger.
A player like Edwards can change the make-up of a defense, but there has to be an understanding that he won't be scratching his potential until a year or two in the league. He'll be 23 after two years in the league, the age that most players are entering the draft. If the Patriots are willing to groom him into the defense, his flexibility could develop into a true cornerstone of the defense.
The first round might be a little too expensive with other needs that have to be addressed, although that fifth year option would certainly offer value for such a young player. If I were in charge of the Patriots, I wouldn't be opposed to adding Edwards, although I would do it with the full understanding that fans won't be happy with his early career impact.
I think a defensive front of Chandler, Easley, Sealver Siliga, and Edwards in two years (assuming Ninkovich won't be the main starter at age 33) would be fantastic, and Easley, Siliga, and Edwards could slide into a 3-4 front without a need for substitution. They could also align Chandler, Easley, Edwards, and Robo-Ninkovich on passing downs to generate a ton of pressure (assuming Jabaal Sheard doesn't sign for the long term after two seasons).
Edwards has a bright future. Bill Belichick might be the perfect coach to take advantage of his versatility and to help him reach his full potential.