Malcom Brown was never a player I considered as an option for the Patriots this year because I thought, like many others, Brown would be off the board before BB actually starts to care about the draft. Thanks to some fortuitous rolls in the draft and some big head-scratching picks by AFC Rivals, Brown fell to the Patriots at the 32nd selection. The Patriots were preparing to trade down assuming the three teams ahead of them were going to take him. The Patriots clearly like Brown enough that they left the Texans hanging at the proverbial altar and took him with the 32nd pick instead. So how does he impact the roster makeup and game planning aspects?
As for his presence on the roster, his ability to play multiple techniques (1, 3, 5) on the defensive line allows the Patriots to be multiple in their fronts and tailor their game plan to their opponents. The Patriots already have two space eaters in Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch along with an interior pass rushing option in Dominique Easley.Chris Jones provides depth for Easley, but he's a marginal piece that the team can afford to part with if necessary. In terms of roster space, I'd expect the Patriots to carry 5 DTs with 4 active. That probably means Jones is the odd man out every Sunday.
On the field, the 3-tech spot is up for grabs. Naturally Easley will get the first go at the spot, but I would not be surprised if Malcom Brown is in the mix either. If Brown has a strong preseason, he may get the nod as the early down 3-tech. That move would not be surprising, since Brown rated 3rd amongst all interior DL in the draft in Run Stop %. His pass rushing efficiency is ranked 25th, but you have Dominique Easley for that. In that case, you have Easley sub in for Siliga or Branch and attack the QB. Brown is a matchup nightmare for IOL and disrupts plays. He may not get more than 5 sacks a year, but he will get a lot of hits and hurries. If Brown can get up to speed quickly with the Patriots defense (I don't see how he won't produce), that makes the team 4-deep in their DL rotation.
An out of the box idea for aligning the defense would be this:
Easley and Brown at the 4T with Siliga 2-gapping the nose? With Mayo/HT as the MLB, Collins/Nink/Sheard/Jones the OLB by down.— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) May 1, 2015
This is an homage to the Rex Ryan defense, which gave the Patriots a lot of fits over the years. While Easley and Brown aren't Mo Wilkerson or Sheldon Richardson, the idea of having a 2-gap NT (Siliga/Branch) in the middle while Easley and Brown attack in the B-Gap (Between Guard and Tackle) to cut off the guards and tackles from each other. Patriots have a good solid set of edge rushers in Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard. All of them can win 1-on-1 matchups against most of the players they will be lining up against. That's unlikely to happen since BB likes to be able to have his linemen defend two gaps if he has the guys for it, but something worth considering if BB and Patricia want to add another wrinkle to the defense.
For 2015, I expect Brown to be a part time player early on with the Patriots steadily increasing his workload until he becomes a big factor in the DL rotation. His scheme versatility and ability to be a factor in the run and pass game makes Brown a 3-down player. He probably will see about 35-40% of the snaps his rookie year, but could escalate to over 70% for Years 2-4 (and Year 5 if they pick up his option May 2018).