The range of responses over the Patriots 96th overall pick defensive tackle Vincent Valentine is vast.
ESPN's Mike Reiss says that some had a 7th round grade on him. NESN's Doug Kyed says one scout believes Valentine will be the Patriots best value pick. "I've pretty much had a consistent grade on [Valentine] as a third or fourth rounder," ESPN's Mel Kiper said in a conference call prior to NFL Combine.
Whatever the reaction, Valentine's raw athletic ability is not in question.
I've covered Valentine's explosion and quickness here, as the 6'3 5/8, 329 lbs Valentine offers the best broad jump and 2nd best shuttle time of any 325+ lbs defensive tackle over the past decade.
It turns out that Valentine might also be the strongest player in Patriots history, despite his surprisingly low 17 reps of the bench press.
Here's a video of Valentine cranking out a 745 lbs squat, which is absolutely insane. For comparison, Vince Wilfork apparently had a max squat of 505 lbs when he was coming out of college. Valentine is able to squat 50% more.
According to the Patriots weight room records from 2013 courtesy of NESN's Doug Kyed, a 745 lbs squat would set the team record, surpassing offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi's squat of 725 lbs. The team record for a defensive lineman is 685 lbs from Ethan Kelley.
So Valentine is not only one of the quickest and most explosive defensive tackles in recent memory, he's also the strongest.
And then there's his play on the field:
Whattup Vincent Valentine pic.twitter.com/tmqjRF7YyP— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) May 3, 2016
Nice depth and control of the line on this rush by Vincent Valentine. https://t.co/DRFzZ4XWwR— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) May 3, 2016
Vincent Valentine hits like a house. https://t.co/YBKFp8az3X— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) May 3, 2016
While it's clear that he's a raw prospect, he shows natural strength, balance, and quickness. His production in 2015 was unimpressive due to an ankle injury that he suffered early on, and then reinjured after rushing back before he was fully healed, but also due to his usage from a coaching change.
Nebraska had fired head coach Bo Pelini (who actually served as the Patriots linebacker coach under Pete Carroll) in favor of Mike Riley and the two coaches had fairly different ideas for their defensive tackles. Pelini wanted Valentine to do one job: sit in space, eat double and triple teams, and don't let anyone get by. He was very good at his job.
Riley wanted a more aggressive style of play, which didn't suit Valentine's size, as Nebraska made a point of limiting Valentine's snaps on passing downs in favor of a smaller defensive tackle or defensive end.
In New England, Valentine will be asked to sit in space, eat double and triple teams, and to let Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins rack up tackles. He'll go back to the defensive style of play that he is best fit to succeed.
When I watch Valentine on tape, I see a player that could contribute like Sealver Siliga while as a rookie, but flashes of an upside that rivals Akiem Hicks from last season. It might take a season or two to unlock that potential, but Valentine is back with a defense that will best capitalize on his size and freakish athletic ability.