The New England Patriots are currently in the middle of their 18th straight winning season and gearing up for yet another playoff run. Their challenges will not end, however, whenever their season — ideally in February — does: the Patriots have some important players hit free agency next March, with the defensive line especially impacted: Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton are all scheduled to enter the open market.
Flowers is, of course, the priority but the team also will need to upgrade at the interior — and not just because Brown and Shelton might leave next offseason: New England’s defensive tackles outside of Lawrence Guy have been inconsistent so far this year against both the pass and the run. Adding more depth and especially talent to the group consequently has to be a priority for the Patriots’ front office heading into 2019.
One way to do that is via the draft, and in 2019 there will be plenty of candidates available along the defensive line. It is therefore no surprise that ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has the Patriots pick a defensive tackle in his first mock draft:
Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State
Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton land on the open market after the season, so the Pats’ biggest concern will be shoring up the defensive line. Jones finally put it all together this season and exhibits a good motor and quick first step.
At 6’2, 295 lbs, Dre’Mont Jones brings ideal size to the table to occupy blockers and serve as a 1-technique and/or 3-technique defensive tackle in New England’s two-gap scheme — and also to penetrate up the field as an inside pass rusher. His build is not the only positive, though. The redshirt junior, who has already declared for next year’s draft, has rare athletic upside and an elite ceiling at the next level.
His quickness and moving skills stand out in particular: Jones is explosive off the snap and has the range to chase down quarterbacks and running backs with the best of them. As a result, the soon-to-be 22-year old has registered 8.0 sacks in 13 games so far this season, as well as 11 tackles for loss. Getting similar production from the defensive interior is almost unheard of in New England since the days of Richard Seymour.
That all being said, Jones also brings plenty of questions to the table. Especially when it comes to stopping the run, he has shown plenty of inconsistency during his career and often struggles to play with his technique and focus on his pad level — relying too much on his raw athleticism to win at the point of attack. This, in turn, could become a major problem when going against NFL-caliber blockers.
All in all, the Ohio State product would undoubtably improve New England’s athleticism at the defensive tackle spot and potentially serve a good complementary player next to the aforementioned Lawrence Guy. But if the Patriots do not feel comfortable about his long-term outlook when it comes to his fundamentals, Jones will not find his way to the team despite the rare athletic upside he offers.