The New England Patriots traded back from the 64th overall pick in exchange for a pair of selections in rounds three and four. The first of those two picks was then invested in a defensive end from Michigan, Chase Winovich.
77th Overall: Chase Winovich, DE
The darling of Pro Football Focus, the man with the best hair in the NFL (move over, Clay Matthews), and the media-proclaimed “biggest personality of the draft” is going to be a Patriot. I think this pick represents stellar value for the team, though in a running theme for this class, there is some risk involved.
What I Like
Relentless. That is the first word I would use to describe Winovich. His motor is consistent from the first second of the game to the last. As Lance Zierlein wrote for NFL.com “he plays like he has zombie blood pumping in his veins.” One of the common conceits with elite athletes is that while they may be capable of running 4.3 40 at the combine they don’t bring that speed to most of their snaps. That’s never going to be the case for Winovich, which is compounded by the fact that has some serious athletic ability.
One of the other attributes I love about Winovich is his thirst for football development. He wants to be better at everything and is actively engaged at doing just that. He took big strides in terms of his technique as a pass rusher the last two years of college and I think there is plenty of room for growth. I refuse to believe he will not grow as a player in the NFL. Winovich also eagerly attacks every assignment he’s given, regardless of the task. That’s a big deal for a team that is constantly switching up the game plan week to week.
I also think his bend is fairly solid for a player taken this deep in the draft and he’s got knack for taking down the mobile passer who gets cute. He plays with rabid speed, which combined with his endless motor, is a potent combination. PFF gave Winovich elite grades in pass rushing and run defense, on par with Joey Bosa and Myles Garett. I don’t think their grades indicate a player that elite at the pro level but I do think the high end PFF grades have translated decently in terms of the floor.
Provided he can overcome one major weakness I don’t think he is a high risk to bust. Personally, I think Winovich fits a need on the team and presented superior value at the 77th overall pick. The best case scenario is that he is a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive end in the Belichick mold.
What Concerns Me
Two years ago, the Patriots drafted an extremely productive defensive end with elite athleticism and first round tape. He was selected at the top of the third round but several people thought he possessed first-round value. His name was Derek Rivers.
One of the biggest concerns I had for why Rivers might not succeed is the same concern I have for Winovich: he’s small. Like this-is-the-primary-reason-he-fell-in-the-draft small. The only meaningful difference between the two players is that Rivers was taller than your average edge defender and Winovich has bigger hands. Outside of that they are both beneath the 30th percentile in size.
You know how we weight-adjust bigger players scores? The same thing works for smaller players. Winovich’s scores are not nearly as impressive as if it were done by someone at the 50th percentile in weight. You can’t teach size and Winovich is going to be at a disadvantage. He got devoured by bigger tackles at the college level and I suspect he will struggle with it at the professional level as well. This is probably the biggest reason he was available a the top of the third.
I also don’t think he’s good at setting the edge, he definitely falls victim to the pass rush first mentality and that will have to be coached out of him. Sometimes that manic play speed also comes back to bite him when he gets punked on play-action passes.
Another reason he dropped is his lack of sack production in college. He received elite pass rushing marks from PFF in college but PFF places a low premium on sacks, which is why guys like Trey Flowers can be ranked ahead of guys like Von Miller in their system. Winovich will never be a sack artist. I think a large part of that has to do with his burst which is lackluster, though he helps make up for some of it with how fast he plays. That being said sack artists are not terribly relevant in the Belichick scheme. I think the worst-case-scenario is that Winovich is Derek Rivers with better hair.
Closing Thoughts on the Grade
My only real concern is Winovich’s size. If he wasn’t undersized I would give this pick a clean A, but it’s a big reason why he was there when he was. I think his lack of explosiveness, while often crucial for defensive ends, will be less relevant in a Belichick scheme that has a lot of productive DEs lacking in this trait. He also compensates for it with a great motor and by playing fast. He struggles to set the edge but I am confident in Belichick’s ability to coach him up. I think the value in the third is excellent.