With the NFL Draft just under two weeks away (maybe?), the New England Patriots have 12 picks currently to help rebuild their roster. While help is apparent at the offensive skill positions, it should come to no surprise if New England reloads their defense early and often during the draft.
After Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Jamie Collins all departed in free agency, linebacker is certainly a position of need for the Patriots. New England also dealt safety Duron Harmon to Detroit, and while they were able to re-sign Devin McCourty to a two-year deal, him and Patrick Chung are not getting any younger (both 32 years old).
With four picks in the first two days of the draft, New England is expected to be busy early, and one player to keep an eye on is Jeremy Chinn. Chinn is a versatile defender from South Illinois, who is listed as a safety or linebacker depending where you look. He could kill two birds with one stone for New England, providing help at both positions.
Coming from a smaller school, Chinn hasn’t received much of the hype as some other defenders in this draft, but he could be one of the best day two picks of the draft and one the Patriots should certainly consider if given the opportunity. Here’s the full rundown on Chinn:
Chinn stands at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds which projects on the smaller side for an NFL linebacker. For comparison, Bill Belichick has drafted 17 off-the-line linebackers in New England, 13 of them weighing over 240 pounds.
However, New England has shown interest in guys like Chinn before, drafting undersized linebackers Matthew Wells (222 pounds) and Kamu Grugier-Hill (208 pounds) in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
When discussing Chinn as a safety, New England has liked players who can play in the box as a strong safety, much like Patrick Chung has the last several seasons. The Patriots also signed safety Adrian Phillips this offseason, who has a similar play style of Chung. If that’s where the Patriots project Chinn long-term, he would be a much bigger version of Chung (5-foot-11, 215 pounds) with ideal length.
Even with his height, Chinn is an athletic freak and physical specimen. He showed off his freakish athleticism when he dominated the NFL Combine, posting a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 41-inch vertical leap and 11-feet, 6-inch broad jump.
11’6” broad jump— PFF (@PFF) March 1, 2020
4.46 40-yard dash
Jeremy Chinn had himself a day!pic.twitter.com/L57dfKRZu9
With this athleticism, he showcases excellent burst and acceleration when driving down hill and in the open field. He has next level athleticism to play safety, even in the deep half of the field, while playing a traditional strong safety role on early downs. The Patriots certainly need more speed on their defense and Chinn would bring that.
The one question mark on Chinn out of college is his man coverage ability. He struggles with mirroring opposing wide receivers or tight ends, frequently waiting too long before opening up and running alongside of them. Due to his length, his feet often do not show ideal suddenness. He can play man-to-man in certain situations, but should not be counted on consistently.
Chinn is much better overall as a zone defender, where he is able to showcase his nose for the football. In the strong safety role, or even nickel LB, he uses his quickness and aggressive angles to attack receivers as the quarterback throws the ball. The majority of his turnovers are forced from zone, as he’s able to undercut the football.
When mentioning his turnovers, Chinn was a playmaker throughout his career at South Illinois; recording at least three interceptions and five pass deflections in every season of his career. He makes standout plays in coverage, attacking the ball in air and winning the competition at the point of catch to force his turnovers.
Really disruptive when making plays on the ball using his speed and burst. Had great ball production that continued to improve throughout his career at South Illinois. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/mFWShHSOgk— Brian Hines (@iambrianhines) April 9, 2020
Chinn is highly disruptive when making plays on the ball, using his athletic burst and tremendous body control. He had tons of ball production in college, and held his own during the 2020 Senior Bowl as well.
Chinn was a physically dominant tackler at the FCS level and should be able to translate that ability to the NFL due to his build. He uses his wingspan and body control effectively in space and should have no issue taking down NFL wide receivers and tight ends. He’s a potent run defender with elite stopping power, using his speed and burst to trigger downhill and fill holes.
From the safety position, Chinn would provide an imposing presence in the middle of the field with outstanding hit power and contact balance. He has an impressive motor that often is shown when tracking down receivers.
As said earlier, Chinn projects to line up all over the field, at safety or in the box as an outside linebacker, due to his size and athleticism; some have even described him as a poor man’s Isaiah Simmons. He’s an extremely solid athlete and showcases his skills against the run and through the air. We know Belichick likes versatile players, and Chinn could become quite the chess piece on defense.
Chinn will use his outstanding athleticism and size to play all over the field in the NFL. His value on early downs most likely will be in a traditional strong safety role, while he can also be a third down sub-package linebacker who can excel in open space.
The league is full of hybrid defenders to neutralize the high volume passing attacks in today’s NFL, and Chinn could become one of the next great versatile NFL defensive backs. He needs to improve some of his coverage work and football IQ, but has an extremely high ceiling and room for development. Chinn should immediately be an asset on the field next season and would be a great fit for the Patriots defense on day two of the draft.