In recent years we’ve seen a philosophy switch from Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots when it comes to their strategy of drafting defensive players. The two things that can be attributed to a lot of his recent draft picks on the defensive side of the ball are athleticism and versatility.
In 2020, we saw the selections of Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche — two extremely athletic players who played in multiple spots in their rookie seasons. The Patriots also drafted Joejuan Williams and Chase Winovich in 2019; Williams has spent time at both safety and cornerback while Winovich has become not just the team’s best pass rusher but a core special teamer as well. He also spent a little time playing off-ball linebacker in an emergency role in 2020.
If the trend continues New England could be looking at drafting another guy who has shown great athleticism, and proven to be invested in becoming more versatile. Perhaps, a college defensive end who played linebacker at the Senior Bowl. Perhaps, a man by the name of Hamilcar Rashed Jr.
Name: Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (PRONOUNCED: Ham-ih-cuh Rah-SHEED)
School: Oregon State (Senior)
Opening day age: 23
2020 stats: 7 games; 23 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 0.0 sacks.
Size: 6’4”, 235 lbs
Expected round: 3rd/4th
#Patriots Draft Target Thread: EDGE Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (Oregon State) 6’3” 255lbs.— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 24, 2021
• Athletic edge rusher with insanely quick hands.
• High motor player.
• Had a great Senior Bowl where he showed the ability to move around. pic.twitter.com/97MhQKRDF3
Strengths: Rashed Jr. is a fantastic three-down player on the defensive edge. He commanded respect from opposing offenses in his time at Oregon State, where he was one of the best ends in the country against both the pass and the run.
He’s got a litany of pass rush moves that made him the NCAA’s third leading sack getter in 2019 with 14. His tremendous length combined with insanely quick hands make him one of the most intriguing pass rushers in the 2021 draft.
Here’s a great pass rush rep, gets into the body of the OT, creates some separation, the dips and rips his way through. A textbook rep. pic.twitter.com/q5eKufSeSc— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 24, 2021
As a run defender he’s at his best trailing the ball carrier. His relentless motor and knack for taking great pursuit angles make him a ruthless backside defender against the run. He’s also shown good ability to defeat blocks at the point of attack and play the end of the line as a contain player, the most important job for a potential Patriots defensive lineman.
Rashed Jr. is at his best playing from the backside and running down ball carriers. His motor is crazy and he always seems to be in on these cleanup crew tackles. pic.twitter.com/HzWXLoK3Ei— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 24, 2021
It must also be mentioned that Rashed Jr. was great at the Senior Bowl, spending time with both the EDGE players and off-ball linebackers.
Weaknesses: Though the NFL has gotten better and better at adapting around individual players, there are still instances where you find tweeners. That is the category Rashed Jr. would fall in.
His play strength hindered him in college; at times he was completely erased by double teams or even bigger tackles. That could knock him off the board as a defensive end for some teams, and his lack of experience at linebacker will knock him off of the board for others. Having to worry about where you play your rookies isn’t a problem that teams will overlook on draft day.
Statistically, there couldn’t have been a bigger drop-off than the one we saw between his 2019 and 2020 seasons. In 2019 he recorded 14.0 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss, and 62 tackles as he dominated opposing offenses. In 2020, when the scouting report got a little bit bigger, Rashed Jr’s numbers fell off of that metaphorical cliff we keep hearing Max Kellerman talk about when he had just 2.5 tackles for loss, without recording a single sack in his seven games. That is an unbelievable dip in production.
What would be his role? Rashed Jr. is the perfect man to take over the John Simon role, as long as the Patriots believe he can transition into a stand-up role. He’s a much better athlete than Simon and has the ability to play contain, though he was never really asked to do so at Oregon State.
Not often do you see a 255lb edge rusher running down WR screens outside of the numbers but here we are. An example of his athleticism and a flash of the role he may be playing at the next level. pic.twitter.com/nSr4VKha46— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 24, 2021
Does he have positional versatility? If you take the Senior Bowl into account, Rashed Jr. has played in a few different spots. If you don’t, he’s been a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end his entire career. The prospects are most certainly there — his athleticism, size, and instincts should translate — but there would be a risk in making that bet.
Who’s his competition? As the roster is currently constructed, the only two players that play similar roles to Rashed Jr. are Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. Those are two players heading into their second years that were once top-100 selections. That’s some steep competition.
Why the Patriots? The name of the game for the Patriots defense in recent years has been getting younger, more athletic, and more versatile. The Uche, Dugger, Jennings, Williams and Winovich selections all prove that. Rashed Jr. fits a similar mold and can likely be scooped up on Day Three of the draft.
Why not the Patriots?: There comes a time in which you can have too much of a good thing. The selection of Rashed Jr. would give the Patriots five young OLB/EDGE players with only two to three spots to play them. In a draft in which you have plenty of other holes to fill, a depth pick doesn’t seem likely.
Verdict: The Patriots should reserve rounds three through seven of the 2021 draft for taking stabs at extra wide receivers and offensive linemen, not drafting a linebacker that’s a clone of three guys that they already have. As much as the prospect may fit and feel right, he just does not seem affordable right now.