Just as we expect to see in the skill position groups, the New England Patriots’ defensive line is set to undergo some major changes this offseason. Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise Jr. and John Simon are all slated to become free agents on March 18th, leaving the Patriots in a position to completely revamp the front line of their defense.
Already looking to improve on a 26th ranked run defense, the team’s two best run defenders (Lawrence Guy and Beau Allen) will both be in their 30s this upcoming season, and neither is a sure fire lock to make the 2021 roster, albeit for very different reasons.
It’s certainly a big question of how the Patriots will improve their run defense, but the answer could be in looking back to the old way of doing things — all the way back to the early days of the dynasty, when New England had a big ole stop gap in the middle of their defense. Ted Washington, Vince Wilfork, Malcom Brown, and Danny Shelton have all filled that role. Can this man be next?
Name: Tyler Shelvin
Position: Defensive tackle
School: LSU (RS-Junior)
Opening day age: 23
2019* stats: Shelvin opted out of playing in 2020 *13 games; 39 tackles (13 solo), 0.0 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss
Size: 6’3”, 350 lbs
Expected round: 2nd/3rd
#Patriots Draft Target Thread: DT #72 Tyler Shelvin (LSU) 6’3” 350lbs.— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 6, 2021
• Literally built different.
• Space eater with great play strength and an unbelievable base.
• Powerful defender who can reestablish the LOS with ease. pic.twitter.com/EBPVQZIuc3
Strengths: Shelvin’s success and value comes in his size and play strength. His build resembles that of a mini cooper more than your typical defensive tackle. Shelvin can play head-up or shaded on either guard as well as the center, and is a true nose tackle unlike anybody the Patriots have really had since Vince Wilfork’s departure in 2015. As is the case with those players, Shelvin eats up space and has quick reactionary skills to shed blocks and make tackles in the middle.
Defensive line coaches will talk a lot about keeping your base or an anchor leg, Tyler Shelvin is every defensive line coaches dream. pic.twitter.com/vDfbDeh31S— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 6, 2021
There wasn’t a player in the country in 2019 that could block him one-on-one.
• Gap discipline.— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 6, 2021
• Getting the run side arm free.
• Holding off the center to allow his linebackers time to read their keys.
Shelvin truly shines as the single man on the interior of the defensive line, reestablishing the line of scrimmage and fending off double teams. Giving him a spot, which means just letting him beat the block and go, makes him virtually impossible to stop.
Though he’s not overly athletic, Shelvin moves better than anyone should be allowed to at 350+lbs.
Tyler Shelvin weighs twice as much as the average man and would wash all of us in a race.pic.twitter.com/BIU4DUitSp— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 6, 2021
Weaknesses: There are three big weaknesses that will need to be addressed eventually. First is the pass rush, as Shelvin provides very little other than pushing in the pocket. He doesn’t have that special ability to bend and maneuver around linemen at 350 pounds, but that’s not what you would be paying him to do anyway.
Secondly is the experience. Only a veteran of 17 college games, Shelvin has a lot of learning to do. If he ends up in New England you can bet that he will play the role of (medical?) redshirt for a good while before getting an opportunity to play. He appears to be a serious candidate to catch the “Foxboro Flu” as a rookie.
Finally, the weight. Now we could all afford to lose a few pounds, and Shelvin at his current weight is absolutely fine. He just can’t afford to add anything. He already has 20 pounds on former Patriot Vince Wilfork so i’m not quite sure he wants to push William “Refrigerator” Perry territory.
What would be his role? As already mentioned earlier, Shelvin would allow the Patriots to get back to their defensive roots. Though they always mix up their fronts, they like to roll out three linemen on early downs and get some more downhill linebackers on the field. Shelvin would let them do everything that they like to do in terms of defensive personnel.
Does he have positional versatility? No, Shelvin is a nose tackle only. He can play inside or head up on the guards, if you try and get him to play any further out than that you are wasting everything that makes him a good prospect.
Who’s his competition? We have mentioned it multiple times in the defensive tackle profiles, the Patriots don’t have any experience on the defensive interior. Byron Cowart is the only player they have under contract at that position that has played more than 10 games in the system. Of the Players that they could possibly re-sign or acquire off of injured reserve, Beau Allen is the likeliest competition, but those waters have yet to be explored. Would they rather field an unknown 30-year-old with NFL experience, or an unknown 23-year-old with limitless potential?
Why the Patriots? The sexy move has always and will always be the skill positions, something that the Patriots desperately need a talent upgrade in, but I won’t let you forget about that run defense. In one move the Patriots could start the quick revamp and get that top ranked defense from one year ago back in business.
Why not the Patriots?:What is the value of an early-down defender in today’s NFL? If they were to draft Shelvin it would have to be in the second half of Day Two, they just have too many holes to actually make this pick early on. It’s a shot in the dark as to how other teams would value Shelvin.
Verdict: Unless other teams pass Shelvin over for more athletic interior options — something that is entirely possible — the Patriots probably shouldn’t reach for him. If he falls into their laps in the third round, however, they should sprint to the stage to hand in that draft card.