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2022 Patriots draft profile: Could Quay Walker become New England’s next chess piece at linebacker?

Related: Patriots draft profile: Andrew Booth Jr. is a low-risk, high-reward cornerback prospect who could fall into New England’s lap

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 10 CFP National Championship Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots are looking to get faster and more explosive on defense. Think that’s just a lazy indictment on the 2021 group? Well it’s not, in fact the team’s inside linebackers coach said it himself earlier this month.

“You always want to get faster, especially in today’s game. That’s at all spots, not only at linebacker or defensive line or in the backend. . .” Mayo said during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand. “Also through the draft and through free agency we’ll definitely look to get faster, look to get more explosive, and look to put more playmakers on the field.”

So, in a shocking twist that no one saw coming, we have received a small glimpse into what the team will be keeping in mind during the offseason. They want to add some athleticism. Here’s a closer look at one of the best athletes in the entire draft.

Name: Quay Walker

Position: Linebacker

School: Georgia (Senior)

Opening day age: 23

2021 stats: 13 games; 65 tackles (37 solo), 1.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss.

Size: 6’3”, 240lbs

Expected round: 2nd-3rd

Strengths: Size, speed, strength, agility, overall athleticism. Physically, Quay Walker has it all.

Walker plays like a heat-seeking missile. He’s a downhill run defender who excels when allowed to attack. Playing both inside and outside in a multiple front defense in college, he could apply his rare combination of size and speed to multiple spots and truly be used as a chess piece.

In terms of his ability as a true inside linebacker, Walker has the range to be successful in the modern day NFL. Against the run, he’s a free mover and has serious closing ability towards the sidelines. Versus the pass, his size and foot speed are enough to cover tight ends effectively. As a rusher, he can line up outside and give a quality rep against any tackle you place in front of him. The positives to this player’s game cannot be overstated.

Weaknesses: The words “linebacker” and “instincts” go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you’ve watched football over the past 25 years, you know that any successful pro linebacker needs to have instincts, Quay Walker isn’t quite there yet.

His processing skills are not that of someone who could step onto the field and play in the middle right away. At times he looks to be a half or full step behind. His athleticism was strong enough to bail him out at the collegiate level but it won’t be in the NFL. Taking this player early on will be a risk for teams who view him as an off ball linebacker.

What would be his role? New England has given you a step for step look at what Quay Walker’s role would be in their system. He stands at 6-foot-3, weighs 250 pounds and always finds his way back to Foxborough, it’s Jamie Collins. With similar size, athleticism, and on field deficiencies as a young Collins, Walker could walk in and play that same role that Collins did in 2013.

Does he have positional versatility? Yes he does. In fact, I talked about it as one of his strengths because it’s so apparent. Walker always kept the same level of production no matter where he played from. On or off the ball, Walker can get the job done.

Who’s his competition? This question has two different answers. You could say he doesn’t have any competition because his combination of athleticism and versatility is unmatched. You could also list off the number of on-ball linebackers that already don’t get playing time and show that it’s going to be a hard path for him to find playing time. Depends on how negative you’re feeling today.

Why the Patriots? New England currently has one linebacker under contract for 2023 that has started more than a single game, Kyle Van Noy. The rest of the players under contract are unproven youngsters like Cameron McGrone and Anfernee Jennings, special teamers like Jahlani Tavai and Harvey Langi, or a veteran coming off of a serious knee injury in Raekwon McMillan. They need to add a young player.

Why not the Patriots? The reasoning behind most “Why not the patriots?” sections will have something to do with the fact that they have a lot of needs. Not only do they have a lot of needs, but the level of urgency behind fulfilling them is about the same across the board. You can make an argument against just about every prospect in this draft.

Verdict: The fun thing about prospects who sit in the 40-60 area, is that they could probably be drafted by any team. It’s a spot where most teams will take the best player available if it fits one of their needs. The Patriots are no different. Under the right circumstances, yes.