It was relatively surprising when, earlier this month, New England Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo admitted that the team was looking to get faster and more explosive on defense. After all, we’re not used to hearing anyone from inside the organization divulge any trade secrets. So what exactly did he say?
“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.”
There’s no mincing words in that statement. New England wants athletes, so let’s take a look at one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire draft, JoJo Domann.
Name: JoJo Domann
School: Nebraska (RS-Senior)
Opening day age: 25
2021 stats: 10 games; 71 tackles (44 solo), 2.0 sacks, 9.0 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
Size: 6’1”, 228lbs
Expected round: 4th
2022 #Patriots Draft Target Thread— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) March 5, 2022
LB JoJo Domann#Nebraska
(6’1” - 228lbs)
A versatile linebacker who can cover, blitz, and stop the run with equal effectiveness. Want an athlete in the second level? Here’s your guy. pic.twitter.com/oGJI06EFnn
Strengths: Domann is a dynamic athlete. We’ll get into his positional versatility later, but the things that he can do on the field are powered by some elite athleticism that shows up on tape. His testing numbers came in slightly above average, but you can see how much better of an athlete he is than others on the field.
The trait that stands out over any other for Domann is his coverage ability. As one of the best coverage linebackers in all of college football, he was afforded the opportunity to matchup with some legit route runners. Part of his responsibilities in his final college game was to help cover Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State’s all-world receiver. He held the eventual Rose Bowl MVP to just two catches for 26 yards when in coverage.
Lets start by taking a look at Domann’s best trait. As a former safety, he’s shown elite coverage ability at the second level. RB’s, TE’s, WR’s, you name it, he can cover it. pic.twitter.com/0UTcuQ4snq— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) March 5, 2022
In addition to his ability as a coverage player, Domann was one hell of an option as a blitzing linebacker for the Cornhuskers. He finished his career with 5.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles. When allowed to play in space, he finds a way to make an impact no matter the role.
Some have said that he may be forced to move back to safety at the next level due to lack of strength at the POA. That may be true, but you have to give him some blitz opportunities because he’s a menace. pic.twitter.com/M3Ig44LAT6— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) March 5, 2022
Weaknesses: It’s not a smart idea to line Domann up off the ball, ask him to stack and shed blocks and play a role in the run game. It’s not going to happen. To get Domann’s athleticism, you have to forgo a linebacker who has enough strength to bang in the middle.
For as versatile as he is, Domann’s biggest weakness is an inability to be effective at a key responsibility that all NFL linebackers must hold.
What would be his role? There aren’t many players that you can compare Domann to because he is so unique. Those are the exact kind of players that you would want Bill Belichick to get his hands on.
One would imagine that Domann’s role would be as a chess piece. A passing down player, you could play him off ball in zone coverage, on ball as a blitzer, or as a man coverage player against some running backs or tight ends. There’s plenty for him to do at the next level.
Does he have positional versatility? When Domann is on the field, it’s a wonder for most offenses what exactly his role will be. Will he line up at safety and oversee the coverage on his side of the field? Will he slide down to linebacker and be used as a chess piece to match up with running backs or fire off the ball on a blitz? Or will he play in the slot and cover the offense’s shiftiest wide receiver? There’s no way of knowing because he can do it all.
Domann played all three positions mentioned above throughout his collegiate career, and the only reason he never stuck was because Nebraska was always asking him to do more. There’s no question that the team who drafts him will be drafting a versatile football player.
Who’s his competition? A rookie tweener like Domann is never going to compete with studs like Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips so I won’t do him the disservice of comparing the three. It’s almost as if Domann is an experimental player, so there really isn’t much competition for a role that we don’t know much about. Good news for a rookie.
Why the Patriots? Throughout the past few years it has become evident that the Patriots are looking for two things on the defensive side of the ball, versatility and athleticism.
Why not the Patriots? There’s a good amount that the Patriots have to address in April. They need to add pass catchers, eventually they’ll need to bolster their offensive line, the linebacker group could use some legit off ball players, and they’re likely going to need to replace J.C. Jackson at some point this offseason. Is it worth taking a shot in the dark?
Verdict: It would be stupid to pass on a good football player because you don’t have a ready made spot on your team from him. I don’t think the Patriots are stupid. If he’s available anywhere passed pick number 100, they’ll take a long look at this young man.