The New England Patriots made some major investments along their defensive line last offseason. They brought Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson aboard in free agency, re-signed Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Carl Davis, and selected Christian Barmore in the second round of the draft.
With the exception of Davis, who remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent, all of them are still with the team and for the most part project to play a prominent role yet again this season. In full, the group currently looks as follows:
- Christian Barmore: 22 | Signed through 2024
- Davon Godchaux: 27 | Signed through 2022
- Lawrence Guy: 32 | Signed through 2024
- Deatrich Wise Jr.: 27 | Signed through 2024
- Henry Anderson: 30 | Signed through 2022
- Byron Cowart: 25 | Signed through 2022
- Daniel Ekuale: 28 | Signed through 2022
- Bill Murray: 24 | Signed through 2022
Led by Barmore, who is coming off an impressive rookie campaign, the Patriots have some solid depth along their D-line; he and Deatrich Wise Jr. project as cornerstones for the next few seasons and as the core around which the group will be built. That said, there are some holes that need to be addressed as well.
For starters, five of the eight players are entering contract seasons; a sixth — Lawrence Guy — is 32 and not guaranteed to be on the team beyond the upcoming season. Furthermore, the Patriots still lack a big-bodied nose tackle in the mold of a Vince Wilfork, Malcom Brown or Danny Shelton.
With this year’s draft featuring defensive linemen in all shapes and sizes, however, it would not be a surprise to see New England invest.
(Just for clarity’s sake: players are listed alphabetically within their respective groups)
Jordan Davis, Georgia: The consensus top defensive tackle available in this year’s draft, Davis offers a unique combination of size and athleticism. Standing at 6-foot-6, 341 pounds with impressive power and short-area agility, he seems tailor-made for a gap-control scheme like the Patriots’. While he likely will not be around at No. 21, he is a realistic target for a trade up the board. Pairing Davis with Christian Barmore would give New England one of the best interior duos in football for years to come.
Targets at No. 21
Devonte Wyatt, Georgia: Jordan Davis’ running mate along an insanely talented Georgia defensive line, Wyatt is an impressive prospect in his own right. While not as big as Davis — he measured at 6-foot-3, 304 pounds — his ability to shed blocks and quickly work his way up the field are enticing, as are his lateral mobility and versatility to line up all over the D-line. Wyatt’s ceiling is lower than Davis’, but he still projects as a Day 1 starter who can have a transformative effect on a defensive front.
Day 2 targets
Logan Hall, Houston: Hall’s ceiling is a high one, and his size and athleticism make for an intriguing target on the second day of the draft. That being said, his role in the NFL depends on where teams project him: at 6-foot-6, 283 pounds he is a tweener who might have a better future at the edge rather than on the interior.
Travis Jones, Connecticut: A three-year starter at UConn, Jones proved himself a big and powerful presence along the interior defensive line. While he offers limited upside as a pass rusher, his proficiency as an early-down run-stuffer and player capable of controlling the point of attack makes him a potential target late in the first round.
Phidarian Mathis, Alabama: Coming from Alabama’s pro-style system, Mathis knows who to stand his ground at the line of scrimmage and control his assigned gaps. While used in a rotational role in college and a work in progress versus the pass, the 24-year-old has the tools to become an effective starter and contributor on early downs.
Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma: The Senior Bowl allowed Winfrey to show off his talents and he did not disappoint. His disruptive power and ability to shoot gaps makes him a potential asset on passing downs, even though his lack of bulk — he measured at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds — will limit his impact versus the run.
Day 3 targets/Free agency targets
Thomas Booker, Stanford: Booker offers good functional athleticism and has the versatility to line up all over the defensive line. He runs a bit hot and cold and will therefore likely not hear his name called any earlier than the fifth round, but he has solid developmental traits.
D.J. Davidson, Arizona State: While he will already turn 25 in September and is a no-factor against the pass, Davidson might be worth a late-round flier. After all, his 6-foot-3, 327-pound frame and sturdy base allows him to become a gap-controlling nose tackle in the NFL.
Noah Elliss, Idaho: The Patriots have not had a true nose tackle since the days of Danny Shelton. Elliss would help them fill that void: measuring at 6-foot-4, 346 pounds at the combine, he is a big presence in the middle capable of standing his ground versus the run.
Neil Farrell Jr., LSU: Farrell Jr. may not be as big as some of the other defensive tackles available in this year’s draft, or have the same ceiling, but he might be the best combination of size, upside and value. The projected Day 3 selection will serve as a rotational nose tackle at the next level with room for growth as a pass rusher. | Full draft profile
Jonathan Ford, Miami (FL): Standing at 6-foot-5, 333 pounds, Ford is a big human being. His impact in the NFL level will come versus the run rather than the pass, but he is a developmental prospect worth a look as a likely free agent.
Marquan McCall, Kentucky: Like Elliss, Farrell and Ford, McCall also checks in at 330-plus pounds: standing at just under 6-foot-3, he weighed in at 342 pounds at the combine. His fluctuating weight and a series of injuries have been an issue, but if he can put it all together he can be a very good nose tackle in the NFL.
John Ridgeway, Arkansas: A well-sized player at 6-foot-5, 321 pounds, Ridgeway is a high-motor player who showed great gap awareness and good hands during his time at Illinois and Arkansas. He needs to improve his pass-rushing arsenal if he wants to be anything more than an early-down player, but his foundation is a solid one.
Eyioma Uwazurike, Iowa State: Uwazurike has tremendous size (6-6, 316) and length, and enters the draft with plenty of football on his résumé after appearing in 60 games as a Cyclone. He has experience lining up all over the defensive line, and showed some steady growth in college.
From a Patriots perspective, this year’s defensive line class is a bit light at the top. While Jordan Davis is an impressive player and would be a Day 1 impact player for the team, the odds of getting him are probably not overly encouraging. Luckily for the team, Day 2 and especially Day 3 offers some good value candidates.
Regardless of what happens, New England should be expected to add at least one additional D-lineman through the draft and the subsequent free agency period.