Back in February, New England Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo admitted that the team was looking to get faster and more explosive on defense.
“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.”
At the time it felt a bit surprising. After all, we’re not used to hearing anyone from inside the organization divulge any trade secrets. Two months later, following the additions of players like Mack Wilson and Jabrill Peppers, it’s clear those words were true.
So, having seen New England do work to add athletes already, let’s profile a man who very well could be next: Brian Asamoah.
Name: Brian Asamoah
School: Oklahoma (RS-Junior)
Opening day age: 22
2021 stats: 12 games; 80 tackles (56 solo), 1.0 sack, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles
Size: 6’0”, 226lbs
Expected round: 3rd
2022 #Patriots Draft Target Thread— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 5, 2022
LB Brian Asamoah#Oklahoma
(6’0” - 226lbs)
Asamoah doesn’t fit the typical size description of an NFL linebacker, but he plays with an unrelenting motor and flashes great things on a regular basis. pic.twitter.com/LzTUoiGhjf
Strengths: Throw on the tape and watch Brian Asamoah run, it’s what he does best. A true sideline to sideline linebacker, Asamoah has that “range” thing that everyone is talking about. With that range is an inherent ability to work through the garbage, meaning he knows exactly how to get to his spot without being caught up. His speed and vision allow him to make any play within the first two levels of the defense.
Another example of his range, now he gets to show off some instincts. Far side of the field, working support. As soon as the ball comes out of the QB’s hand he attacks and makes a play to force the turnover. pic.twitter.com/xGjoNEG3mD— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 5, 2022
Being able to meet the ball carrier in the hole means nothing if you can’t finish. Asamoah has no problem doing so, proving to be one of the most consistent tacklers in the entire draft. Despite being on the shorter end of the linebacker spectrum, his 32 ⅝” arms make for a large tackle radius and help him deliver when he gets his hands on the ball carrier.
I honestly believe he’s the best tackler in the draft as well. Matt described it best, like watching a big cat take something down in the wild. https://t.co/YSvzK2qDh5— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) April 5, 2022
Some of the smaller things that contribute to who Asamoah is as a player include short area quickness and an explosive first step. It doesn’t take long for this player to get to full speed, and when he’s in between the tackles he does a phenomenal job of changing his momentum without losing much speed.
Weaknesses: A 6-foot linebacker that weighs just 226 pounds isn’t exactly ideal. It is obviously not a deal breaker but it’s definitely on the smaller end of the scale and will need to be masked at the next level. Finding a way to mask his size is easier said than done, with the most likely way of doing so coming by using him as a sub package guy or exclusively playing him with a Ja’Whaun Bentley type player who can eat up climbing blockers to the second level..
In addition to the size issues Asamoah has also shown inconsistent trust in his instincts at the college level. That very well could be a result of coaching, but it’s a significant knock on a player who’s supposed to be the leader on a defense.
What would be his role? Given his size, it doesn’t feel likely that we see Asamoah playing in the middle of a defense. That likely won’t be an issue though. His range will allow him to successfully play an off-ball ‘WILL’ linebacker role. New England has used Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips in that role in recent seasons and even signed Jabrill Peppers this offseason who can do all of that as well.
Does he have positional versatility? Not really. Where the Dugger’s, Phillips’, and Peppers’ of the world are safeties that can come down and provide some athleticism to the linebacker position, Asamoah is just the latter. No one will ask him to fall back and play some safety. I can promise you that.
Who’s his competition? We’ve pretty much explained this already, but there are three very similar players to Asamoah on this roster already. If he’s added to the roster, he would become the lowest man on that totem pole.
Why the Patriots? There is a specific mold of football player that the Patriots just seem to know how to use. A 6-foot, 225 pound athlete who loves to get physical. It describes many that have already been mentioned in this article, and I can’t imagine the Patriots choosing to pass up on a brand of player that continuously works.
Why not the Patriots? Believe it or not, I won’t use the “too many safeties” excuse. Good football players are good football players no matter the role they play, and New England will not pass up on them.
It is difficult trying to predict where they would find value in this kind of player however. In New England, the third round usually belongs to lineman, no matter what side of the ball. Would they reach for an off-ball linebacker that doesn’t transcend the position?
Verdict: I’m all about quality football players, but look at the potential roadblocks in front of Brian Asamoah. Dugger, Phillips, Peppers, Cameron McGrone, Raekwon McMillan, and Mack Wilson are all fighting for a similar job. New England has other positions of need to address. Surprisingly enough, it’s a no.