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Patriots draft targets 2023: Bumper Pool is more than an amazing name

The linebacker might be worth a late-round flier.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Missouri State at Arkansas Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coming off a rather disappointing 8-9 season, the New England Patriots have plenty of potential for improvement. They already addressed some areas of need so far this offseason, but will now look to add long-term stability and additional playmaking ability through the NFL Draft. With 11 selections in hand, Bill Belichick and company are in a good position to do just that.

How they will ultimately use those picks remains to be seen. However, there are several players who would fit what they are looking for both at positions of need and at other spots all over the roster.

In our Patriots Draft Targets series, we will be taking a close look at some prospects we believe might be falling into that “fit” category. Today, let’s assess a projected late-round linebacker and special teamer.

Hard facts

Name: Bumper Pool

Position: Off-the-ball linebacker/Special teamer

School: Arkansas

Opening day age: 23

Size: 6’2 1/8”, 235 lbs, 76 1/4” wingspan, 31 3/4” arm length, 9 3/4” hand size

Workout numbers: N/A


Having registered over 300 tackles in his four-year career at Lovejoy High School in Texas, Pool entered the college level as a four-star recruit. He received offers from Alabama, LSU, USC and Michigan, among others, but opted to commit to Arkansas after growing up a fan of the Razorbacks. The decision was a good one and Pool — who legally changed his first name from James to Bumper when he turned 16 — became a valuable member of the team’s defense and special teams units.

As such, he saw action in 55 games over his five-year career in Fayetteville. While his final campaign was cut short due to a hip injury suffered in November, Pool still left Arkansas as the school’s all-time leader in tackles (441) and averaged 9.2 takedowns per game over his last four seasons. Additionally, he was voted second-team All-SEC in each of his last three seasons and served as a team captain.

Draft profile

Expected round: 7th-UDFA

Strengths: Pool is a heat-seeking missile from the off-the-ball linebacker spot, who offers solid size and possesses some upside as a downhill thumper in the running game. He has a good feel for pursuit angles and how to maneuver through traffic, and knows how to use leverage in his favor. He also has shown that he has the instincts and mindset to shoot gaps, but also the flexibility to move out to the edge and funnel plays back inside.

This also helps him in coverage, even though his smarts and uninspiring athleticism make him better suited for zone than man concepts. Pool also is not afraid of getting his hands dirty on special teams, and has experience playing several roles in the kicking game. Just like on defense, he has shown a talent for identifying where ball carriers are going and closing in quickly to make tackles.

Weaknesses: While he was a hyper-productive tackler in college football’s best conference, Pool the NFL prospect will not be for everybody. His athletic skillset, for example, is rather pedestrian: neither his speed nor his agility stand out, which in turn might make him a player opposing offenses will try to put in unfavorable spots — from isolating him in man-to-man coverage to forcing him to cover the width of the field. In general, he appears better suited for a role that will not expose him too much in the passing game.

Pool’s value might therefore lie primarily on early downs and in specific situations on defense or in the kicking game. Him developing into a four-down player, or even a linebacker who can be trusted consistently on later downs, seems unlikely; his strengths lie elsewhere, which in turn might hurt his value in the NFL of this day and age.

Patriots fit

What would be his role in 2023? The Patriots’ linebacker group is not just looking for long-term stability but also to improve its overall speed and range. Pool would not offer that if selected by the team; he likely would not be seeing much if any defensive action as as rookie. Instead, his focus would be on special teams first and foremost: he might play on as many as five units between kickoff return and coverage, punt return and coverage, and field goal/extra point block.

What is his growth potential? Pool’s growth potential might be more physical than anything else — i.e. adding to his current 6-foot-2, 235-pound frame. His lack of truly special athletic skills makes him a comparatively lower-ceiling prospect, who might never become much more than a role player or career special teamer. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but expectations need to be calibrated properly if Pool is brought aboard.

Does he have positional versatility? Pool served primarily as an off-the-ball linebacker at Arkansas, but he was moved to the line of scrimmage at times as well. Still, versatility is not one of his hallmark traits — at least on the defensive side of the ball. The same cannot be said for special teams, where he served as personal punt protector, on the coverage squads, and even as part of Arkansas’ hands team in onside kick situations. He also has some experience on offense, being used in wildcard calls back in high school.

What adding him would mean for the depth chart: Bringing Pool aboard would likely not impact the top of the linebacker depth chart; Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai and projected core special teamer Chris Board will not be going anywhere. The youngster would, however, bring more competition to the other linebacker spots: veterans Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson in particular might feel him breathing down their necks over the summer, especially if his kicking game contributions look the part.

Why the Patriots make sense as a landing spot: New England already made some investments in its special teams group this offseason, and Pool would fall into the same category. At worst, the Patriots would be getting an experienced kicking game contributor with limited upside on the defensive side of the ball — not a bad thing to have given a) the unit’s performance in 2022, and b) the uncertain future of key special teamers Matthew Slater and Cody Davis.

Patriots contact: N/A

Verdict: As evidenced by his projected draft status, Pool is not a high-profile prospect and might not have much of an impact in 2023 or at any point in his pro career. Nonetheless, his special teams prowess alone might make him worth a late-round flier if only to jump the rookie free agency process and bring some competition to the kicking game and depth linebacker spots.

Would Pool be a good fit for the Patriots? Where do you think he will be drafted? Please head down to the comment section to discuss!