With the NFL Scouting Combine underway in Indianapolis this week, draft stocks will surely rise and fall — at least in the eye of those in the media. Among them is ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr, who published his latest mock on the first day of the week-long evaluation event.
When it comes to the New England Patriots at No. 21, Kiper believes that a defensive edge might be on the menu: he projects the team will go with Arnold Ebiketie out of Penn State.
The Patriots got 12.5 sacks from free-agent pickup Matthew Judon last season, while Kyle Van Noy was second on the team with five. No other player had more than three. This front seven has to add an edge rusher, especially as it seems Bill Belichick & Co. don’t trust Chase Winovich, who played only 111 snaps last season, to take on a bigger role.
Ebiketie had 19 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks last season, his first at Penn State after transferring from Temple. At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, he could put on a few more pounds and add the position versatility that New England loves, shifting all along the defensive line. He has extremely long arms and can create leverage on his pass-rush moves. The Patriots also need to invest again at wide receiver, so I thought about one with this pick.
The Patriots are currently well set along their edge, with Judon and Van Noy both under contract for 2022 and youngsters Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins and Chase Winovich also part of the equation. That said, Van Noy is no lock to stay with the team on his current contract, while Uche, Perkins and Winovich have yet to truly break out.
New England investing a first-round selection in the position would therefore make some sense. That said, the handling of Van Noy as well as the projections for the three youngsters will impact the need and thus the team’s draft-day approach.