Would you prefer to see the Patriots draft a DE or an OLB to create more pressure on the QB?
Jason: I think defensive end is exponentially more important than outside linebacker in New England’s system. The Patriots don’t blitz as often as many other teams, especially early in games, so having a stud in the trenches would probably be the best way generate pressure. Most mock drafts have the Patriots drafting an OLB with one of their first two picks, and I feel like these ideas are way off the mark. Unless a really, really good three-down OLB prospect falls to the Patriots, I’d bet they go DE first.
Derek: I also would go with the defensive end. If you look at the current OLB corps for the Patriots, Jermaine Cunningham on one side and Ninkovich/TBC on the other are adequate. The D-line, however, is full of questions. Outside of Big Vince, it’s hard to say what the Patriots will be getting from that group of players. Will Ty Law return to form after a year away from the game? And even if he does, who can you truly rely upon to play opposite of him? DE is where the big hole is in the defense right now. If you plug that up with 1st Round talent, I think you’ll see improvements in all facets of the defense, including the pass rush.
Stephen: Based on our system, I think an outside linebacker is a no-brainer if we want to upgrade the pass rush. Even when we had Richard Seymour, he never had more than eight sacks in a season. However, guys like Mike Vrabel, Roosevelt Colvin and Willie McGinest thrived on the edge. Getting a guy like Robert Quinn or Aldon Smith would help the pass-rush problem much more than a J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan.
Rick: If I had to choose between getting a defensive end or an outside linebacker in the first round of the NFL Draft, I would pick the pass rushing specialist. Most people are criticizing New England for their lack of a run defense last year, even though they were ranked in the top 15 in the NFL in that category most of the year. However, this team can’t establish a pass rush right now. They need a guy like an Aldon Smith or even an Akeem Ayers late in Round One who can get after the quarterback and take less pressure off of our secondary. Getting Ty Warren back should help the run defense, but the pass rush is a major concern that needs to take up a lot of this draft.