New England Patriots 2012 NFL Draft Review

Chandler Jones & Dont'a Hightower

Bill Belichick used six of seven draft choices to help upgrade a defense that was in dire need of youth and skill. The Patriots’ complex and advance passing attack got them to their second Super Bowl in four years, but the lack of defensive prowess sent New England home with another loss. Belichick went off script and traded up for both versatile defensive end/outside linebacker Chandler Jones and inside linebacker/ pass rusher Dont’a Hightower. The Pats dealt the 27th overall pick and a third round selection to move up to 21 for Jones. Hightower is a jackof- all-trades and can play in the middle or on the strong side. On third downs he can put his hand down and be disruptive. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard dropped like a sack of bricks after his alleged assault of a policeman a week before the draft. Bad for Dennard, but the Pats picked up the pieces of the projected 2nd/3rd round player. He has the talent to make an impact as a nickel corner and special teams’ performer. In the second round at overall pick 48, Belichick sent shockwaves through Radio City Music Hall by drafting projected free agent Tavon Wilson. Double B places athletes in positions defensively where they have shown a high degree of competency. Wilson worked out well for the Patriots. On film he demonstrates that he is a big hitter against the run and pass. Hence, he projects to the hybrid safety in New England’s big nickel sub package. Chandler Jones is projected to get work at both defensive end and outside linebacker. Very athletic with a long rangy build, he flashes first step quickness and closes down quickly on inside runs. He flies around the field looking to make plays. Jones needs to get stronger, but is a size and speed prospect with a unique skill set. Dont’a Hightower played inside linebacker in Alabama’s base 3-4, but did put his hand down and rushed off the edge in passing downs. He flashes big time plays and ability and should be a more dominant player after knocking the injury rust off from 2011. He has the strength and leverage to bend and leverage offensive guards. He can bull rush tackles and is capable of playing outside linebacker. Tavon Wilson was drafted as a specialty player in the Patriots’ defensive sub packages. He’s a safety who is big enough to support the run and cover tight ends and backs. Experienced in both press and off coverage, he is also an edge blitzer. Versatile in man and zone coverage, Wilson has corner skills that project him to safety. Jake Bequette was a four-year starter who played defensive end in a wide nine four man front defense. He plays hard and is intense. A one speed player with little burst and closing ability, he plays square with a good base to take on blocks. He was the fourth member of his family to play at Arkansas. He plays with good leverage but will need to add more tricks to his pass rush bag. Nate Ebner made his name at Ohio State as a core special teams’ player. He is a deep reserve who may be placed on the practice squad. Alfonzo Dennard saw his draft stock drop like a lead balloon after he allegedly hit a police officer during a disturbance outside a Lincoln bar just a week before the NFL draft. He has the ability to press or play off coverage. He gets position on a wide receiver and plays with good technique. He is aggressive and plays with confidence. Jeremy Ebert will compete with Ebner to make the Patriots’ roster as a core special teams’ player. He’s probably headed to the practice squad if he clears waivers. GRADE: ABOVE AVERAGE.

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