Talent is a complicated concept in football. Talent at the high school level is different than talent needed to succeed at the collegiate level, and talent in a college setting is vastly different from talent in the NFL.
Some teams, like the New England Patriots, excel at grooming any type of talent they can get their hands on. Since the end of last season, they’ve made several moves to acquire young, unproven players who are searching for the success they had in college. They recently landed linebacker Barkevious Mingo, a top ten draft pick in 2013, from the Cleveland Browns for a future late-round draft pick. He, among others, could be crucial players in 2016, and contribute to one of the deepest rosters the Patriots have ever had.
Barkevious Mingo Highlights Unproven Patriots Players
Mingo exploded onto the scene in his first appearance with the Patriots. In the annual preseason finale against the New York Giants, Mingo had two forced fumbles, a sack, and two thunderous hits on quarterback Ryan Nassib. After sitting the first quarter, he came in and made himself known (go watch the highlights). He flashed the superb athleticism and play-reading ability that made him a feared presence at Louisiana State University.
Drafted sixth in 2013 by the Browns, Mingo has been considered a bust until this point. In college, he was dominant. In three seasons at SEC powerhouse LSU, Mingo had 15 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss. He flashed brilliant quickness and power, and the ability to beat any blocker. He won second-team All SEC honors in 2011 and 2012.
Relationship with Jamie Collins
Mingo trained with current Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins before the 2013 NFL combine, and the two posted very similar numbers in drills. Collins’ 41.5-inch vertical was tops among linebackers, but Mingo’s 37-inch leap was not far behind. The latter ran a 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, while the former ran a 4.64. Collins broad jumped 11 feet and 7 inches, also tops, while Mingo jumped 10 feet 8 inches. Both stand at 6 feet 4 inches. Though Collins was the better athlete, he was considered raw, and fell to the Patriots in the late second round. Barkevious Mingo was the first linebacker taken, and was deemed an NFL ready player.
Three years later, things are nearly opposite. Cleveland is notoriously a graveyard for young talent, and Mingo was no exception to the notion. He had just seven sacks in three seasons there, and was finally gifted to the Patriots for a fifth-round draft pick on August 25. After his Jamie Collins-like performance against the Giants, he locked up a spot on the 53-man roster. Any fan who watched the exhibition game against New York expects him to be a factor on the Patriots defense.
The Patriots also acquired other young talent in offseason deals. They landed guard Jonathan Cooper in the Chandler Jones-Arizona Cardinals trade. Cooper, ironically, was chosen right after Mingo in the 2013 draft, and has since shared his title of bust. He will compete for a starting job once he is fully healthy.
Another recent move saw the Patriots get defensive back Eric Rowe from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round pick. Rowe played his college ball at Utah and has the versatility to play both cornerback and safety. He was drafted in the second round, but made a minimal impact. He started five games, making just 31 tackles. But the Patriots love versatile players, and if Rowe can do what coaches ask him, he has the talent to contribute in an already solid defensive secondary.
Rowe, Cooper and Barkevious Mingo are all under the age of 26. Their chances to succeed in the NFL have been limited and unfulfilled. However, this is New England, where stars emerge from the woodwork. If Mingo and the others perform to the level they did in college, some of the few remaining problems with the 2016 Patriots roster will be solved.