New England Patriots Draft: First Round Linebacker Prospects

New England Patriots Draft

Despite getting eliminated on Wild Card weekend, the 2019 New England Patriots defense was the best it has been since the 2014 season. However, with the free agency market opening on March 18th, the Patriots will need to address several contracts on defense. Barring a surprise extension, New England will have nine defensive players in need of a new contract this spring. Furthermore, linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Shilique Calhoun, and Elandon Roberts make up four of those nine free agents. According to overthecap.com, the Patriots are projected to have nearly $47 million in available cap space this March, a number which provides the team with little wiggle room. Bill Belichick will undoubtedly be looking for cheap replacements at linebacker this offseason and this year’s draft class could provide answers.

New England Patriots Draft: First Round Linebacker Prospects

Late First Round Linebackers

The Patriots are in an especially difficult situation with finding replacements to their linebacking core. The reality which will force New England’s staff into making tough decisions is they will need to decide what type of linebacker they want to invest in. Van Noy did an excellent job this past season of controlling the edge while rushing the passer. On the other hand, Collins provided a much-needed spark of athleticism as he excelled at covering backs and tight ends, something the team was horrendous at not too long ago. The Patriots will have to establish which type of linebacker they want to build their defense around moving forward. 

The Pick: EDGE 3-4 linebacker Terrell Lewis, Alabama

At a height of 6’5″ and weight of 254 pounds, Lewis has the powerful frame of a dominant NFL pass rusher and is comfortable with both playing in space as well as with his hand in the dirt. Additionally, Lewis has been compared to Minnesota Vikings defender, Danielle Hunter, as Lewis possesses tremendous but extremely raw and unpolished talent for his position. After missing time due to injury along with having some underdeveloped aspects to his game, Lewis’ draft stock has taken a hit. However, with Hall of Fame level defensive coaching from Belichick, coupled with time to fully heal, Lewis could eventually take over Dont’a Hightower’s role within New England’s defense.  

The Pick: Linebacker Patrick Queen, LSU

At just 20 years old, Queen is a phenomenal athlete at the linebacker position who excels in pass coverage. While Queen’s smaller frame limits his ability to play as a downhill run-stopper, he has a tremendous range from sideline to sideline. Additionally, the LSU product’s football I.Q. is well regarded among scouts and he has the athleticism to play all three downs within multiple personnel packages. New England’s defense needs to be able to keep up with the offensive speed of the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, and Kansas City Chiefs. With Collins likely not returning next season, Queen could make an impact from day one. 

New England’s past two draft classes have featured three first-round picks on the offensive side of the football and the team has not picked a linebacker in the first round since Hightower in 2012. Behind dealing with the quarterback situation, addressing linebacker is arguably the team’s second most important priority this spring. With Chase Winovich emerging as a talented edge defender this past season, Belichick may elect for the Michigan product to replace Van Noy. If this is the case, drafting Queen with the 23rd overall pick would be a much more cost-effective option than re-signing a veteran like Collins.

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