Edge defender remains a need for the Patriots

New England spent big in free agency, but also lost a pair of edge defenders. PFF shows what they need, and offers some idea of prospects to draft to help.

| 2 months ago
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Edge defender remains a need for the Patriots

The Patriots don’t have many major draft needs after their free-agency spending frenzy, but they do need an edge defender after they lost their top two pass rushers over the offseason.

  • Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard led New England in total pressures last season with 57 and 39, respectively. Both will be playing for different teams in 2017.
  • Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, and newcomer Kony Ealy would be the top edge-rushers for the Patriots right now, but Ninkovich (at 22nd) was the only one of the three to finish 2016 within the top 30 among 4-3 defensive ends in terms of pass-rush productivity (PRP measures pressure created on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks). Flowers and Ninkovich combined for the same amount of total pressures Long had by himself in 2016.
  • Right now, the Patriots don’t pick in the draft until pick 72. If he’s still available, the Patriots should consider Trey Hendrickson out of Florida Atlantic. Hendrickson had the benefit of playing against some very inferior tackle play during his time at FAU but he led all draft-eligible edge defenders last season with a PRP of 20.5.
  • Bill Belichick loves late-round value, and Dawuane Smoot out of Illinois is a prospect that could fit well in Foxboro, as he finished 11th out of 77 qualified 4-3 DEs in total pressures generated last year with 53.

pats pass rush 2

  • AJ

    Trey Flowers is a breakout candidate for next season. He can rush from the interior or the edge. Pass rush may be the only weakness of this team, but the Patriots scheme around this with creative blitzes to get a free rusher. Having arguably the best secondary in the league (3rd highest graded secondary by PFF in the 2016 regular season) also helps. The only higher graded secondaries from 2016 were Dallas (whose secondary lost 3 starters this offseason) and the Giants.

    The only real chance of beating this team is injuries to key players. Besides Gronk, they had really good luck with injuries last year. The rest of the offense and entire defense were healthy for the playoffs. However, the depth is better this year, so even a regression to the mean with injuries would still be manageable. Otherwise, this team’s potential rivals any in the Belichick era, which is saying something. 19-0 is seemingly the only thing eluding Belichick.