ESPN/Scouts Inc. draft analyst Todd McShay held a media conference call on Wednesday, sharing his insight on the prospects in this year's draft. Here were a few nuggets from McShay -- some with a Patriots-type twist -- that help provide a better feel for the 2011 draft.
Teams looking for DE/OLB should be happy. McShay projects 8-9 defensive end/outside linebackers potentially coming off the board in the first round. "I don't think there is a position with more quality depth. Different teams will rank the defensive ends slightly different depending on if they're looking for a traditional right end in a 4-3, a pass rusher, or a power end who can play that left defensive end position, or a defensive end/outside linebacker tweener type to play a 3-4 outside linebacker spot."
23/24 players with first-round grade. "There are going to be some players who get drafted late in the first round who normally wouldn't."
Wide receiver value. "I think a lot of the quality depth in this receiver class is in the second/third round [with players like Miami's Leonard Hankerson]."
Safety crop. "It's not a great safety class."
Doubts on Ryan Kerrigan as 3-4 OLB. Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has been a prospect tied to the Patriots, as someone who could boost their pass rush, but McShay thinks his best fit is as a 4-3 defensive end who gets up the field and doesn't have to drop into pass coverage. He drew a comparison between Kerrigan and St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long in terms of their approach to the game.
Aldon Smith as a Taylor-type pass rusher. Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith is projected as one of the draft's better pass rushers, and when McShay was asked to compare him to a current NFL player, he drew some similarities to Jason Taylor in terms of the potential he has to rush the quarterback. Still, McShay sees his best fit as a right defensive end in the 4-3 alignment, and called him a risky pick. "He's a very difficult player to evaluate," he said.
Tough to find a starting running back. McShay views Alabama's Mark Ingram as the lone first-round talent at running back, and likes the comparison some have made between Ingram and Emmitt Smith as players who might not test well but produce because of instincts, lateral quickness and yards after contact. Overall, McShay sees the strength of the running back class in the middle rounds; he has 10 different running backs in the third/fourth rounds, and views that cluster as more specialist-types in a running back rotation.
Insight on Patriots. McShay views defensive end, outside linebacker, offensive line and running back as the Patriots' top needs. One reason McShay gave the Patriots Baylor guard Danny Watkins at No. 28 in his most recent mock draft is his thought that as quarterback Tom Brady gets older, protecting him takes on added importance. Another reason is that he didn't see a pass rusher in that spot that fit.