ESPN draft expert Todd McShay, appearing on the “Dennis & Callahan” morning show on WEEI sports radio in Boston, offered some of his impressions on the Patriots’ 2012 draft picks, including how he views Chandler Jones’ positional versatility at the NFL level.
Here are some highlights of the interview, which you can find the entirety of HERE.
1. Leading up to the draft, McShay saw five NFL position fits for Jones: 3-4 defensive end, right side outside linebacker in a 3-4, left side outside linebacker in a 3-4, right defensive end in a 4-3, and a left side defensive end in a 4-3. He described Jones as a “perfect fit” for the Patriots’ scheme and the “NFL today.”
2. When asked about which of the Patriots’ two first-round picks (Jones or linebacker Dont’a Hightower) would have more impact down the road, McShay was decisive to answer Jones, noting that he “has a chance to be a star.”
3. While Jones remains a work in progress in McShay’s eyes, he believes that he has many of the raw physical skills to play in the NFL, and also mentioned that Jones has some experience dropping into pass coverage, which Bill Belichick made mention of during his post-first round press conference.
4. Some have chosen to compare Jones to Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants defensive end, but McShay sees him as a “notch below” JPP, stating that he doesn’t have quite the same explosive first step.
5. McShay had a sixth-to-seventh round grade on defensive back Tavon Wilson, who the Patriots selected in the second round. He has since spoken to three scouts from around the league, and the consensus of where Wilson was viewed to be drafted is somewhere in the fifth-to-seventh round range. As for why the team decided to use a second-round pick on Wilson, he offered that it’s “impossible” to know how much longer he would have lasted in the draft.
6. Wilson’s strengths in McShay’s evaluation of his game tape included his versatility, ability to cover the deep half of the field in the passing game, and his instincts. McShay also believes that he can contribute as a man-to-man coverage player against bigger receiving targets, as a run-defense player, and on special teams.
7. Entering the 2011 college football season, McShay viewed cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (the Patriots' seventh-round pick out of Nebraska) as overrated, and had him graded as a third-round player. He doesn’t believe that Dennard will be a problematic player (he was arrested just days before the draft and charged with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest), and says that if he can contribute, he will be considered a steal.
8. Given the round in which Dennard was drafted, McShay believes he is a zero-risk investment.
9. With the talent on the Patriots' roster and the organization’s approach, he stated that the Patriots aim to draft 3 to 4 starters in each draft. He doesn’t believe that there are many roster spots currently open in New England.