The seventh round is often thought of as a roll-of-the-dice round in the draft, as it's far from a sure thing that a player taken in the final round will sustain an NFL career (or even make the active roster as a rookie). The Patriots, however, have drafted a player in the seventh round that has made the active roster as a rookie in each of the past four years, a testament to the team's ability to uncover lesser-regarded prospects.
Our evaluation of Buchanan based off of his college tape suggested he has upside as an edge rusher and special-teams player, but we were unable to gather much more information during the offseason on-field work because it was held in helmets and T-shirts.
Looking at the Patriots roster from a bigger-picture perspective, specifically the edge/rush players, there appears to be nine players in the mix (we'll include Jamie Collins and Marcus Benard with the defensive ends). The team carried basically six edge/rush players in 2012, giving us an idea of roughly how many players fit into the general roster construction at that spot.
Buchanan figures to compete with other young defensive ends for a spot in the rotation behind Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. If one were to examine Buchanan's 2011 college season, it would seem like a lock that he'd be on an NFL roster as a rookie, but his senior season was slightly less productive. He was slowed, perhaps in part, by not playing opposite of Whitney Mercilus (the Texans' 2012 first-round pick), but nonetheless did enough to stay on the NFL radar.
Early indications are that Jake Bequette had a strong offseason, and 2012 undrafted rookie Justin Francis finished the season on a high note. Jermaine Cunningham had an up-and-down season last year and enters the final year of his rookie contract with something to prove.
As was the case with other rotational defensive ends last year (veteran Trevor Scott included), Buchanan will likely need to contribute on special teams. He has the movement skills and size to protect on the punt team and hold up on the punt-return team, something he'll need to showcase in training camp.
The Patriots finished 2012 with 37 sacks, a total that placed them right in the middle of the pack for the NFL. But more important than sheer sacks numbers is consistency of the pass rush, something that Buchanan may be able to help.
As has been the case with other recent seventh-rounders, Buchanan falls into the upside prospect mold. With limited in-person exposure, we don't have the full book on what he offers, but he should have a chance to compete for a back-end-of-the-roster spot, or perhaps the practice squad, in 2013.