Using the New England Patriots' greatest position of needs as a guide, beginning a series leading into the NFL draft that highlights three players at each spot who could fit the team's profile in the third-round-and-beyond range. Today, it's defensive ends/outside linebackers.
Derek Rivers (Youngstown) -- The 6-foot-3 5/8, 248-pound Rivers set the school record with 41 sacks, which reflects his ability to get to the quarterback. Players at the FCS level often have to dominate to draw the notice of scouts and Rivers, who earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl, qualifies in that area. He totaled 35 repetitions on the bench press and his 2.53-second 20-yard split was among the best at the position and an indication of his burst. His 4.63 time in the 40-yard dash shows he runs well and could also show up on special teams. He was a team captain.
Dawuane Smoot (Illinois) -- The 6-foot-3 1/8, 264-pound Smoot might be on the edge of being available in the third round, as he was considered a top prospect after his junior season (8 sacks) but dipped in his senior campaign under a new defensive coaching staff. So that's one question for scouts to assess: Is that a sign things are trending in that direction, or a reflection of something else? One of his assets is football intelligence and he is viewed by analysts as an effective tackler. He was a team captain. A left pectoral injury limited his work at the combine.
Deatrich Wise (Arkansas) -- The 6-foot-5 1/4, 274-pound Wise comes from the same Razorbacks program that produced current Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers. And like Flowers, he has above average arm length (35 5/8 inches), which is one of several traits (e.g. big hands) that should help him rate highly among New England evaluators. Wise was only a one-year starter, which figures to knock him down the board of some teams, but he's one of the stronger players at the position. Football is in the family, as his father was drafted by Seattle in the ninth round in 1988.