The consensus selection for the New England Patriots in mock drafts is Michigan defensive end/outside linebacker Brandon Graham. Allen Wilson of the Buffalo News, who produces his first mock draft, is the latest to slot Graham to the Patriots with the 22nd overall selection.
If a similar scenario unfolds in April’s draft, and the Patriots do select Graham, in my opinion it would signal a change in philosophy.
Graham does not fit the prototype for what the Patriots look for in an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense in part because of his size (6-foot-1). From a physical makeup standpoint, a comparable player who has played in the team’s system, in this view, would be Derrick Burgess. Burgess was utilized as a nickel rusher for most of the 2009 season.
When it comes to first-round draft choices, the Patriots look for a three-down player in their system. I question whether scouts – whose grades are based on the Patriots specific system -- will project Graham as a three-down option.
Where Graham would project to help the Patriots immediately is on third down and sub packages, helping one of the team’s more noticeable weaknesses in 2009, the pass rush. Those are obviously important situations, but are they important enough for the Patriots -- assuming they are sticking with the 3-4 alignment -- to use a first-round draft choice on a player who scouts project would only play about 50 percent of the time?
This is one of the interesting aspects of the Patriots’ draft plans to monitor.