As we count down to the 2019 NFL draft, we’ll take the measure of the Patriots by position and offer up six prospects at each spot on the field that should be available early (first round), middle (second day) and late (third day). Let’s get to the off-ball linebackers.
Let’s start with what we know: when you look at the fact the Patriots have Ja’Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam set to join a group that includes Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts in 2019, off-ball linebacker doesn’t initially scream out as a position of need for New England, at least right now. But if the Patriots lean on Hightower as more of an edge presence, that could open up a need in the middle for an extra body, at least in the short term. In the long run, it’s important to keep in mind the situations around Van Noy and Roberts (both are in a contract year) and Hightower (signed for two more years). In short, the Patriots might not need a rookie off-ball linebacker to play significant snaps in 2019, but it’s always important to keep one eye on the future.
POSSIBLE EARLY TARGET
Mack Wilson, Alabama
Patriots scheme fit: Inside linebacker
Why he makes sense: Can’t go wrong with an Alabama linebacker. This 6-foot-1, 240-pounder is probably the one guy on his list who has the pedigree to play significant snaps in 2019 at the NFL level if needed. An inside guy who can work on first and second down against the run, he’s also adept enough to serve as a coverage option as needed (he had two interceptions and five pass breakups last year). I don’t necessarily think they’d go after him as a second rounder, but if they did, it could set up an interesting battle for playing time with the likes of Bentley and Roberts.