*Disclaimer: We classify interior defensive line as 3-4 defensive ends, 3-4 nose tackles, and 4-3 defensive tackles
Current Situation: The starters at the moment inside are Lawrence Guy, Beau Allen, and Adam Butler. The backups are Byron Cowart and Nate Thurman.
Level of Need: Moderate
SHS Take: The Pats’ interior line is a decent group, but it’s very thin, and it’s a position they’ll almost certainly address at some point in the draft. Beau Allen was brought in to replace Danny Shelton, but they need upgrades if they want to prevent backs from running all over them like they did last year (see Henry, Derrick). The middle to late rounds is likely where they’ll target the big fellas. If they take one early, it would be more of a penetrating, pass rushing tackle, whereas the run stuffing two gappers would be around later.
Early Round Fits
Javon Kinlaw – Senior, South Carolina, 6’5″, 315 lbs
A prototypical modern NFL interior defensive lineman, Kinlaw isn’t your typical Patriots defensive tackle. He is a monster as a pass rusher and can get up the field in a hurry. Over the years, the Pats have prioritized big, two-gapping lineman built to stop the run. Kinlaw is a player that may be misused as a two-gapping defensive tackle, but I think it’s time Belichick switched his defense up a bit to adjust to the modern NFL. Kinlaw is quick as lightning and can destroy a play in a millisecond, whether it’s swatting a ball with his long arms and 6’5″ frame, or mauling a guard to get to the quarterback. His best strength is his bull-rushing, which actually bodes well for his chances in New England, as it allows him to stay in his lane as a rusher and not allow the quarterback to leave the pocket, a pet peeve of Belichick. Kinlaw may not be there at 23, but if he’s there in the late teens, the talent may be too hard for the Pats not to trade up to grab him.
Projection: Top 25
NFL Comparison: Richard Seymour
Marlon Davidson – Senior, Auburn, 6’3″, 303 lbs
An interesting prospect, Davidson has the typical size of a 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end, but played the majority of his snaps on the edge at Auburn. He was, however, utilized as an interior rusher on obvious passing downs, so it isn’t as if he has never played the position before. The former Tiger is a freak athlete and a powerful force to be reckoned with inside. He has above-average speed and twitch, and is able to get under opponents pads with ease. With the Pats’ versatile and gameplan-based defense, Davidson could thrive as a chess piece along the defensive line in a Trey Flowers-type role. I can’t imagine the Patriots would take Davidson at 23, so if they trade back into the second round, I could see Davidson as a fit.
Projection: Mid to Late 2nd
NFL Comparison: Trey Flowers
Mid Round Fits
Raekwon Davis – Senior, Alabama, 6’7″, 311 lbs
As far as Patriots fits go, Davis is certainly at the top of the list. A Nick Saban disciple, Davis is a powerful player with the strength and discipline to two-gap in the run game, and provide a decent pocket push as a pass-rusher. He was a potential top-20 pick following excellent 2017 and 2018 seasons, but his production fell off in 2019, just posting half a sack. Scouts see him as limited considering his pass-rushing prowess isn’t elite, however, that’s exactly what the Patriots have traditionally looked for in defensive tackles. He isn’t a Geno Atkins or a Gerald McCoy type, but he’s very productive and could anchor a defense for years to come.
Projection: Late 2nd to Late 3rd
NFL Comparison: Linval Joseph
Leki Fotu – Senior, Utah, 6’5″, 330 lbs
A classic nose tackle, Fotu would be a first-rounder if this were the early 2000s or earlier. In the modern NFL, guys like Fotu aren’t’ used as prominently, and don’t carry as much value anymore. For the Patriots’ unique defense, however, Fotu would likely come in and fill a decent-sized role. He is strong enough at the point of attack to hold his blocker and two gap, and keep linebackers clean. He probably won’t be a three-down player at the NFL level, but quality run stuffers are nothing to sneeze at.
Projection: Late 3rd to Early 5th
NFL Comparison: Terrance Knighton
Late Round Fits
McTelvin Agim – Senior, Arkansas, 6’3″ 307 lbs
A versatile and productive defensive lineman, Agim spent time inside as well as on the edge throughout his days as a Razorback. He was fairly productive in 2019, posting five sacks and 39 tackles. He doesn’t have a defined position, which is why many scouts are down on him, but that attribute could make him a perfect fit for the Patriots defensive line. He could line up in pretty much any technique and use his athleticism and burst to hold up blockers and penetrate the backfield. He has just one full season playing inside at tackle, so he would certainly be a project, but he has the potential to be a good rotational piece.
Projection: Early 5th to Early 7th
NFL Comparison: Lawrence Guy
Khalil Davis – Redshirt Senior, 6’1″, 308 lbs
Davis is a fantastic athlete, running a whopping 4.75 40 time as a 308 pound man. Despite his crazy athleticism, scouts are down on Davis due to his small frame and length. The former Cornhusker put up great numbers in 2019, posting eight sacks. He is a good pocket pusher and has a great first step, however Davis is moved off the point of attack far too easily for a man his size. He needs to get stronger and be a better anchor in the run game if he is to play at the next level, but the tools are there for him to improve, especially with the right coaching.
Projection: Mid 5th to late 7th
NFL Comparison: Henry Anderson
*All stats and measurables via NFL.com and Walter Football