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Movin’ on up? If it’s for Pierre-Paul, Pats could consider it

03.01.10 at 1:35 pm ET
By

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL Combine changes everything. You get a feel for which type of guys could be the face of a franchise, which type of guys are likely bombing team interviews and which guys belong in which scheme.

No pass-rusher in this draft has bigger upside than one-year wonder Jason Pierre-Paul (AP).

No pass-rusher in this draft has bigger upside than one-year wonder Jason Pierre-Paul (AP).

You also get a sense of which players might go where and which moves teams might have to make in order to have a successful draft. With the Patriots likely looking long and hard at linemen — whether they be five-technique 3-4 ends or undersized 4-3 ends who would move to outside linebacker — it becomes a little clearer which guys could realistically be available at No. 22.

Take Penn State’s Jared Odrick, for example. A common mock draft choice of the Patriots, Odrick could see his stock move himself perhaps into the top half of the draft. His versatility and football IQ alone were impressive enough over the weekend for teams to hold him in higher regard.

Odrick could be the guy who fills the shoes of Richard Seymour, but if the Patriots are committed to finding a true pass-rusher who can play standing up, moving up for South Florida’s Jason Pierre Paul — who on Monday ran a 4.64 40-yard dash — could be a discussion worth having.

“People say I’m raw,” Pierre-Paul said Saturday. “I just say I’m God-gifted.”

Not recruited by many big-time college programs because of his lack of size (he verbally committed to Central Florida before failing the FCAT placement test), Pierre-Paul played his freshman year at College of the Canyons (JC) in Valencia, Calif. From there he went to Fort Scott Community College in 2008 before transferring to Southern Florida and finally playing his first season of FBS competition as a junior.

Pierre-Paul made only seven starts in his lone season as a Bull. He had 42 tackles, six sacks, and an interception that was returned 18 yards for a touchdown. After the NFL Committee gave him a first-or-second-round grade, Pierre-Paul left South Florida, citing his “great year” and financial problems in his family.

So why should the Patriots potentially part with one or two of their three second-rounders in order to grab a guy who still isn’t used to being around television cameras?

“I’m going to get to the quarterback no matter what,” Pierre-Paul said half-jokingly after declaring himself the draft’s best pass-rusher. “I’m going to get there.”

He and Clemson’s Ricky Sapp are viewed as the fastest pass-rushers in the draft, but Pierre-Paul wants his speed to mean more than just the 40 time that wowed scouts on Monday.

“I want to get even faster,” Pierre-Paul said. “I watch football, I see all these great defensive ends, but I want to be greater.

“[In] my first year in the NFL, I want to break records,” he added. “That’s my goal.”

Pierre-Paul said he has spoken with nearly every team and that none of them have expressed any concern over his lack of experience against top competition. What might make him such a draw for the Patriots is that at 6-foot-4 1/2 and 270 pounds (he has gained 100 pounds over the last three years), Pierre-Paul is one of the few conversion types that actually sits right against the Belichick Line of 6-foot-5. With Michigan’s Brandon Graham (6-foot-1) and Clemson’s Ricky Sapp (6-foot-3), falling below, the Patriots will have to make a move into perhaps the Top 10 or lower their height requirement if they want to add a pass-rusher in the first round. As for possibly playing in a new system, Pierre-Paul — like every end who played in a 4-3 in college — said he wasn’t scared.

“A couple of teams asked me about the 3-4 and being an outside linebacker,” Pierre-Paul said. “I don’t feel like that would be a hard thing for me to adjust to because there were a couple of games [in which] I did stand up and rushed the passer or dropped [into coverage].”

One thing that stood out was Pierre-Paul’s admission that he has not been training for a possible switch to the 3-4. While some 4-3 college ends, such as Arizona State’s Dexter Davis, have been practicing drills to give them more fluidity in the hips and make them more comfortable dropping into coverage, Pierre-Paul said that he has continued to train as he always has.

“As of right now I haven’t been doing [any] work to help me be in a 3-4,” he said. “I will adjust to it real quick, though.”

Pierre-Paul’s lack of experience in both FBS play and the 3-4 is enough to give him some serious doubters, but the speed, size, and affinity for getting after the quarterback is there. The Patriots haven’t traded up in the first round since 2003, when they went from 14 to 13 to grab Ty Warren, and a year later they shot down rumors that they had interest in a deal with the Lions to move from pick No. 21 to No. 6 if Miami safety Sean Taylor fell past the Redskins. Still, a move into the Top 10 from pick No. 22 would be unlike any move they’ve pulled off in the past, though it could also be argued that they haven’t had this big a need at a position since then.

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, NFL Combine, Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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