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Potential Patriots: Ricky Sapp

03.05.10 at 1:48 am ET
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Each Friday leading up to next month’s NFL Draft, we will focus on one player the Patriots could be targeting with the 22nd pick. We kick off the series with Clemson pass-rush specialist Ricky Sapp, who is projected to play outside linebacker in the 3-4.

THE NUMBERS

Combine height: 6-foot-3 7/8

Combine weight: 252 pounds

40-yard dash time: 4.70

Bench reps: 23

Best season: 2009 (60 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, five sacks).

THE CASE

Clemson's Ricky Sapp was all smiles before and after his 40.

Sapp can get after the quarterback, and when he isn’t registering sacks he is making an absolute mess of the backfield. After playing his senior year at what he referred to as “60 percent” due to a knee injury, he showed at the NFL Scouting Combine that he has healed and once again has what he describes as “freakishly fast speed.” Sapp has spent significant time playing the line and, unlike most other college ends who will move to outside linebacker in the 3-4, saw extensive time at outside linebacker as a senior. He has the versatility that Bill Belichick loves, but…

Whether prognosticators like it or not, the Patriots are stubborn. Bill Belichick has yet to spend a pick in the first three rounds on an outside linebacker shorter than 6-foot-5, but their need for a pass-rusher is so great that the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” should ring true. That doesn’t mean that they completely have to disregard their philosophy, however. Many of the other college ends in this draft that will move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 are around 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2. Sapp falls just one and one-eighth of an inch below the Belichick Line, so making an exception for Sapp might not be too big a stretch for them.

THE PROOF

WHAT HE’S SAID:

Sapp on becoming a 3-4 outside linebacker:

“I think it would be easy. Our defensive coordinator [Kevin Steele] brought the 3-4 package to Clemson this year. I did some standing up, so I think it would be an easy transition.”

Sapp on the Belichick Line:

“I wouldn’t think [one and one-eighth of an inch] would make any [difference]. I know I could play in [Belichick's] scheme, so I’m just going to take it from here and go.”

Sapp on the combine (per the Times and Democrat):

“I had a great day. I think I did [best] with all of the drills. I think I surprised a lot of people because I don’t think they expected me to do as [well] as I did.”

WHAT THEY’VE SAID

Russ Landy of the Sporting News:

“Shows natural instincts and athleticism to read and react to plays in a blink. Does not get fooled by misdirection or trick plays. Switching to outside linebacker full-time will require him to learn ‘keys’ from different alignments, but there is no reason to doubt his ability to make the transition.”

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Ricky Sapp,
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