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Potential Patriots: Jerry Hughes

04.09.10 at 12:10 am ET
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Each Friday leading up to this month’€™s NFL Draft, WEEI.com will focus on one player the Patriots could be targeting. Here are the draft prospects that have been put in the spotlight thus far:

Clemson DE/OLB Ricky Sapp

Michigan DE/OLB Brandon Graham

Penn State DT Jared Odrick

Texas DE/OLB Sergio Kindle

Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant

After thinking offensively last week, another college defensive end-turned 3-4 outside linebacker gets this edition’s attention in the form of Texas Christian’s Jerry Hughes, whom the Patriots held a workout with last month. Considering he was once a top recruit at running back, he is an intriguing prospect to say the least.

THE NUMBERS

Combine height: 6-foot-1 6/8

Combine weight: 255 pounds

40-yard dash time: 4.69

Bench reps: 26

Best season: 2008 (52 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 15 sacks).

THE CASE

Perhaps the most popular line of thinking among prognosticators has been that the Patriots will use the 22nd pick on Graham, but Hughes may be the reason they don’t. Hughes has a nearly identical skill set and is similarly proportioned, so the probability of him being available at No. 44 could mean the Pats will use their top pick to address a different need and solve their pass-rush problem in the second round. Given his ability to get after the quarterback and above-average play against the run, he could be a value with any one of the team’s second-round choices.

Because he has a build similar to Graham, it’s no surprise that the Patriots may be scared off by Hughes’ height. With the Patriots being as stingy as they have been regarding drafting outside linebackers under 6-foot-5, one would think there is a very small chance the team would use its first pick in such an important draft on a guy like Graham, despite his terrific motor. That’s where Hughes comes in. It isn’t that the Patriots don’t need a guy like Graham ‘€” they undoubtedly do ‘€” but if they can get the same guy with better speed a round later for less money, perhaps that is where they turn a blind eye to the Belichick line.

THE PROOF

(from ProDraftParty.com)

WHAT HE’S SAID

At the NFL Scouting Combine, on still developing defensively:

“I’ve only been on the defensive side of the ball for four years, so my knowledge of that side of the ball is still very minimal, so I have to open up and extend myself so I can learn more. I still have to learn things as far as defensive end, certain techniques, certain ways to do things. And now I also have to adapt and learn the outside linebacker position, which is what I think I’m capable of doing.”

On being compared to prospects from bigger programs:

“You get tired of hearing you’re not as good, when you know you can be right there, just as athletic, fast, and strong as guys at other schools, and with more drive.”

WHAT THEY’VE SAID

Matt McGuire of WalterFootball.com, in his evaluation of Hughes:

“He was simply too productive at TCU, and despite his lack of height we can see what Elvis Dumervil did last season with his exceptional first step and speed off the edge.”

Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Brandon Graham, Jerry Hughes, Ricky Sapp
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