NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Boston College OLB Mark Herzlich
|01.31.11 at 9:58 pm ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2011 NFL draft.
Position: Outside Linebacker
School: Boston College
Weight: 250 pounds
Achievements: 2008: First Team All-American by Rivals.com and Scouts.com; AP Third Team All-American and honorable mention by Pro Football Weekly and SI.com; ACC Defensive Player of the Year; Butkus Award finalist for nation’s best LB; Lott Trophy candidate; Three-time ACC Player of the Week; Two interception returns for touchdowns, tied for most in the nation.
What he brings: A combination of speed, intelligence, character and determination and one of the best read-and-react linebackers in the senior college class. The Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare bone cancer – may have sapped some of his strength and lowered his draft value to at-best the middle rounds, but NFL teams could still be willing to take a chance on a player who showed the ability to use his lightning-quick jump on the edge to get to both the quarterback and running backs in the backfield. There’s a reason he still rates among the top five or six OLB’s in the current college class. If his health checks out, this would be a logical fit and – more importantly – fill a need for Bill Belichick‘s system.
In the right scheme and gap, he could still be an explosive and versatile up-the-field force and could still be valuable dropping into coverage and defending the pass. Before his June 2009 diagnosis, he projected as a Jason Taylor-type. Now, he has to still show he can do this in front of NFL execs. He did show incredible determination in 2010, and never was that more apparent than in the spring and summer leading up to the 2010 season when he had to regain not just stamina but strength to play every weekend at the BCS level. He was pronounced cured from the cancer but it was apparent early on that he didn’t have the same explosion and strength that made him the clear ACC Defensive Player of the Year two years prior, in 2008.
Where the Patriots could get him: Third round or later
Notes: In 2010, Herzlich played in all 12 regular-season games, finishing third on the team with 67 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss. Most impressive was the fact that Herzlich looked stronger with every game, making four interceptions by the time his season – and BC career – came to an end.
But Herzlich struggled in the week leading up to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 and he will have to show NFL eyes at the combine that he has the strength to effectively take on and consistently beat offensive linemen who not only way 300 pounds but are just as quick on their feet.